It’s 8:30pm on a Thursday, and I’m at Home Depot, hunting for a wax ring with the frantic lunacy of someone who’s been forced into an unexpected home repair project.
I’m speaking to no one, and my gaze contains enough concentrated frustration to burn a hole clean through the self-checkout register as it cheerfully asks whether I have any coupons. Back at home, my toilet is resting comfortably beside the sewer pipe, having broken free from its flange, and somewhere nearby, the first of six prospective home-buyers are preparing to arrive for their showing in less than 36 hours. Congratulations Murphy, you’ve done it again.
My wife and I recently decided we needed more stress in our lives, so – in addition to raising a high-energy two-year-old boy, expecting another, and both working, we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s time to sell our house! You may be thinking that’s a lot to handle all at once, but we have almost two whole months to move into something new and get it set up before the baby arrives, so it’s really not as bad as it seems. At least that’s what I’m telling my wife so that she doesn’t have a panic attack and kill me in my sleep. Actually, killing me in my sleep would be pretty difficult, since neither one of us can sleep anymore, between her pregnancy ‘Jimmy legs’ and the anxiety caused by blindly putting our house on the market and hoping to find something new before it sells and we’re forced to live month-to-month in a tent under a bridge. At least it’ll be summer. The only way we’ve been able to keep our minds off of that likely eventuality is by finally taking care of the ever growing list of maintenance items that have been labeled “eventually” for the 10 years that we’ve lived here. Much like cramming for a test because you goofed off every night instead of studying, we’ve been rushing around in a mad dash to clean up (or cover up) all the problems we’ve noticed (or caused) during out time here. When we’re finished, the place will be nice enough that we might not want to leave!
Although knowing HOW things were fixed does ruin it a little – good thing no one reads this blog! You know how certain traits can skip a generation – like hair color or height? In my case it was the home improvement gene that decided to lay dormant. I’m no geneticist, but it seems to me that there should be SOME amount of handiness in my blood, because my father is very good at this kind of thing, having been known to take on all sorts of ambitious projects; including construction, electrical work, and even plumbing in a pinch. Whereas my home improvement mantra is more “Beat to fit, paint to match”. As a child I remember my father patiently trying to teach me how to do things, while I rolled my eyes and told him that when I grew up I’d just PAY someone to do those sorts of mundane tasks, and he would graciously let me go instead of smacking me over the head with the heavy dose of reality I deserved. As it turns out, taping posters of six-figure Ferraris to your wall as a child is not a guarantee that you’ll be able to afford them as an adult, and the “invent something awesome and live off the proceeds” plan has been slow to take off, so I’m left to blindly muddle through these home improvement tasks on my own. Which is why, several nights earlier, I found myself standing on a ladder in my bedroom with caulk in my eyebrows, an entire roll of paper towels wadded up on the floor, and trim that looked as though a construction crew of blind orangutans had just sealed my molding. And it had taken me the better part of two hours to get to that point. I also cut a small chunk out of my bedroom wall in order to match the paint, and then destroyed a significant portion of the sheetrock in the process of replacing it, because the backer board I chose to screw into for the repair was apparently made of oak-veneered titanium. The screws I grabbed were about 1.5” longer than necessary, and the driver speed was set so high that when they DID finally get through the board, they pulled nearly all the way through the sheetrock they were supposed to be anchoring to. But by God, half a jug of spackle later, the wall is completely flat(ish) again, and after a couple coats of paint, you almost can’t tell how incompetent I am!
Having sufficiently mangled the interior of the home, I set my sights on the façade, and decided to slap a fresh coat of paint on all the exterior trim. I loathe painting – it takes too long, I never know how much to put on the brush – rollers are even worse – and no matter how much tape I put up ahead of time, I ALWAYS get wall paint on the ceiling or vise-versa. My wife, on the other hand, LOVES to paint; so much so that I often have to force her not to. That was, in fact, one of the main reasons I married her – along with cuteness and tax benefits – so this would usually be her territory, but I figured, “Hey, how hard could it be to paint some trim?” The answer, of course, is “Not very hard, unless you actually want to do a decent job.” It turned out there was a lot of weathering on the trim which had resulted in some deep cracks. Having no desire to fix the problem the right way, I simply slopped on coat-after-heavy-coat of paint until the cracks were completely filled in! There’s enough paint in places to be considered “structural,” which is more than I can say for that sheetrock. But I also got paint all over my non-painting clothes that I thought it would be safe to wear, because I am an idiot.
In fact, while I essentially have a degree in rocket science, if you were to judge from my painting ability – or rather, disability – you’d think I was a complete buffoon. At one point over the weekend my wife found me finishing the trim around a door in my underwear, because I had managed to splatter paint all over myself, and then furiously stripped off my (again) non-painting shorts to rinse them before the stains set. This led me to wonder if anyone else feels that – despite their best efforts – they might just be unstoppably stupid? Because as I explained my predicament to her, hands and hair covered in paint, and bare thighs gleaming in the unflattering light, I worried that I may be at that point.
That fear bubbled to the surface again tonight as I fought through two different wax rings and – while flipping the toilet – managed to dump the last dribble of water from the bowl on the head of my very pregnant wife, who minced no words in describing it as “the lowest point of her life”. I couldn’t help but wonder where she’d bury my body after the murder, though she could probably just leave me laying in the front yard – I doubt any court would convict her after reading this post. My only hope of surviving the night is to convince her that “Murder House” looks bad on a seller’s disclosure. Wish me luck…and swing by the open house on Sunday – the home is lovely!