I back my van up on the drive, turn the engine off and sit for a moment taking a deep breath. It’s finally over, another long hard day of installing floors. It wasn’t this hard 10 years ago. Why is it so hard now ?
I moan like an old man as I step out of the cab not noticing a single sound or any sign of movement in my street. I open the front door and once again everyone is in bed. I walk into the kitchen and dump my bag on the table knowing the earache I’ll get in the morning for not putting it away in the cupboard. I open the microwave door were my shrivelled up tea (or dinner depending on what part of the country you’re from) is, a couple of hours earlier that meal would have been delicious but as the evening has progressed it suddenly doesn’t look as appetising now. I shut the door, press start on the microwave and open the door on the cooler, my not-drinking in the week anymore is completely forgotten about tonight and I grab a beer quicker than a boxer throws a jab, the sound of the bottle top hitting the worktop sounds more appealing than the ping on the microwave heating my dried-up tea/dinner.
I notice the fire’s still on so I throw on a log and sit on the sofa with no lights on watching the flicker of the flame soaking in the silence. I start to feel the pain in my hands and as I look down notice the cracks on my fingers opening up, regretting not having used that hand cream my wife got me for my birthday. I wince as I start to pull the adhesive out of the hairs on my arms and rub the infected hole on the palm of my hand were I leant on a piece of gripper rod the previous day and didn’t clean it. I dab the back of my hand on the cold sore on my lip to see if it’s stopped bleeding as every time I laugh it cracks open; I’m exhausted and it’s beginning to show. I’m usually busy all year round but there’s always one month of the year it all goes crazy and has done for the 29 years I’ve been in the trade. Yes December, the Christmas rush.
After all these years in the trade I still can’t get my head around why so many people insist on having new floor-coverings for Christmas. I’ve done some crazy hours in my youth over the festive period, I remember a few years ago setting of from Wigan to fit some carpet tiles in a store in London at 4AM, finishing that in the afternoon heading to the other side of London doing a hall stairs and landing and four bedrooms in carpet then getting back home at 4 am the next morning having had two-and-a-half hours sleep then doing another long day and wondered why I was going light headed. That would see me off now a days.
I think you need to be a worker to be in this game as its not for the faint hearted. I don’t think I know a lazy floor-layer it’s a physically demanding job. On the plus side though we make some decent money for Christmas. My kids get spoiled over the festive period, I take 3 weeks off work and I go on holiday for new year and what’s left the tax man usually takes at the end of January, but each year for me gets harder and harder physically. Although it’s hard work I weirdly still like the job, although you wouldn’t think it speaking to me.
Every year I say to my self “right I’m not going daft this year” then when I’m booked up comfortably you get the phone calls of the customers asking “is there any chance…”. A lot of them wait until the new year because they don’t want to go elsewhere but most of them start pulling at your heart strings so you squeeze it in at night etc. Then you get the builders etc you have contracts with those who expect you to drop everything to accommodate them, so nights become really late nights. Then you get the customers ringing you the week leading up to Christmas, thinking you have been waiting for them to ring you that completely amazes me. They just get turned down straight away. One rule I have always had and will never break is that I don’t and will never work weekends. I have young children and don’t see much of them as I’d like to during the week because they’re mainly in bed when I get in from work. Like many of you throughout the year we work up to 5-6 pm then I don’t go home, I’m straight out measuring and quoting jobs and if you have 2-3 measures depending on the customer it could take a good few hours. December is just eat, sleep and work literally. Even eating is on the go. For lunch you take a bite of your sandwich when you go to the van for a door bar or something, not like in January when you sit down and read the newspaper with your lunch and take as long as you want.
After a couple more beers and about a hour of gazing in to the fire deep in thought, I notice now I’m rolling a small ball of adhesive in my fingers mixed with my hairs that I’ve collected from my forearms. I get up making that same old man sound and head for a shower and to get my head down to do it all again the following day. I wonder how many of you fitters out there can relate to this ? And why we do it ? I suppose for me it’s a chance to make an extra few quid and enjoy being able to throw a few quid about and enjoy from the hard work leading up to the break.
As I get in bed making a loud sigh of relief I get more earache for waking everyone up.
Cover image courtesy of Katy via Flickr
Brilliant read Brian! Well done for encapsulating your work so well.