03 Sep Broken Garage

“It is what it is,” Tim, my roofer, tells me. He and I are squatting on my garage roof, surveying its slope. I worry that, despite my recent repairs, rain water will pool in one depressed area where the roof has sunk over time.

I’ve spent a week tearing off the old roof to replace two broken joists. I hired a helper to assist me. We got the 22-foot joists onto the roof, then jacked up the other beams from inside the garage. It took longer than I thought it should – like all house repairs I do. Now it’s time to get the roof wrapped in rubber.

Tim has done all my roof work in recent years. He’s a short, bulky man whose gee-whiz demeanor, tousled hair, and close-set dark eyes make him look like a storybook character – a neighborly hedge hog. “You got at least two tons here,” he says, eyeing the pile of tarry shards and blackened gravel that my helper and I tore loose -– the many layers that roofers laid down over the last hundred years. Because of water damage, and those snapped beams, the roof sank so far the ceiling was pressing down on the tracks for the garage door. I had ignored it as long as I dared.

“A lot of weight,” Tim continues. “What’re you gonna do with all that?”

I think he’s joking. I grin. I say, “I thought you’d take it away.” It’s hot up here, a cloudless September afternoon. Working all week on the roof convinced me that roofers have it bad. After a ten-hour day I was covered with tar dust and grime. I got sunburned and battered and so bone-weary I still feel hung over.

“Might be cheaper just to get a container.”

A Dumpster, he means.

“Twenty yards?” I ask, letting him know that I know something about containers. “Thirty?”

“Fifteen will do,” he says. He pulls out his cell and calls a friend who owns a container company. He gets me a good price, then snaps his cell shut with satisfaction. Tim has always given me a good deal. But this time, I’m thinking, maybe he’ll stick it to me. Times are tough. I’m adding up the money, dollar signs buzzing past my head like bees from an overturned hive.

Tim keeps staring at the sloping, messy roof. “We’ll clean it off,” he says, “then take a look” I half shrug. He says maybe I’ll have to raise the roof and put in yet another new beam. It took me a lot to get this far but now I’m thinking I should have gone farther. “There’s a wasp nest under the flashing over here,” I remember to tell him.

“We’ll take care of that,” he assures me. “Whatever happens, we’ll deal, right? It is what it is.” In other words, I’ve got no choice. One way or the other, I’m putting the roof back. Tim says he’ll call me tomorrow with some figures. We clamber down the ladder. “We can get to it right away,” he tells me. Still he hasn’t mentioned a figure and, in my mind, it keeps rising. We shake hands. He climbs into his big pick-up, where his two workers are waiting, then speeds off, and I think it must be nice to solve people’s problems. Still, I wouldn’t be a roofer for anything in the world.