I had a call at a single family home off Mission Street near the San Francisco-Daly City border which’d been transformed into an elderly care facility. I was met at the door by an effeminate heavyset 30ish Filipino man in pale green scrubs, who unlocked the front door and hurried away.
The living room was populated by chairs set about on a shiny laminate floor. An electronic organ, against a wall, played loud patriotic-sounding songs, the keys lighting up in red to illuminate the notes. Two Filipino women were fussing over a crotchety old man seated at a dining table off the living room, near a small kitchen.
My task was to price out a new vinyl floor for the six by 10 foot kitchen, but the owner/manager woman instructed me to be seated on a couch about four feet from the old man. He was supposed to be taking his medication, but his blood pressure was too high. The two women went back and forth in English and Tagalog, which further upset him. He declared that he was fed up with having people talk about him in a foreign language, and just wanted his pills.
I got up and measured the small kitchen. I noticed the heavyset man who let me in “changing” another person in a side bedroom, and quickly looked away. The scene was getting super creepy.
I returned to the living room to do my calculations. I was surprised to see two people sitting in chairs, a mid-80 year old Asian woman and a late-60s white woman with a grey bee hive hairdo and cat eye glasses.
“Oh, hello ladies,” I said. They responded by giving me silent, faraway smiles. I realized that the folks in this home had dementia or Alzheimer’s and were in a woeful situation.
The man had stormed off in his walker, all of 10 feet from the table to the living room, and was fuming close to where we three sat. The carnival music persisted from the auto-organ. I mentioned a price estimate to the owner, who said that she’d reschedule at her other house the following day. She unlocked the front door to let me out, locking it behind me. I walked by her white Mercedes station wagon as I hurried down the wheelchair ramp to my car.
I pulled up to an 11 a.m. call at a split level row house in San Bruno, one of the hundreds pumped out in the 1950s that all look alike, with concrete stairs and large lower level rooms. A huge maroon Ford Expedition SUV was parked sideways in the driveway with a giant 49ers logo on the tinted back window.
I rang the doorbell and heard yelling from inside, “Ma! The door!”
The front door eventually opened. I was met by a haggard late-70s woman in bare feet wearing a nightie and digging a cotton swab in her ear. I asked if my contact, Joseph, was at home; she said he was using the bathroom and would be up soon, then shouted, “Joey, carpet guy!” at the top of her lungs and hobbled away on bow legs up a split stairway and back to soup she was tending in the kitchen.
I stood there, holding my carpet samples, not knowing whether to enter or wait at the top of the stairway to the basement area where my contact resided. I loitered another couple minutes, then heard “C’mon down!”
I entered a huge man cave, where a mid-30s bald hipster was sitting on a large, overstuffed couch watching Fast & Furious 6 on a crazy large flat screen mounted high on a wall. The movie, which’d only recently been released, sported Scandinavian subtitles, so I knew it was suspect.
Joey was a union electrician who lived below his mother. He’d decked-out his huge space like a trust fund high schooler might: a large poster of a red Lamborghini, circa 1992, loomed above his unmade doublewide custom-built loft bed; a poster of Bob Marley with hazy smoke in front of his dreadlocks was displayed nearby. There were two pinball machines in one corner. A felt top five-sided poker table held a crystal ashtray containing a half-smoked cigar near some poker chips, along with a newspaper’s sports section opened up. Another 60-inch flat screen adorned the opposing wall.
I couldn’t muster much initial chit chat; Joey was nervous having an unknown salesperson in his inner sanctum. I awkwardly set down a few lower quality samples on the floor, trying to match his current beat up, cheap carpet. He seemed uninterested. I commented on the movie that was playing, and he rose and ran over to the dual monitor computer screens under his bed, “Here, I’ll burn you a copy.”
He asked if I wanted The Hangover 3, also just released in theaters. “Sure, why not?” I responded. He mentioned that he was tired; he’d had “the boys” over the previous night for a little gambling and they went longer than usual.
I told him I could do his place for around $1,500. He replied that he’d changed-out the carpet three times prior at half the price. I called my manager to see how low I could go. I offered $1,350; he said he was hoping to get it done for “a dime,” $1,000. No sale. We parted friends. I left with a couple of bootlegged movies, which never worked.
The Carpet Chronicles is an eight-part series detailing one Potrero Hill resident’s experiences selling home flooring in and around San Francisco.