The Sensation of Being Homeless
Last Sunday, our friend Jesus is laughing and laughing about our condo being ready on time. We met up walking on the Malecon and he said we were about to “experience the sensation of being homeless.” Were we? With great excitement on this September afternoon we walk up the seven flights of stairs and our door to #703 is wide open. Why? G2, the project manager, is there. He looks happy with the progress. I am experiencing the sensation of being homeless. It’s a complete mess; there is so much construction dust you can barely breathe. It’s September 28 and we are supposed to move October 1. Although we have a safety net at Pepe’s until October 15, that date does not look very promising. For instance, water and sewage have not been hooked up. Jumapam, the bureaucratic monster that is in charge of this all important task, is overwhelmed with requests, literally. With the lame duck government, middle management has “gone” and the secretaries are running the joint. So we don’t know when the digging can begin, let alone a hook-up date. That’s a huge stumbling block. Never mind G2 paid this organization six months ago. He’s even taken pictures of the office desks overflowing with request forms that gently fall to the floor when their fan oscillates. That’s so reassuring.
Under the condo control we are missing the 600- pound polished concrete island for the kitchen. Ditto for the bathroom and kitchen counters. They are somewhere in Mexico. The glass for our shower stall is also MIA. Our stove, fridge, washer/dryer, microwave are all in the building. Well, that’s terrific; we just don’t have any water. Oh, and there’s no electricity either. Halls are packed with scaffolding, bags of concrete, piles of sand, hammers, chisels, and 140 Mexicans are working their butts off. It’s good to see that the staff kitchen is operating at full speed, so hungry workers don’t wander off. We are moving an entire year too early; that’s what is going through my head. G2 assures us that it comes together very quickly and October 13 “should not be a problem.” I’ve already drunk my one allotted noon-time margarita, so I take three Tylenols.
Geoff was to install the furniture October 1st — joke. I call him on the cell and explain the new date of October 4th. He’s not surprised; he’s been in out of the unit double checking measurements. Our sofa, mattress and storage unit deadline is October 6th. We keep that date. With no ac/no fans, no water, no toilet, no elevator, Geoff and his team, without complaint, install 90% of our furniture. It’s glorious, it’s everything and more that I ever imagined. We are all admiring the colour and the curves –it’s as if Marilyn Monroe had moved in! Our outdoor table which expands to seat six is by far the best design I’ve ever seen. For years I watched my parents pull apart their dining table, fetch leaves from a closet and push it together. With Geoff’s design, you simply lift up slightly and the leaves drop down. The wood has a marine outdoor treatment for rain and salt; no sleet or snow here. The condo is still a complete disaster but seeing the furniture makes me feel a little better. We cover it up with sheets and hope for the best in terms of workers buzzing in and out.
It’s not all gloom and doom. The Gs have surprised the owners with a small air conditioned gym on the main floor beside the swimming pool. This is such a luxury, my anger level is substantially lowered; I’m no longer boiling over, just on simmer. With the jack hammers going and the dust flying we decide to head to La Copa for a water and bathroom break. We learn the poor woman who kept returning semi-nude to the restaurant is cared for, but someone “left a door open” and she escaped. Apparently one of her relatives worked at La Copa for many years and this was a familiar scene to her. Now Luis, the owner, has her family phone number so he can call them instead of the police.
Soren and I ponder the upcoming moving hurdles and change the move date to October 22. It is just killing us we have to pay Pepe rent for another week, but it’s better to swallow our pride for practicality. Meanwhile, I wonder, where on earth are our two art chairs that Elina Chauvet has had since May? Alfredo reports back that she’s started them, but she’s an artist, she doesn’t really paint chairs, she’s had many exhibitions, she’s really a painter, blah, blah, blah. Alfredo and I agree to give her one more week. The teacher pays the artist a visit seven days later. With wringing of hands, Elina admits she does not want this project and Alfredo tosses them in the back of his white pick-up truck. This is so typically Mexican; she may have wanted to paint them, but in fact the artist had no time, she could not say “no.” We did get our deposit back.
We are all sitting around in Pepe’s courtyard staring these anemic chairs. They are kind of whitewashed, and looking very ugly. What to do? We have no chairs for our workstations. Time is passing quickly, and we’ve just wasted five months with Elina. I immediately think of Silvia, my seamstress, in her peppermint green house. Soren and I hoist up the chairs and yell through her gate. Yes, she can make the cushions. Her brother’s an artist (here we go again) and he could perhaps paint them. After a yoga class we appear on her stoop; no, her brother has no time. At least he’s honest, but her daughter can paint them. Oh boy. Silvia sees our impatient Canadian faces and offers the best solution. She will lend us two of her chairs, while her daughter paints ours. The daughter shows us several designs on her laptop and we agree to two. At this point I have no idea of how long they will take, or how much it will cost. Last January two men from the store carried the chairs up Pedregoso to Pepe’s Palace and now seven months later they are still on Pedregoso —unpainted.
The next morning we trot off to the condo, still with no water or toilet on October 6th. We amuse ourselves with guesses — will the mattress, sofa and our infamous storage unit from Mexico City be delivered today? Perhaps one out of three? The sofa is the first to arrive. The size and dove grey colour are perfect. It should be; we only measured it 12 times and matched the fabric to our floor and furniture at least five times. Ligia is here cleaning away the first layer of dust and as we lean over our 7th floor balcony we see a flat bed truck circling the condo with a giant crate. It’s the size of a two car garage. That can’t be ours. G2, Antonio, the supervisor and Soren are on the second floor hoping like hell too that it is not meant for us. The flat bed circles again, and oh God it is pulling into our underground garage. Two men have driven for 16 hours straight from Mexico City to deliver our container. I saw them being packed in Toronto, but I never imagined such a humongous crate. Paint it, put windows in and you could rent it out. Paint it and you could have a storage shed or a garage. That would not be unusual in Mazatlan. Antonio is eyeing it for two reasons; one, he wants the crate, and two, he assessing how many workers he’s going to have to free up to uncrate and carry it all up the seven flights of stairs. This is not part of their job. The workers are so helpful and it takes at least 20 men to schlep everything into the spare unit beside us. That’s a savior. Everything goes into 704 and we slowly unpack and bring it over to 703. Our storage company was supposed to uncrate, unpack and remove debris. These two innocent drivers from Mexico City are unaware of our Toronto contract. They are exhausted and do a dump and run. We’ll take this up later via e mail and Skype.
We are exhausted too, and head back to the Pepe’s for a working toilet and a cold shower.
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