Wednesday, March 23, 2016

LXI. Mi Pintor, José

My Painter, José

Pintar—to paint
Pintura—paint (as in gallons of), painting (work of art or piece of work)
$1900MX or about $115US—Cost of a 5 gallon (19 liter) bucket of high quality Poliprisa brand pintura from a store four blocks away.

Multiple receipts are evidence of at least half
a dozen trips to the paint store where I now
feel pretty much at home.
The bucket weighs a little over 25 kilograms, which is pretty heavy, or pesado, when you have to lug that awkward item back to the work site. Fortunately, that’s one of the jobs I was paying mi pintor, José, to do Tuesday, last week. Meanwhile I was wrestling with the bolsa containing brushes, sealer, roller, pan, sheets of plastic, masking tape and extension pole that I'd just purchased; José didn’t have any of these supplies or tools, nor transportation other than a bus. 

So we walked back to la nueva casa on the cobbled verge along the carretera, or main throughway in our small town, past all the various and mostly bustling tiendas, looking for a break in the traffic since the stoplight was no longer in its usual place at the crossing; it must have been knocked off the beam by an errant truck or some such.

José has been putting in long hours, starting about nine and lasting until I walk over from our apartment in the late afternoon to pay him for the day’s work. It’s slow going; he’s painting over brick and there’s a lot of taping and cutting as well. After working Tuesday through Saturday, he was supposed to finish the bed and bathrooms (including their ceilings) today, but it’s noon now and he hasn’t yet returned from an emergency trip back home. He lives with his wife and two young children in Chapala, about 10 km. away. They had run out of propane last night and this morning I gave him an advance on today’s pay so the family could cook and have hot water.

I was to meet him an hour ago when I brought over his lunch, but with buses, you never know. My culinary spouse has been making José a nice baguette sandwich every day he’s been working; along with paying for his transport it’s part of the deal. We also throw in a couple of Nature Valley Sweet and Salty trail bars, and I pick up a small bag of potato chips (with salsa packet included, of course) plus an orange Fanta at the little corner grocery. José tells me he loves the trail bars, but has been taking the chips home for Ramón and Adelita, his children…

I had planned to leave the post at this endearing point but my working relationship with José has become more complicated. He made it back too late Monday to complete the job. Yesterday, though, he—finally, nearly—got it all done, and it looks good. But all told, the work took almost twice as much time as he originally estimated and I’m paying him by the hour. We had a talk. He pleaded that the painting presented special challenges he hadn’t recognized, he offered to come in under any bid I could get for other work he has tried to interest me in, and vowed to give me an hour of his free labor to clean and touch up.

A problem is that José does not have the tools of any trade to speak of, nor really much experience in any salable line of work; drywalling was what he did in the States, but there’s not much call for that here where nearly all construction is concrete. I had considered having him break up some of the patio to form planting beds, but to make that happen I would have to buy a wheelbarrow, sledge hammer and chisel, shovel for him to mix the concrete, and hire a truck to do the hauling. There are some guys just down the street who are doing a similar job and I don’t doubt would be available for me to hire. 

When he finishes the only painting that remains to be done—a door and cabinet currently being made by a carpenter—I had thought to give José the few things I had bought for the just almost-finished job. Well, I still will, but he broke the relatively expensive extension pole he encouraged me to buy; that act and what I saw as his failure to take responsibility for it, tipped the scales against hiring him for the patio. 

Still…Perhaps I’ll stake him to a newspaper ad, flyers or business cards, stressing his English language skills. When I was starting out gardening on my own I walked miles passing out and posting flyers. That worked for me when I wasn’t much younger than he is now…I’m concerned about José, his kids and wife, feel sort of responsible, especially since they only recently moved here after being kicked out of the States where—say what you will—I feel fortunate to have been born.

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