This story was inspired by the home repair adventures of two friends – average folks – who shall remain anonymous.* For ease in reading, I offer a glossary of official repair acronyms:
RATS = Race Across Town to the Store
INEPT = Icky New Evidence of Pure Trouble
AARGH = Assail Arby’s Restroom and Go Home
PANIC = Pray And New Insight Cometh
I pause while sanding the stairway, and hurry in to use the only john in the house. Honey, the toilet’s sluggish. No problem, a few corroded parts need replacing. A half-hour task.
RATS. Seems the old parts are no longer made. PANIC. We buy a new toilet – a turbo-charged, power-flush model. AARGH. The new tank is too wide to fit against the old vanity. We pull out the vanity and discover a hole in the wall. INEPT. PANIC. Honey, do we have any wall compound?
RATS! Buy compound. Again, AARGH. We patch the hole and need to paint the area. What luck – there’s extra paint in the cellar. Uh-oh. The can is drier than King Tut’s dandruff. INEPT. More luck, the custom color number is on the lid!
RATS. A cheery clerk says our color was discontinued. PANIC. Select a new color. And yes, AARGH. Repaint the entire bathroom. Jockey toilet into place. Pipes and holes don’t match up. RATS. Yadda yadda. More INEPT, PANIC, RATS and AARGH. Toilet done!
The bathroom still needs a sink. Next morning in the shower, no hot water! To check the pilot light, we wade through knee-deep mud in the cellar. INEPT. Gallons of water that formerly hung out inside the water heater are now real chummy with the dirt floor. PANIC! Bail the cellar.
RATS! Buy a new water heater, haul it home, roll it up the driveway, heave it into the house and slide it down rickety cellar steps. Honey, does the new one look taller to you? INEPT and PANIC. We realign the hookups and forget to shut off the water. INEPT again as we survive a second cold shower. Water has pooled between the liner and the shell of the old heater. Blah blah blah, and a brown gunky river whooshes over our shoes. INEPT. Bail the cellar again, and light new pilot. Finally, hot water!! Good for scrubbing the filthy trail we made through the house while dragging out the old heater. Shampoo rest of carpet to match the clean path.
Bathroom still needs a damn sink. RATS. We install a lovely pedestal sink. The old wall cabinet looks shabby by comparison. RATS. Discover our new cabinet doesn’t fit the old holes in the wall. Honey, where’s the stud finder? PANIC. To save time, we locate the studs by drilling holes. Many holes. INEPT. Scrap the cabinet. RATS! Buy a small wicker basket to set on the toilet. Spackle holes, repaint wall.
Hmm, the tub tiles clash with the new wall color. RATS. Our fancy new tiles are beautiful, but a teeny bit large and don’t fit around the tub. INEPT. With a mallet and chisel, we whack out crumbly mortar and old tiles. Oops! In our zeal we punch a hole in the wall. INEPT. Is that the basement we smell? While we’re sniffing, our cat darts through the hole. PANIC. Clutching handfuls of tuna treats, we wiggle through the crawl space in the cellar and collide with spiders the size of rabbits. PANIC! No, not the acronym, real panic!! Forget the damn cat.
Hole patched, tiles laid. Wow, bathroom done!!?? Back to the original stairway project. We paw through piles of stuff looking for the sander. Honey, did you notice our front door isn’t square? Hand me a screwdriver. This’ll take a half-hour, tops.
* I lied. Ruth and Vaughan are Mensans with more degrees than a thermometer. They’ve agreed to help me rip out a kitchen wall and are absolutely sure it’s not load-bearing.