Saturday, October 16, 2004

Salvatore, Salvatore, Salvatore!

I feel as though I’m living in one of those “house in a foreign country” books (Tuscany, Provence). In fact, there are a couple of them that have been written about Sicily, too, like Persephone’s Island and A House in Sicily. But I’m going to call my book Salvatore, Salvatore, Salvatore!

For the past eight days, a series of Sicilian workmen, seemingly ALL called Salvatore (translation = save this woman’s plumbing, electricity, etc.) have been in and out of my yard and house. It began last weekend when water, lots of it, appeared on the floors of both bathrooms. I called the landlord, a very nice man NOT called Salvatore but rather Sebastiano. He can’t be called Salvatore because he doesn’t fix anything; he just calls a series of “technical” people. I was having a patio party and the landlord, his wife, his son, and series of Salvatores kept walking through, trying to figure out what the problem might be. In Sicily, as in the rest of Italy, everyone talks at the same time, often getting louder and louder. The party continued and the water stopped seeping in. It became too late to do anything, but my landlord assured me that it would be fixed as soon as possible.

The first Salvatore came back on Monday, which happened to be Columbus Day so I was at home all day. He was an ancient tiny Sicilian version of Rotor Rooter in tall rubber boots. I swear he was at least eighty. His tools consisted of a bucket and shovel, complemented by my water hose. He started digging behind the house, where the bathrooms are, and all day long I “helped” him by running or turning off water and flushing toilet. He would bang on the windows and then indicate what he wanted me to do with gestures. Somehow, it worked.

In the afternoon, the second Salvatore came by to take apart my driveway and dig a large hole to expose the septic system. He was much younger but had no more technology than Salvatore #1. By the end of the day, we had three large holes and no solution. They both spoke at length to me in Italian while I looked serious and shook my head at appropriate times. They promised to come back “domani” (tomorrow), and I told them fine, but I would be working (lavore).

Sure enough, every day throughout the week, when I got home from work, something new had happened—a new hole dug or an old hole filled. Occasionally my landlord came by and told me “Patience, patience.” Did I have a choice? But I was very understanding of the whole situation. Sometimes the Salvatores would also come by the evening, usually with a friend, to show them their work.

Eventually, a blue pipe was attached to the backyard problem and to the back of my house. It ends in midair. All those holes were filled in and the that part of the problem pronounced “fixed.” Exit Salvatore #1.

The hole in the driveway remains, with dirt and bricks scattered all over. Apparently they are waiting for a part. Soon, they say, it will be finished.

Last night there was a rainstorm complete with lots of thunder and lightning. I was even awakened by it. I thought I was a light flash through the house, but I thought it was just lightning. This morning, the power was off, so I simply flipped the breaker, put on coffee, and went out to run. When I returned, the power was off again. I kept flipping the breaker, but it would go off again in 2-3 minutes. No matter what I unplugged, it kept happening. I called my landlord again and spoke with his son, Corrado, who speak a little English, luckily. He came over and checked it out, then returned with father, and, eventually, a third Salvatore! It took all day, but Salvatore the electrician was able to locate and fix the problem, finally restoring electricity throughout the house. He says all the ceiling lights need to be rewired. I don’t doubt it. It also is “the land of extension cords” like Germany, due to the lack of outlets. Anyway, while he was here, Salvatore #2 showed up, not to repair the septic system this time, but to clean the lava dust out of my gutters. The dust is constantly falling from Etna and causes a problem in the rain gutters of houses. He’s cleaning and flushing them all out. This is a good thing. Of course, he didn’t finish. He’ll be back tomorrow . . . I have not yet seen the end of the Salvatores.


At October 30, 2004 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

good luck with all that plumbing and electrical stuff.........ahhhhh, the "domani" mentality..........your Puyallup friend


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