Today I had my geyser replaced… the old one had blown. ACME plumbing (name withheld because the guy who runs it is a douche) was assigned by the rental agency to do the job. ACME plumbing pissed me off from the very first moment because they never called back when they said they would, took too long to get the job done and originally misdiagnosed the problem which meant I didn’t have hot water for about 5 days etc.
So ACME arrives with his two ‘boys’. Wilson was the more senior of the two. Wilson was tasked with removing the old geyser, which isn’t such an easy task, but he executed it flawlessly while the baas went to go fetch the new geyser. About 2 hours later Wilson and his friend had drained the geyser, removed it, prepped the space and helped me strip the old geyser down to the tank. (I’m going to cut it in half and use it as a herb garden at our new house)
The baas arrived with the new geyser and then took Wilson’s friend to go to some other job. Wilson fitted the geyser, again executed like an expert. He improvised a few things due to the new geyser being a different size but everything was neat, the wiring was done perfectly and he tested his work methodically. We had toast and coffee and chatted about plumbing. Wilson was a regular guy. Probably the most accurate representation of South Africa: a working class man trying to catch a break, but never getting one. He had been a plumber for 12 years but didn’t have his papers because they cost money to get… and the boss wasn’t interested in helping. He explained how the boss kept a record of what time they finished every day, so if they finished at 4:00pm he would mark it down and on Friday deduct the collective hours from that week’s wage.
Then it came time to put the cupboard they had dismantled back together (The geyser is under the kitchen sink). Wilson put everything together expertly, taking care not to damage anything even though some of the chipboard was wet and brittle. I helped with putting the cupboard doors back on because it’s not easy to do by yourself. We struggled to get the doors level, partly because the one hinge was slightly damaged. We improvised a solution which worked well and we eventually got the doors perfect enough where we were both happy.
Just then Wilson’s phone rang. It was the baas; Wilson explained that he had been struggling with the cupboard door but that it was okay now. Wilson looked strangely at his phone. The baas had ended the call while Wilson was still speaking.
Seconds later the intercom rang. It was the baas. I had to go down to let them in as the front door wasn’t opening properly. In the lift he said ‘That’s what’s wrong with this country, everyone has two left thumbs and no nuts’. I bit my tongue.
Walking in the door he aggressively confronted Wilson, telling him that he must have messed up the doors and that the one was missing a screw. Wilson submissively tried to explain that he hadn’t lost any parts and that the one hinge wasn’t working properly. The baas sat down and ordered a screw driver. He removed the door and then started saying things like ‘You didn’t put it on properly, that’s why!’… only to swing the door closed and have it hopelessly skew. This carried on for a few minutes while the baas again and again explained that the job wasn’t done right in the first place. At some point he accused Wilson of damaging his tools. “What’s this rubbish?” he asked while removing our improvised solution.
Eventually I walked away, catching a wry smile on Wilson’s face as I left. The baas was a dick, and Wilson and I both knew it… in that moment we were one person. No amount of macbooks or fancy cars could divide us. Nyanga and Observatory became a little closer and the colour of our skin was irrelevant. We were one person laughing at the arrogance of another.
Eventually the baas closed the cupboard door and said ‘Right, lets pack up’… I stood there gob smacked. The door was completely skew and the gap was wider than it had ever been.
‘Um’, I said, ‘You can’t tell me you’re going to leave it like that’.
‘Well, I’m not exactly a joiner, I can’t be expected to fix cupboards’ he replied… ‘Don’t judge me on my joinery, rather judge me on the geyser I fitted’.
I laughed, ‘You mean the geyser Wilson fitted’…
Here begins my soliloquy, which I hope I can remember accurately. Racism and arrogance tend to make my blood boil but I’m always rather eloquent when it happens.
“You expect me to judge you on the geyser, that Wilson fitted, but you’ve been nothing but rude to him the whole time. Then you arrogantly decide you can do a better job at fitting a door, which apparently you can’t because when you walked in here the cupboard door was near perfect, now it’s completely wrong and you expect me to be okay with all that? Look, you can leave, I’ll fix the cupboard, but I want you to know that I’m disgusted by your attitude.”
Now it was Baas’ turn to be gob smacked.
“I’ll fix it” he said like kid after a beating.
He replaced our jury rigged improvisation and with a little bit of help from Wilson was able to get the door to a point where it was good enough to leave. It still wasn’t as good as Wilson and I had got it, but it was close.
“That ok?” he asked.
“It’s fine” I said.
I realise now that perhaps it isn’t racism that drives this guy to be such a dick, perhaps he’s just a douchebag bully to everyone around him that can’t fight back. I hope the universe treats him to a nice dose of karma one day. In the mean time, if you need a good plumber on a weekend, I have Wilson’s number.
I’m off to have a shower.