Friday, October 15, 2004

Fool me once, fool me twice...

(My apologies for the relative silence but I was sick for the passed few days).

Fool me once:
Last Friday morning, as I was leaving for the airport, I noticed a nasty smell that was coming from the back of the house. The unpleasant smell of sewers. A large pool of stagnant and putrid water right in front of the basement door proved to be the source of the odor. I was not quite sure what was the reason for the stagnant water there. A clog somewhere but where? It was late, I was afraid to miss my flight and so I decided to ignore the problem all together and enjoy myself in Chicago, far away from the foul odor. What could I do anyway?
As fate would have it, as I was turning the corner of my street, I spotted a vehicle with a large sign announcing "Mr FLOODS--Plumbing/Heating/Cooling". Three men were working in the yard of a house nearby. I stopped and went over to talk to them about what I had in the garden. "Could you snake it?" I ask. The oldest guy answers me. "Well, I don't know what the problem is. Can I have a look?". We're in front of my place in no time and I show him the still water in the back yard. "Sure I can snake it", he says. "It'll be $50". "$40" I bargain down because that's all the money I have with me. The deal is sealed. $40 and he will snake the pipe to clear it. He tells me that he will do it this afternoon and this is when I make my fatal mistake. "No rush" I say, "I'll be gone for the weekend, you can do it whenever you want". He nods and pockets the money. I close the house and leave.
When I came back on Monday I was too sick to even remember I had a problem. But the house smelled again on Tuesday. A true plumber came on Wednesday and I greeted him with relief. The $400 I paid seemed like a bargain but I stayed with him the whole time, watching him work....

Fool me twice:
I jumped into a taxi upon my arrival in Chicago. I had arranged for a short work meeting before going to see my friend S. "Joindre l'utile à l'agreable" as we say in French...
I asked the young dispatcher before entering the vehicle how much should I expect to pay. "between $20 and $30" he says. I have about $55 in my pocket (gotten from a cash machine after my morning deal with Mr FLOODS). I climb into the taxi and off we go. The driver is from Haiti and speaks French. We're speaking in my native tongue about America, the Hurricane season in Haiti, the difficulties of public education and public schools, his kids (3 adults children in Haiti and one 10-year old in the US). We're chatting and I'm enjoying the conversation. I enjoy being able to speak French. I enjoy listening to his comments and descriptions of the differences in culture. The respect of old people, that his aging eyes find disappearing in this country. He comes back to it over and over again, even when the topic of conversation has drifted to health care and social security. I am listening and arguing, paying no attention to either the time or the meter. It is only when he stops the car in front of a grey building and turns to me announcing "$50" that I realize that I should have been more careful. I balk telling him that I was told that the ride would be only around $30. He is quite unmoved and start telling me that the difference is the amount I have to pay for his trip back to the airport because he is forbidden to take passengers here. He is convincing though and blames the non-unionized, young workers at the airport for providing bad information. He even gives me a phone number to call to complain about them. He also agrees to let me pay only $45 so that I won't be left without money. I thank him when I leave his cab. The second deal of the day!
It must be my lucky day.


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