Sunday, February 25, 2007

If I had a hammer...

When you rent a house here, a lot of things are broken. Property owners don't try to preserve their investments, and places that go unrented literally start to fall apart because the owners don't keep them up. So we have had many tradespeople here to fix things: plumbers (dozens of times--every toilet I've seen in Niger is broken, continually), carpenters, tileworkers, locksmiths, metalworkers, air-conditioning repair people. The first thing you notice is that they bring either no tools at all, or else they bring nothing but a hammer. Doesn't matter what they are supposed to do--it's reasonable for a carpenter or metalworker to show up with a hammer, but plumbers? AC repairmen? LOCKSMITHS? And they use them, too! I could hardly concentrate on my work in the office while the locksmith was shaking the house with his hammering. The plumber spent hours making banging and shattering noises, while ostensibly trying to fix a toilet.

The guy who fixed the holes in the floor where tiles had come up showed up with a little plastic baggie full of cement powder, and nothing else. Like many men in Niamey, he was wearing a polyester 2-piece suit over no shirt, nor socks, and cracked flip-flops. He mixed and spread it with his hands, got up and left empty-handed. It was almost Zen-like.

Right now a plumber is working on a clogged clean-out for the kitchen drain--a kind of broken cement cistern leading into the septic 'tank' (actually a big hole underground). He just asked me for a "sheau," which I managed to figure out meant a bucket, though he was saying something more like 'shuck-it.'

He had come with a hammer.

1 comment:

Edith said...

Thanks for writing this.