Monday, August 04, 2008

I'm Busy Twenty-Four Hours a Day.

Unless you like the taste of confusion, you're going to want to read the blog before this one.

Mid-July came, and the bookshelves were as completed as they could be in the garage. We had to move this project indoors. There’s a business-school aphorism which goes “The chicken is involved with your breakfast, but the pig is committed.” We were about ready to move from eggs to bacon. We moved all the furniture out of Daughter’s room, boxing the books and putting a sleeping bag in the living room for what was estimated to be no more than two weeks.

Now, here’s the truth: when Consort and I first talked about doing this, part of my brain thought “Whee! Blog-fodder!” And we all know what kind of fodder I was going to get out of this, the spouse-teasing kind. He was going to do his best, but between a little procrastination here, a little dropping-things-on-his-foot there, and an allover patina of obscenities, I gleefully figured his foibles would write the blog for me. So let’s get this out of the way right now: Consort has been fabulous. Professional, hard-working, exact in his measurements to an almost unsettling degree; had he been working in a vacuum, we’d have been drinking gin and tonics in Daughter’s finished bedroom two weeks later. Yes, the obscenities have been plentiful, but it’s safe to say that he earned them.

The fates sent their first volley in the form of Consort’s work projects. Anyone who rents their brain for a living already knows that the July project ran late, but did you think the August project would start early? Has a project, ever in the history of the modern industrial age, started early? And let us all bow our heads for a second at the exquisite timing; he was not alerted to the new start-date until he had opened up the wall with the water-damage, thereby making it impossible to put Daughter back in her room. His time was now split between one of the more arcane and theoretical corners of digital rights management and me poking him in the shoulder whining, “Is that mold? Should we move out? I think it’s mold. Should I call a guy? I feel congested. It’s mold, right?”

No, Quinn, it’s not mold. It’s old wood with only moderate damage from water a very long time ago, requiring nothing more than a little lathe replacement and the time to plaster, which Consort did, as time allowed. “As time allowed” came to mean “Between eleven and two o’clock in the morning”, which meant that for a few days there all of my dreams would involve George Clooney and me having an intimate dinner at the Villa D’Este which was undergoing extensive remodeling. The replacing of lathe was followed by plastering which possessed its own mischievous spirit. Consort plastered in three places, using the same plaster and the same plastering technique in all three spots. Two of the plastered areas dried within a day, and the other refused to dry. Days later, it still had the cool moist feeling of a healthy gecko. I would come in, and he’d be staring it in confusion, sweating from the heat-lamps he had directed on the mutinously moist spot. We both look at it for a while and then, realizing I was pretty much watching paint dry, I’d grab him by the hand and draw him towards the living room. We’d get into the living room and usually head back into Daughter's bedroom, because it was less stressful.

The living room is currently operating (I cannot honestly say that it’s functioning) as Daughter’s bedroom. For the first few days, whenever she would bring something out, I’d say in my best boundary-establishing tone, “Please put that away when you’re done with it.” Daughter would say in justifiable confusion, “But where?” and I would respond by waving my hand towards the rest of the house and finally saying, “Well…just keep it off the floor at least.” She and I both knew that “At least…” meant “I have lost control of this situation.” She did what anyone would expect a child to do; she piled her toys and books on the couch. Part of her clothing is in the dresser, which is in the dining room, which also houses her mattress. Because it isn’t easy to get to the dresser, we’ve created a second, more easily-accessible pile of daytime clothing next to the television. The cat keeps sleeping on that pile. The dog keeps sleeping on the toys on the couch.

Daughter starts off the night sleeping in our bedroom so Consort can watch “Dexter” without worrying about destroying his Daughter’s ability to form healthy attachments. Then, one of us moves her into the sleeping bag when we go to bed. Moving her sleeping form was an unremarkable process when she was small, but now kind of looks like those pictures I sometimes see in the paper of horses that have fallen down canyons being airlifted out. In both cases, there are an awful lot of limbs flailing around. Half the time, we leave her in our bed and one of us just ends up sleeping under the hot pink sleeping bag, Barbie and Ken gazing down lasciviously.

After a week, the plaster finally dried and the August project reached a place where it could be palmed off—I mean, delegated. Consort brought in the bookshelves and installed them. Consort ran the new electrical wiring and outlets and got about 78% of that done. The wallpaper wasn’t up and there was still work to be done, but we could see the finish line from where we were. I commended Consort on his work ethic; he complimented me on not bursting into tears when I opened my lingerie drawer and found a small crowbar. We both spent a lot of time in the bedroom, raving over the improvements he was making. Unbeknownst to us, the rest of the house heard this as well. And the rest of the house got very jealous at the focus being paid to one unworthy little corner. Why, all the other elements of the house thought, we’re just as cute as that old room! What’s it going to take to be the object of that kind of attention?

Which is when the house planned its revenge, which I think in the labor sector is known as a rolling sick-out. Day One, the garbage disposal died: Consort bought it and replaced it [Elapsed time: 5.25 hours]. Day Two, our bathroom sink backed-up: Consort diagnosed and snaked it [Elapsed time: 4.0 hours] and produced something which looked kind of like a nutria, which led to Quinn and Daughter getting the “No hair in the drain” lecture again. Day Three, my car developed a case of dashboard lights: Consort diagnosed problem, bought and added fluids [Elapsed time: 3.45 hours]. The house grew confused and frustrated, because Consort was taking on each challenge with something approaching good humor and was still working on the bedroom, albeit slowly. What could the house do to cause all attention to be drawn away from the bedroom for an extended period of time?

Which is, of course, why the computer’s main hard-drive crashed on Day Four. There’s nothing like a void of blackness where there had just been a manuscript to make a person get right with God, very quickly. Consort was able to salvage the book and a few other essentials on to a backup computer before the last saliva-bubble passed the computer’s metaphorical lips, but for three days there was no talk of the bedroom. There was the hired geek for three hours and then there was Consort working heroically for nearly forty-eight hours, refusing to allow the computer to walk towards the light.

Day Five, I headed out for the evening, to see a friend I hadn’t seen in two years. Part of me felt guilty leaving Consort and Daughter, but Consort waved me off with a distracted “Go, go…tell me what sunshine is like.” Daughter was sitting on a stack of her own t-shirts watching “Sponge Bob Square-Pants”. I was redundant. I pulled out of the garage and hit the button; the garage-door didn’t close. I hit it again, and the garage door moved an inch, after which the motor made an almost animal scream of terror. Then, it started moving up and down, an inch each way, screaming all the while. Any other time, I would have been alarmed. Now, I was just mad. I stuck my head out the window and yelled at the house “I HATE YOU! I REALLY, REALLY HATE YOU!” What the neighbors thought, I don’t know. I turned off the car, stomped into the garage and closed it from the inside. It shut with a minimum of shrieking. “Stupid garage,” I said bitterly, “the computer has us booked through the weekend. You weren’t supposed to go out until Monday.”

I stood in the garage for a second before going through the yard to the car. I noted the remnants of the bedroom project: the trim for the bookshelves, neatly painted; the low-VOC paint; the carefully-chosen rolls of wallpaper, waiting to go up. I felt a rush of love for Consort, who was working well beyond his pay-grade to make a lovely room for his daughter.

I decided to tell him about the garage-door next week.


Blogger bethany actually said...

Oh my word. You've made me very glad that we are renters again!

I feel a little bad for laughing at your woes, but only a little. Sorry. :-)

2:03 PM  
Blogger alanaransley said...

Wow, your story sounds like our anytime we get some unexpected money. Every year, we've talked about having the house painted or doing some sort of project, and one of our cars seems to sense that and immediately require much more work than the money we are getting.

This year, we were hit extremely hard when we were forced to buy our second new car in the span of a year, because of my husband smashing his (recently paid-off) car. That was right after I had decided to not renew my teaching contract for this coming school year and go back to school.

I look forward to pictures of the completed project!

2:15 PM  
Blogger Dawn Maria said...

This whole sage reminds me of a $35, yard-long piece of track lighting purchased at Target in the late eighties that nearly cost us our marriage. My Better Half can't do any of the handy-man things Consort can. We bought the lighting, put it up, and took it with us when we moved- three times. Every time the language was foul and mistakes were made.

We left it in California when we moved to Arizona 16 years ago. We're still married and stay clear of all lighting fixtures as a precaution.

Good luck with this project, you're much braver than I am! But it sure is great blog-fodder.

9:24 PM  
Blogger Maggie said...

First, a HUGE thank you to Consort for saving your book!
And, although I hate to use the phrase "it could have been worse"...just imagine if the garage door had refused to open while your car was still in the garage - you, Consort and Daughter would have been trapped, possibly for days.
I am suddenly hearing the theme music from "Amityville Horror", but it will pass.
And Daughter will end up with a fabulous bedroom!

12:04 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

I didn't want to make this prediction in my comment on the previous post, since I didn't want to spoil the next segment for your readers, but this (based on previous experience) is what I predicted. As soon as one part of our house receives undue attention, other areas go into immediate rebellion. In May/June, we replaced a toilet, a disposal, a faucet and spray-hose, and had $1500 worth of car repairs.

7:02 AM  
Blogger Robin Raven said...

You and family are brave! Daughter's room is going to be fabulous.

I love ready your blog as always. (-:

9:56 AM  
Blogger Jo said...

So what you're saying is Consort is a super hero who can do anything?

12:50 PM  
Blogger Citizen said...

HI Quinn,
I love your blog as always. I am sure you knew you had a Wikipedia entry on you didn't you?

Did you know you can buy a hard drive at Best-Buy that is external to your computer that you can back your book up on?

You always make me laugh, and make me forget about all the silly stuff going on in the world today. Please keep it up.

best regards,


6:49 AM  

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