There can be only one! Unintentional battle of the bus renovation contractors

So I’m in Portland. “I” not “we” since Rosie is in San Diego at godson’s reenlistment in the Navy.  I know, I know, why couldn’t I have talked sense into the young man?  They don’t listen at that age. Heck I still don’t listen at my age.  Anyway, I’m left in Portland, and with Ramblin’ Rose out of the bus for nearly a week this seemed like a perfect opportunity to do some of those major renovation projects that involve a lot of noise and destruction along with the accompanying dust and general unpleasantness.  I put the word out on Craigslist Portland in advance, seeking skilled labor for an RV bathroom remodel, fabrication work to cover the Jake brake valve cover extension, plus a secret project that Rosemarie doesn’t even know about but probably actually does know about since I have not been particularly subtle in my casual questions about her wants and desires related to the specifics of said secret project. Breath.

See that toilet? That's the only thing new or staying in this bathroom.

See that toilet? That’s the only thing new or staying in this bathroom. My demo work before the contractors get involved.

Day 1:  I got a few replies to the ads, most of them not quite right for the jobs, usually because of timing or their own expressed limitations rather than any sort of exceedingly high standards on my part.  But I did get a promising offer from one team, whom we shall call J & B; a pair of apparently experienced skilled laborers in the fields required.  J, promisingly, showed up on the very afternoon I pulled into Jantzen Beach RV Park after dropping Rose off at the Portland airport.  Having dealt with numerous flaky Miami contractors that did not show up on the day arranged, this was a great early sign of competence and reliability.  Gung ho, J assisted me with manuevering the bus into a tricky position to empty my sewage tank via my alternative method because, for the love of Christ, the macerator is jammed again, and then he started demo work on the bathroom that very evening.   His partner B had some sort of complicated auto trouble that precluded even showing up to discuss rates, which seemed very Miami, and not in a good way.  So J and I came to a financial agreement. Day 1: J clearly in the lead, but why should that matter as there is yet no actual conflict?

The curved roof problem, making every aspect of this reno hard.

The curved roof problem, making every aspect of this reno hard.

Day 2:  Things got a bit more complicated.  B showed up, and since J already had the bathroom job apparently locked in, B and I negotiated for the metal fabrication work and the top secret project as an entirely separate venture rather than as an addition to the team effort that I thought we were working towards.  And yet there was clear job overlap.  J was reliant on B for tools, transportation and, as would eventually become clear, knowledge.  I had already started to realize that J would require close supervision; he had a tendency to get tunnel vision and did not always think through the procedures.  Additionally, B would occasionally ask what I can only describe as penchant and insightful questions about the bathroom renovation plan.  I would take some of these questions to J, who would seem baffled at first, then through mutual discussion come to some sort of revised plan.

Big time progress. Shower fixtures, walls, and pan finally removed.

Big time progress. Shower fixtures, walls, and pan finally removed.

Over the course of the day it became obvious that B was vastly more knowledgeable about every aspect of the renovations, which I figured I could leverage with some sort of consultation fee for B while J did the work, but then J disappeared in the middle of the day.  For five hours.  No responses to texts or calls.  I was a bit surprised when he showed back up at 7 PM and worked another hour or so as if nothing had happened, but by that point I felt like the demo of the bathroom, still far from done, was taking entirely too long.  I paid him out for the day since our arrangement was an hourly labor charge as opposed to the fee for set service agreement I had with B.  Day 2: the tide has shifted in favor of B, but it is not a lock, as J still works his ass off when present and shows up early.

The toilet hole.  Moving the potty to the left require a lot of modifications.

The toilet hole. Moving the potty to the left requires a lot of modifications.

Day 3: A glorious, blue sky and cloud free day in Portland. The RV neighbors seem almost rapturous when they talk about it, standing slackjawed or giddy in the street with their dogs loosely held on leashes.  And yet some ominous waft of dangerous conflict hovers over the Big Kahuna.  J shows up before 8 AM, again with the gung ho “lets get started” attitude that endeared him to me on Day 1. But then we spend half an our bullshitting despite my clear need for coffee and silence, with all the BS seemingly about the grey area between his and B’s work agreement with me.  We move on, he attacks the rest of the bathroom demo, with me expressing concern every hour or so with the slow progress.  B shows up at 10AM, goes to work on the secret project, and yet again points out several relevant concerns and recommendations with the bath remodel that J has not even considered.  There is clear tension between the two contractors, and my frustration becomes apparent to both of them as I feel I am having to supervise J too much as well as mediate between them.

The demo nears completion, the bathroom is gutted.  J’s reliance on B has sucked him into the fringe parts of the bathroom remodel, and B has in turn called in a young assistant to do the grunt work associated with the secret project on which he is the lead.  She shows up in daisy dukes and a bikini top.  I immediately text Rose to clear my name.

I don't even.. contractor's assistant working on the bus in a bikini top.  What will the neighbors think?

I don’t even.. contractor’s assistant working on the bus in a bikini top. What will the neighbors think?

To J’s credit I pursued an idea of his regarding the shower enclosure, and low and behold the Home Depot right across the street from the RV park had exactly what I wanted, which will likely simplify the remodel process.  J and I arranged that I would take the bicycle and buy the shower enclosure and he would come get it with a hand dolly.  He didn’t show up.  It was about the same time of the day that he disappeared on day 2.  Frustrated and waiting in the Home Depot loading zone, I spotted a gentleman in a beat down pick up truck with tool racks.  As an experienced Miamian familiar with undocumented work arrangements in HD parking lots, I approached him and we negotiated a $14 fee for him to load the enclosure into his truck and take it the less than a mile into the RV park.  Upon arrival I found B working some of his job and J’s.  We negotiated for him to do the rest of the bathroom remodel as well as his secret project.  I cooked ribs and we ate.  J still has not shown up.

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7 thoughts on “There can be only one! Unintentional battle of the bus renovation contractors

  1. Jack,

    Glad to see that getting your bus in ship shape is coming along well.

    On your jake brake cover, I can solidly recommend. Eric Wolfe enterprises in Bigfork MT. He is 40 miles from Glacier National Park so if your travel plans take you to that neck of the woods, he can probably scope out the job on your way to Glacier and have installed as you depart. He can also fabricate and or weld about anything you may need like the locks for your baggage doors, or a bike rack rear bumper or whatever.

    His number is (406) 837-2125. If I recall correctly, I seem to recall that he has an RV electrical hook-up also.

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