Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Breaks Like Glass

Monday morning was a confluence of disasters. Not only was our terrace door’s broken window still jagged and covered messily with a spread-apart El Corte Ingles shopping bag, but it had poured overnight and the drain on our terrace had ceased to function. A deep, muddy pool had formed in the corner of the terrace. The apartment was also a mess. Of course, this was the day Andrew received a text message from our apartment’s management company, informing him that someone would be coming by today to show the apartment to a prospective renter.

This was not good news. Since renting this apartment, we’d learned that the guy who runs the management company is in the habit of bilking many of his renters for as much money as he can take from them, knowing that most of them are international students who usually leave Spain after graduation and have little recourse—or desire—to chase their money down. A couple of weeks ago, we learned that two friends who’d rented from him last year had gotten so angry at his runaround that they called the police (the couple are two New Yorkers—he should have known better) and set a court date. He freaked out and gave them their money.

So Andrew and I have been preparing for a showdown, and our case would, obviously, be weakened by the fact that we’d broken a window. We’d planned on just getting it fixed and having no one be the wiser. Now Andrew had to call the company and tell them what we’d done. I poured Spanish Drain-o over the terrace drain. And we still had to get the window fixed.

We’d counted on our door lady to know who to call. She had no idea. But I’d picked up a copy of Barcelona’s English-language magazine this weekend, and in the back a few “tradesmen” were listed in the classified ads. Yesterday, I called one named Ian. “This happens all the time,” he assured me. “The glass windows in these old doors are so thin; when the wind blows them shut they break like…they just break like…well, they break like glass.” Indeed. He showed up this morning and cleaned the window’s wound; tomorrow he’ll install the glass.

“Is there a normal price range for this?” Andrew asked this morning. We weren’t sure if a British handyman would be more or less likely to try to rip us off. He named his hourly rate, very reasonable (to us), and said the glass would cost just 5 or 7 euros. “Oh, good,” Andrew said with relief. “We were expecting to pay like 500 euros for this job.” You could practically see Ian kicking himself.

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