Three years in with my house and I finally made an appointment with a chimney sweep to clean and inspect my fireplace. Not sure where all the time has gone exactly, but I know the winters have been COLD. We had a string of 30-degree days last week and I decided enough was enough. As usual, I like to get motivated at the most inconvenient times. I replaced my back doors the day before my trip to Italy and scheduled the chimney thing the day before Thanksgiving. I somehow thought the whole country checked out early today, mentally if not physically, but apparently no one told my chimney sweeps.
They arrived around 2:30 this afternoon -- both all in black, one with those huge earlobe stretcher rings and the other with a thick accent. Don't remember Earlobes' name, but accent guy's was Giovanni. He mentioned he was from Italy and proceeded to inspect my fireplace. Now I knew there was a huge chunk of something missing from the back of it, but thought that maybe they could just caulk it up or something.
Nope. Giovanni said the firebrick had to be replaced and I believed him. He started making faces, so I knew it was going to be pricey. He asked if I was in the military -- which you learn very quickly down here means that there's a discount available that you're NOT getting if you're not in the military... I told him no, that I worked for the state crime lab -- that I was a forensic scientist -- and he perked up right away: "CSI??" I said, "No, well yeah, well no, it's not like that..." to which he responded, "CSI or no CSI?" I told him, "Yes, CSI" and let it go at that. He then told me he would give me the "forensic discount" of 10%. Very cool. Well, when all was said and done, the estimate for the inspection, cleaning, sealing and painting of the exterior pipe, and replacement of the firebrick was close to $800. I promised my dog a fire on Thanksgiving (I'm serious) so I agreed to it. Earlobes had to go get the firebrick from the home office and Giovanni got started on everything else.
We chatted a little bit about my trips to Italy and his move to America. He's been here 3 years and started out as a fireman/EMT -- which is what he also did in Sicily. I told him how I had planned to learn Italian before my last trip but still hadn't and he laughed when he spotted my various "Learn Italian" CDs and DVDs. His English was very good and he said he learned after he got here -- from Sponge Bob! He also mentioned that everyone here thinks he's Muslim and he has trouble traveling as a result. I was immediately ashamed.
He couldn't have been any nicer. "My accent, you cannot hear, no?" he asked in all seriousness. I made a face and said, "Maybe...just a little." LOL. He was impressed that I was from New Jersey and said, "New York! All the Italians are in New York!" I told him they are and that I miss them...
It took Earlobes a while to get back with the firebrick and Giovanni and I covered quite a few topics. He's offered to help me learn Italian and I think I'm going to take him up on it. In true Italian fashion, when it came time for him to charge me, he furrowed his brow and started click-clacking away on his calculator. I approached him with my credit card and he said, "Not yet." More key punching, some writing on the estimate, and next thing I know...we're down to $649! He crossed off the inspection cost and wrote in a "Forensic Discount" of 15%! Frankly, I think I got the blond-hair-blue-eyes discount. I should have grown my hair out years ago!
And now, thanks to my Sicilian chimney sweep, I'm all warm and toasty near my cracklin' fire. And my house, lo these many years later, is that much closer to becoming a home.