Skip to content


“Books won’t help you.”

I had been stammering through a discussion with a contractor about redoing our master bathroom.

My brain started stumbling at the first notes of disapproval in his voice. I could hear him take a breath before he spoke. “How am I supposed to git you a quote  when you don’t even know what you want done?”

My throat dried. What an idiot I am, I thought.  “Um… I haven’t ever had a bathroom redone,” I said. “We want the bathtub replaced with a shower, and we think we need new, what do you call it, sheetwall?”

“You need to tell me the details. Fixtures. Tiles. Cabinets. Then I’ll come take a look. It’s $200 for a visit.”

Oddly, this didn’t deter me, though by now it should be obvious he had written me off as a customer he didn’t need. Furthermore, we had one contractor lined up who we really liked, and without great enthusiasm I was doing the due-diligence get-a-second-quote thing. Yet I badly wanted his approval; I wanted to be the competent, knowledgeable homeowner for whose business he would vie.

I thought fast, or as fast as it gets when I’m feeling five years old. “I could go to Lowe’s and Home Depot and look around, and I could look in books for ideas!”

His voice, already deep, dropped an octave. “Books won’t help you,” he said. “You need to decide what you want.”

Then and there is where I crossed his name off my list of potential contractors.  Maybe it was an innocent comment, but I just can’t work with someone who says out loud that books can’t help me. Maybe they can and maybe they can’t, and maybe I was stupid to call a contractor about redoing a bathroom when we were still so vague about the project.

But I had expected him to say, soothingly, “Sure, that’s a good idea. Go git you some of them Sunset books. You can buy them at Home Depot. Pick out some ideas you like. Then call me back and we can talk about it.”

I’ll stick with the contractor who drives around with the photo album of ideas and emailed me a picture of a recent job. I don’t know what she’d say about books, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t chill my blood.

Posted on this day, other years: