front porch

Let’s Talk About Yesterday

I was so excited when they showed up and unloaded the mini excavator yesterday. Isabel and I sat in the front window and watched. I texted excited, terrible pictures of the orange machine to Mark at work. The first pile of dirt grew in front of our house and I started dreaming about our new porch. Two weeks, I thought. Two weeks to a new front porch.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, things didn’t go exactly as planned.

About two hours into the work, our tenant, who had been on her way to work, came to the front door. The sub-contractors doing the digging were scurrying into their truck. They hit a gas line, she said. They said they had called someone, she said. But maybe we should call someone too? I could hear the line hissing. I could smell the gas. Meanwhile, the workers disappeared in their truck down the street.


I called Mark, completely lost about what to do. He called the gas company for me, which advised me to stay in the house as long as I couldn’t smell any gas inside. Isabel was napping. I paced the house for half an hour waiting for the emergency crew from the gas company. Meanwhile, the head of our work crew returned and started stringing caution tape around our house. I stepped outside, waved him down and started asking questions. He refused to meet my eyes. He barely said a word to me, and when he did, it was to deny that there was any problem whatsoever. With caution tape all around our house, he took off in his truck again, leaving me and Isabel to deal with the problem.

It was a relief when the fire department showed up. At least our house wasn’t going to go up in flames anymore. And then, all the questions started. Because the people working on our house were sub-contractors, we didn’t actually have any contact information for them. I gave them all the information I had, but over and over, I had to tell people that I had no idea who it was working on our house. Over and over, I had to admit that we were likely being screwed over by the world of contracting. It sucked.

At one point, I spotted their truck. The sub-contractor drove past our house and kept going. I pointed him out, and one of the gas company guys took off after him. Meanwhile, a police officer – called in by the gas company – got in touch with our contractor to get the contact information for the sub-contractor. Slowly, things were coming together, puzzle pieces falling into place. The supervisor of the sub-contractor – who also turned out to be his son – showed up and took responsibility for the situation.

One of the major issues that came up during their investigation of the situation was whether or not a proper locate of the lines had been done before they started digging. We knew that the locate had been called in and that someone had come to do it – I had seen them doing the job weeks ago. But, any paperwork for it had disappeared, and it certainly wasn’t present in the backhoe as it’s supposed to be. Mark and our contractor managed to dig up the reference number for the locate request which told us the locate had never actually been completed. Even though they didn’t have the proper paperwork, our sub-contractors had started the work anyway: a huge no-no. And then, when they hit a line, knowing they didn’t have the right clearance, they panicked and just took off.

Work was supposed to continue today, but so far, I haven’t seen anyone. We have piles of dirt around our house, a huge hole at the bottom of our porch stairs, and a big (little) orange excavator parked in front, and nothing is happening. Our project is now delayed two days and my excitement about two weeks to a new porch is completely gone. But… this will all be done eventually, right?

Can I just add? Every time we use contractors, we end up with the police at our house. This time around we also got the fire department and about five gas company trucks.

We should just do everything ourselves.

(For all of you who are interested in how our neighbour handled all the commotion yesterday: he sat on our porch and watched our drama gleefully. So far, he hasn’t caused any drama himself, at least none that has affected the work on the porch.)

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