Archive for the ‘household chores’ Category

It’s hotter than two cats fighting in a wool sock.

But far be it for me to complain about the heat.

As I sit here in my air-conditioned office with a three-speed oscillating fan blowing stale air directly at me from a position not 2 feet from my face, fluorescent ceiling lights off, bathed only in the daylight peeking in from the slats in the stylishly challenged 1990s vertical blinds, windows closed so as to keep the comfortable funk in and the hot air out, you’ll not hear me complain. It’s not winter. So it’s not a problem. Bring the heat.

I’ll complain about the central air conditioning at home, but it won’t be because it’s hot outside. Or because the machine itself is faulty. Rather, it’s because I’m an Idiot. With a capital “I.” Idiot.

Our two-story house is comfy, cool and dark on the first floor, and stifling, sunny and hot in the bedrooms upstairs. Always has been. I blame it on many factors: hot air rises; the rooms are closer to the Sun; and “we” chose to place the largest, heaviest, most cumbersome pieces of vent-blocking furniture directly on top of or in front of the vents that would — in ideal living conditions — spew air that has been either heated or cooled, depending on the needs of the inhabitants and the whimsy of the furnace and central air unit.

When the temperatures last month reached the 90s and stayed there for a good long time, I closed the sliding glass door to the porch, shut the windows upstairs (can’t imagine why it’s hot up here), and fired up the central air conditioning. I looked at the room temperature on the thermostat, said 80 degrees is probably a little warmer than we need it in here, and flipped a switch.

I also turned on the furnace blower fan that circulates air throughout the house — this is a separate switch operating a separate thing that makes a fan-like noise that comes from behind the wall in the room of great mystery and gas-fired machinery.

I heard the fan running, so I went back to my normal busy homeowner chore-laden routine of sitting in my chair and watching “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”

After about a half hour, I checked the room temperature and saw that it had gone up two degrees. Great, I said. The fan is working and is circulating all that hot air upstairs down and into the furnace room of mystery, which is in turn making the thermostat think it’s getting warmer in here.

Mind you, never once did it dawn on me that by turning the air conditioner on and making the house hotter, I should perhaps walk outside to see if the air conditioner is … oh, I don’t know … on?

Instead, when bedtime came, I turned everything off, set up my two oscillating bedroom fans — which, according to Karen, have three settings: low, medium and hurricane — next to the bed as close to my head as possible.

And another day in paradise came to a close.

I turned the air conditioner on again the next afternoon and noticed the temperature went up after a while. My decision at the time, which made perfect sense in the moment, was to say nothing to Karen (who spends her entire summer on the back porch and remains pretty much oblivious to the goings on and operational protocols I undertake in the spirit of keeping the house in working order while simultaneously looking busy and sneaking food).

This procedure became the daily routine for a good couple of weeks during June. I couldn’t figure out why it sounded like the air conditioner might be working, even though there was no evidence of this. Also, I had yet to step outside to see if it was running. But I did turn on the little thermostat switch every day, so I was at least trying.

Then one day curiosity and perspiration got the best of me. I stepped outside to see if there was more I should be doing. And as those of you who got bored and skipped ahead to this part have already learned, there was no sound coming from the giant green metal box that sits outside and generates cool air. So I immediately went into tactical repair mode. I called on all the skills and practical knowledge I have gained after 20 years of home ownership. I went looking for the fuse box.

It was in a corner of the garage in which there is little to no light. I didn’t feel like bothering to find the flashlight (it was all the way indoors) and couldn’t open the garage door — which would have given me all the light I needed — because I haven’t fixed the garage door yet. (Another story for another day. Some big springy thing busted and shot across the garage and made one heck of a racket. We’ve been using the side door and I’ve been hoping she doesn’t come in off the porch to ask when I’ll be tackling this mystery.)

So I did what I could. I looked at the fuse box (the parts that I could see), saw nothing that looked out of place, and called the repair man. I am so good and prompt at fixing things we have a service contract (for everything we own, including the spoons).

I surprise myself sometimes when I speak with the scheduler for home repair visits. It takes me too long to call for help, but when I do, I want that help immediately. The very nice scheduler on the phone said the earliest someone could come was the next day between noon and 4. My needs were more immediate, I informed her, and because I have a service contract, I wanted someone to come to the house right now. Well, she poked around and through some miracle of trying harder, was able to arrange for a person to come between 8 and 10 p.m. that very night. I sure showed that scheduler who was in charge here.

The guy who showed up was very nice. And knowledgeable. One of those guys who admits to having invented air conditioning — and all machinery, in fact — and is not bashful about explaining how everything works. I tried to stay awake and look interested as he blathered on, but all I really wanted was to get the air conditioner working and get back to doing nothing.

He also explained to me that an extra special visit to fix a problem like this one was going to cost us extra because this was not part of the service plan. He then described the day he invented the concept of service plans and how each of them works.

Then, without the use of any tools, he took a very quick look at the air conditioner and asked me to direct him to the fuse box. I felt all important because this was an answer I knew. He took out a flashlight, noticed that one of the breakers was in the “off” position (as in, “not on”), flipped it, and the metallic sound of BTUs began coursing through the ductwork.

It wasn’t that the breaker was thrown or that a fuse blew. It was simply turned off. Hundred bucks, please. Enjoy your evening.

I wish I was kidding. Off. On. Hundred bucks.

But you’ll not hear me complain about the heat. I’m far too busy living down my stupidity.

I look so forward to tackling that garage door.

Wait. … What? … You’re supposed to lift it?


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Being born and raised in upstate New York has had its benefits.

For example, when it forgets to snow during the winter, this can be an enjoyable region of the country to call home.

On those increasingly rare occasions when the ground is covered by snow from November to March, however, the opposite is true.

Being born and raised in eastern Massachusetts, I imagine, also has its highs and lows. Nifty accents and access to a gigantic city being a couple that come to mind.

The wind beneath my wings knows more about this than I, having done this very thing.

Another one of the highs in her life, it should (but won’t) go without saying, came when she crossed (and eventually merged) paths with this upstate New Yorker.

This union has more often than not worked itself into a tolerable if not occasionally satisfying lifetime commitment. It has its ups and downs, but those directions are opposites, so they are to be expected.

Thankfully, none of the downs have been my fault. A fact to which the love of my life would agree the opposite is unmistakably true.

A major sporting event this weekend that happens to involve our two favorite teams has had me thinking of just how many opposites the two of us have brought into this relationship from the two separate lives we once lived. I have been thinking of these things in the off chance the relationship doesn’t survive the football game.

This is only a partial list; I can’t remember them all. But when we were growing up:

We were Ivory; she was Dove. (We are now both Dove, as Ivory eventually turned my skin to oak.)

We were Fantastik; she was Windex. (We are now Windex, as neither of us cleans windows, so it stopped mattering.)

We were Hellmann’s; she was Cains. (We are now Hellmann’s because I do most of the mayonnaise shopping and cooking and Hellmann’s rules. Unless we’re walking on the complete opposite side of the street and decide to break out the Miracle Whip. The Miracle Whip is a fine product that stands by itself, but please don’t for one second try to tell me it’s a straight-up swap for mayonnaise. True, they both can be substituted for one another in most of the same recipes, but they are entirely different beasts; one being much more of an acquired taste than the other. And none of which excuses the use of Cains.)

We were Viva; she was Bounty. Today, we’re Brawny pick-a-size. Marriage is about compromise.

Growing up in a rural community, we were raised with Scottissue. Growing up in the suburban hub of one of the nation’s largest cities, she was Charmin. Charmin has become a product I find difficult to keep from mocking simply because of its TV commercials with the cartoon dingle bears. The commercials are embarrassing, if you ask me. I wouldn’t be able to go through the line at the grocery with this item in my cart, knowing it is marketed nationally as the one that cartoon bears rely upon to prevent a velcro nightmare.

Also, she was over the roll; we were under the roll. Going under the roll is an inexplicable decision that is no longer a part of my life. Iwas long ago shown the light and can never imagine a life any different.

We were StarKist; she was Bumble Bee. We were chunk light; she was solid white.

My, how times have changed. Today, I’m the solid white and she’s the chunk light. Brands no longer play a role, as price is the deciding factor when Ibring home the canned tuna (and mix it into the Hellmann’s.)

We were Colgate; she was Crest. Today, we are not exclusive. When the old tube (squeezed exclusively from the bottom) is empty, a new brand with a new flavor is worked into the mix.

Keeping the marriage sparks jumping, one toothpaste flavor at a time.

We were Skippy; she was Peter Pan or Jiff (doesn’t really matter). Once she told me she wasn’t Skippy, I lost interest in her ability to judge peanut butter. There is only one true peanut butter. Please.

We were soda; she was tonic. This is a regional thing that thankfully disappeared shortly after I swept her off her feet and moved her to Green Acres.

Also a regional designation: She called them elastics. We (and by “we” I mean the remainder of humanity) called them rubber bands.

We were Gulden’s spicy brown; she was French’s yellow. Today, there are so many mustards available,Ihave no idea what we are. Ido know there are several mustards in our lives (and none of them yellow). Can never have enough mustard variety. They are all pretty tasty.

Can’t say that about ketchup. Ketchup has pretty much remained ketchup. We were DelMonte; she was Heinz. Now we’re store brand. It’s ketchup.

We also occasionally come from the opposite side of the field when it comes to our sports teams. (See Mets vs. Red Sox, 1986. Just don’t say you heard it from me.) One of the things we enjoy sharing is our love of sporting events; chief among these, professional football. But here again, she being from the Bay State and me being from the Empire State, we still find occasion to go our separate ways. This weekend is no different.

On Sunday evening, while she’s screaming at the television because of this stupid play and that dumb call and this referee who is obviously biased and that announcer who apparently likes one team more than the other, I’ll be slumped on the floor in a corner, facing the wall, shivering like a scorned chihuahua in February, probably rocking back and forth, in a distant, dark room somewhere upstairs, until my Monday morning work alarm goes off.

Being a life-long fan of one of the two remaining NFL playoff teams, Ihave spent the past two weeks battling anxiety and nerves over the outcome of the final game of the season, knowing full well — and completely ignoring the fact — that no matter what I say or do, I cannot affect the final score. I am not, however, going to tempt fate.

But that doesn’t detract from the fact that in the living room chair right next to me sits a person who, through no fault of her own, was born and raised — and eventually plucked from — the land of the other team.

She has thus far handled the situation well.

I have not.

She has said she can’t lose, because even though that other team from her home “state” is her first choice, she has become a fan of the team for which I live and breathe and die (and bleed blue), so she will be happy no matter who wins.

And I am most assuredly the opposite.

I might need a Kleenex. She’ll probably hand me a Puffs.

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I can’t tell you the level of disappointment I felt when I walked outside Thursday morning to start my car and discovered everything was covered with leaves.

Even though, for the next few minutes, I’ll be doing just that.

Every year, on the day that mid-summer plunges into mid-winter — the day the leaves all fall from the trees, the grass goes dormant, the wife’s car moves itself into the garage, and the ground freezes solid — my morning routine increases by one chore.

After kissing the sound effects machine that commands the warm and squishy corner of my heart (as well as most of the covers and all the pure oxygen), I make my way down the stairs, grab the coat, slide the flip-flops over the white socks, and waddle out to the driveway to start the car.

Yep. Still bringing sexy back.

Because it’s already the dead of winter, I learned long ago (must have been well into my 30s) that it’s smarter to warm the car instead of just hopping in and driving away. And not just because the frost on the windows makes it difficult, if not impossible, to see the edges of the driveway, the garbage carts, most of the road, all the mailboxes, and the cat that is not supposed to be crossing from the neighbor’s yard into mine.

But also because the defroster blows frigid cold air when it first starts up. The minutes it takes the blowing air to get warm enough to stop the teeth from chattering, the glasses from fogging, and the windshield wipers from making that scrape-scrape sound on the ice can seem like hours.

Thawing the car, I have learned in my years of experience being alive, melts the frost off the windows. This keeps me from having to pop the trunk, bend slightly, reach in, grab the ice scraper, and exert myself.

I’m a suburbanite. Finding the lazy way out is a requirement of membership.

As evidence, I offer the button that pops open the trunk, the garage door opener, the snow blower, the automatic sprinklers, the solar-powered sidewalk lights. The lawn service, the Maids, the Home Shopping Network. The Internet. Robots.

All examples of laziness.

I digress.

The other morning, I was caught by surprise. And disappointment.

I walked outside to start the car Thursday and it was warm out. There was no frost.

I put on my flip-flops for nothing?

Then I noticed the leaves. They were everywhere. By the billions. All over the car, the driveway, the yard.

Our house and trees are situated in a way that never results in leaves landing on the car. Let alone staying there for any length of time. It was the weirdest thing.

What upset me about it was the fact that I had spent the entire day Sunday getting all of the leaves into piles, off the yard, and out to the road for handy pickup. And by all day Sunday, I am not exaggerating.

I got up early, saw how wet and white the grass was, decided to wait until it started to thaw and dry, made a cup of coffee, and watched a couple of hours of home and garden television. (Suburbanite porn.) After waiting a sufficient amount of time for the sun to prep the yard, I got out there and stayed busy — until kickoff time for the early football games.

Gotta respect the sabbath.

At 1 p.m., he rested. With a malt beverage.

But there was a good two hours in there during which I worked like a mad man on those leaves. I’m amazed I don’t have blisters.

That leaf blower can wreak havoc on tender skin.

Another great invention that has contributed to the laziness of suburban life is the electric rake. A marvel of modern ingenuity with the capability of both blowing and sucking.

Not unlike the Mets.

Makes more noise than the lawn mower, can be heard coming from every corner of the neighborhood at all hours of the weekend (because all the neighbors have one), and takes twice as long to get its work done.

How did we live without it.

But, by golly, standing there with the slack of the lead cord in one hand and a cool-looking gun-like reverse vacuum (which the neighbor cat really hates) in the other, swinging the arm back and forth while chasing each stubborn leaf from the shrub bed across the yard into the pile with all of its buddies, in the long run, is one of the great privileges of owning a mortgage.

Well, that and the thrill of blowing the neighbor’s cat poop back into the neighbor’s yard.

The leaf blower’s purpose on earth is to keep the operator from having to move a muscle.

Twenty years ago, I learned this is also the husband’s purpose on earth.

I hope that wasn’t out loud.

If a leaf is stuck in the weeds or in a bush or frozen to the ground or for some other reason too darn stubborn to move by conventional means (and by conventional means, I mean by pointing this contraption at it for several minutes until the grass around it is matted like a crop circle) — even after being prodded several times by the long snout of the wind machine or, in severe cases, kicked by a grass-stained yard sneaker — it’s an obvious example of something that was not meant to be.

If a leaf can’t be blown out of the way, that’s no reason to bend over and nudge it with a finger. Or pick it up.

There is no sense getting worked into a lather, I reassure myself; if it’s stuck, it’s stuck. The mulcher attachment on the lawn mower (invented to spare us lazy-bones from having to rake grass clippings) will grind it to smithereens. Next spring.

No sense cutting the grass in November; it’s not like it’s gonna grow.

After two long hours of slaving under a crisp autumn sky last weekend, the majority of the leaves had been reassigned. My work here was done.

Thursday morning, there was no evidence that I had even lifted a finger. Which is an accurate description of just how much effort I did exert.

There were leaves everywhere.

Now I have to get out there again before the snow flies (and the Giants’ game), drag the extension cord out to the far-reaches of the postage-stamp lawn I am fortunate enough to tend with as little effort as I can muster, and coax this latest batch of rogue oak leaves out to the street.

Where they can blow away and become tomorrow’s problem for some other poor suburban slob.

But that’s what he gets for letting his cat use my lawn as a litter box.


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The way I interpreted it:

In the side yard — a narrow flagstone path between the privacy fence and the side of the house, where the outdoor kitchen stadium will one day arise from its present-day ashes (and weeds) — is a large dumpster’s worth of entrails harvested from Chez Mattison’s original kitchen, as well as from every other nook and cranny in the house and adjacent out-building.

Old cabinetry; boxes and odd-shaped Styrofoam chunks that once cuddled new appliances; various bags of dirt and bottles of spray stuff and rusted cans of unrecognizable wall color and random important pieces of wood and countless other representatives of merchandise once thought vital to sustaining life in our little corner of the world have been collected with abandon and piled in this once proud and vibrant alley.

It is here, after work on Wednesday, where I would find myself, I was certain, rooting around for the boxes that once contained the Roman shades that, for a brief time, occupied (with magnificent — if not surprising — laser-like plumb) one of the kitchen windows.

The boxes would be easy enough to find, although pawing across the top of the garbage heap was guaranteed to prove a bit more of a challenge. It was the packing materials, like the bags that once held the screws, the instructions, the paper insert that described the contents, and the various other things stuffed into a typical carton of merchandise, that would be more difficult to wrangle. I was sure of it.

I threw them away late Tuesday because I didn’t realize that once the shades were hanging in the window and working properly, they would have to be taken down, returned to the store, and swapped for shades that are 1 inch wider.

One inch wider. That’s “one.” With a “wuh.”

All that work to get them in the window, space them evenly, carry the ladder back into the garage, locate the remote, and get back to the ninth viewing of The Sopranos, Season 1 — all for nothing.

During the installation process, I didn’t realize the wind beneath my wings had brought home the wrong size shades. They fit. They kept out the daylight. What. One chore checked off the list; 12 more remaining … to be ignored for the time being.

I didn’t realize this because for one brief moment on Tuesday — when those shades were no longer wedged uncomfortably yet securely up my to-do list — it slipped my mind that no matter how difficult or effortless the project, I remain, until death do I part, severely married.

A main difference between a wedding and a funeral (I rarely, if ever, believe with all my heart) is that at one of them, the guest of honor gets to eat.

Also, the Hokey Pokey. But that’s about it.

See, I think one of the roadblocks in the whole marriage thing stems from the eventual realization that there will always be someone else in your space, under your feet, messing with your head, hiding your stuff, driving you to the edge, and making you do hard things twice (or more than twice), and griping about how you handle all of it.

I should have thoroughly read the instructions before installing the wedding ring. I was young and foolish. I mean smitten. Also, hungry.

But that doesn’t explain everything.

I have been going through the marriage handbook — skimming through the remaining pages and paragraphs that have not been entirely blacked out by a magic marker — trying to find where it says the wife has the right to make the husband repaint the living room a slightly different shade of green, even though he just finished painting it the shade of green the wife had previously approved.

Or why the husband has to hang the laundry room shelves more than once, even though the first time he hung them he did so in wife-approved locations.

Or why, as we fast-forward to today, the Roman shades have to come out of the window, back into the box, and off to their place of origin because someone in the marriage who is not me brought home the wrong thing.

It does not pay to complete tasks while the wind beneath my wings is off at work and I am home, on a day off from work, doing things I much prefer to do by myself so as to cut down on the number of times I am required to be reminded that the way I am doing it makes no sense. And I’m stupid.

When word came down on Wednesday that yet another chore had to be torn apart and redone, the first thing that went through my mind was: If I had a nickel for the number of times I have had to suffer through this inexcusable process, I’d have about 15 cents, if memory served. So that was immediately discarded as a weapon.

The second thing I thought of was pouting. Nothing beats a sustained, spousal pout when trying to convince a slight inconvenience that it would serve a greater purpose if it could more closely resemble a tectonic shift. I also spent some time alone in my office practicing my heavy sigh.

The way it really happened:

I didn’t have to climb through the garbage pile. By the time I got home, Karen had already grabbed the shades’ cartons, which I had tossed neatly on top of the stack, and placed them in the garage, with the accompanying packaging materials neatly stuffed inside. This immediately rendered moot my hours of sighing practice. So that very kind gesture on her part threw me off a little.

It originally took me about 30 minutes on Tuesday to hang the two Roman shades in the double-wide kitchen window. I’ve become quite adept at the task, thanks to the intuition of the well-paid engineers who sit at giant drafting tables with t-squares and protractors and sharp pencils who are constantly inventing easier ways for challenged do-it-yourselfers with their flexing muscles oozing from sleeveless t-shirts trying hard as they might to impress their blushing brides with their nesting abilities — me included, although not so much with the oozing muscles and the underwear.

It actually took longer to get the stuff out of the box, figure out what all the pieces do, determine if I am indeed supposed to have extra pieces (because there are always extra pieces) and figure which end of the shade faces front and which end is up. (Learned that one the hard way.) Securing the brackets and hanging the shade was nothing.

So replacing the wrong shades was a piece of cake. Snap out the old one; snap in the new one. Done. I even used the old hardware. Stuffed the new hardware back in the old cartons, unopened. Genius.

But none of this is the point.

The point is it’s a lot harder — down right impossible — to fake anger and earn sympathy if the source of all things evil and wrong tries her hardest to make my life ridiculously easy.

She cheats. Best thing for a marriage.

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I know I shouldn’t complain, because it will do me no good. But to ignore an opportunity to do so would tear at the very core of my professional being.

Also, I’ve heard it feels good.

Chez Mattison is a two-story jobbie that sits on a cement slab. A high water table did not permit us the option for a basement when she was being constructed lo those 19 or so years ago. So our utility room — featuring the furnace and water heater, a broken water softener, an erector set nightmare of copper and plastic tubes and pipes going every which where, several colonies of spider units, rusted cans of long-forgotten wall colors, and the screen door we never use because the air conditioning seeps through its tiny mesh — sits on the ground floor of the house, in a closet accessed through the garage.

This is where the gas lines connect to the house. It is also where, for approximately 19 or so years, I have smelled what has always to me smelled like gas. Not the matrimonial kind; the kind used for heat and hot water. Every time I’d open the utility room door, it would hit me right in the nose.

The gas smell; not the door.

About a decade and a half ago, I called our utility provider (not being one to name names, I’ll refer to them here as Schniagara Schmohawk) and had someone come out, inspect the place, and tell me all was OK.

I must have been smelling things.

Being as gullible as I am, and also thinking people who know more than I do are smarter than I am, I took the word of the guy from SchniSchmo and went about my life.

Mind you, it has been a good 15 years since I first smelled the gas … and have smelled it every time I have gone into the utility room to marvel at the big appliances and wonder what they do and how they work. Also, to change the furnace filter once a year — whether it needed it or not.

A couple of weeks ago, when our best good house flipper friends were over unhooking our plumbing and tearing out our old kitchen on Weekend I of Kitchen Reno 2011, friend Mike opened the utility room door and asked me if I had noticed the gas smell.

Struggling mightily to shoulder past the opportunity for fourth-grade humor, I told him the whole SchniSchmo story and he suggested I call the utility company again, because the smell was noticeable and blah blah blah …

Something about danger. …

I was too busy thinking about the fourth-grade gas jokes I was passing up.

But it eventually clicked that Mike smelled it too. Maybe I wasn’t crazy; I wasn’t just smelling things.

So on Wednesday morning of this week, bright and early, I called the utility company. And that’s when my day began to spin right into the weeds.

It amazes me that a company as big and powerful as the utility company I presently employ (which is no longer SchniSchmo) does not hire people who possess the ability to receive instruction, pass it to an appropriate party, and then progress with their lives.

Especially when it comes to the smell of natural gas. This company’s protocol, I was informed, is to drop everything and run to the scene as soon as a potential gas leak is reported.

“We will be there within the hour and if no one is home, we will be forced to gain entrance by our own means,” I was told.

So I made sure the person on the other end of the phone understood in no uncertain terms that one of our doors would be unlocked because no one was going to be home.

[Sidebar: It will forever amaze me how people whose jobs require them to access your house (cable guy, countertop measuring guy, etc.) during the middle of your inconveniently scheduled work day always assume you don’t have a job and when they schedule a time to come to your house they sound incredulous when you tell them you can’t be there because you work. “What do you mean you can’t be there? You work? But I’m the cable guy. How dare you?”]

I’m over it.

I told the woman on the phone that the person responding was to use the unlocked door, and not break into my house. I spent a good 10 minutes explaining how to access this door. I received assurances that everything would be OK. I could expect a call in about an hour or two, letting me know what was found and what course of action was being taken.

Use the unlocked door, I said; no one will be home. No problem, I was told.

Well, I never received a call about my predicament, which made me as nervous as a wet hen for the rest of the work day. Upon arriving home, I did find an official note on the front door, telling me they could not get in to check out the gas smell because no one was home.

So they did what they could: They turned off the gas. (A maneuver that angered me somewhat but I was eventually able to rationalize.) What I couldn’t figure out was how the guy found the gas shutoff but could not find the unlocked door — which was right next to it. Right next to it.

I called the utility again, complaining about the door thing, the fact that the gas smell was still not identified, and to get my gas turned back on. I was assured by a different person on the phone that someone would be at my house within the hour (because gas smells are considered serious emergencies).

A couple of hours later, I called back to learn my request was not handled as an emergency because all I had requested was my gas to be turned back on. That’s not an emergency, I was told.

So I was forced to go through this entire story a third time. This time, the guy on the other end of the phone was yelling back at me just as loudly as I was yelling at him. Eventually, I was assured someone would be at my house in an hour to look at my problem. When I asked this third knucklehead why the first two knuckleheads failed so miserably at their jobs, he told me he couldn’t say because we were talking on a phone line reserved solely for emergencies. So we yelled about that for a while.

I then called a fourth time — this time for customer service (to bitch about the three knuckleheads) — and spoke to a refreshingly nice young lady who soothed the savage beast. She double checked to see that a person was indeed on his way, she checked her computer and learned that during my original phone call very early Wednesday morning my “the door will be unlocked” instructions were never given to the field crew. She also apologized up and down for the way I had been treated.

Turns out, I did have a gas leak. Oh, yeah. It was repaired on the spot by the friendly utility employee who came to my house after 9 p.m. and tightened a couple of joints. It was just that easy.

And inexplicably made so difficult.

But it does feel good to complain. I get it now.

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Bit of a disclaimer is warranted, I believe.

The wind beneath my wings and myself have been immersed in a complete kitchen renovation project for the better part of … oh … 15 years now.

And after a decade and a half of discussion, the actual work began a couple of months ago, when the talking became planning, and then purchasing, followed by the scheduling of deliveries, the installation of the hard parts by trained professionals, and the undertaking (appropriate word, right there) of the easier stuff by we watchers of cable TV home improvement shows who, thanks to the magic of television, have learned everything we need to know when it comes to complete kitchen renovation because we know how to sit on our ample derrieres and yell every time a house hunter complains about wall color. (“Paint It, You Moron” should be the name of a show on HGTV.)

On a serious note: I have delayed discussion of this topic out of respect for the families who have lost so much in the recent flooding. Sitting here making jokes about voluntarily renovating a kitchen seemed (and, to some, may still seem, for that matter) out of place while so many among us have been forced into a much more dire situation through no fault of their own. Karen and I had been planning this work for years and its timing couldn’t have been more unfortunate, in this regard. The hope here today is that those who have suffered great loss have been able to set themselves on a course of recovery and that they understand the intent is not to make light of their situation. The intent here, more often than not, is to ridicule the institution of marriage. Well, mine, anyway. Also, chores. And my husbandly abilities.

So, on a less serious note, with apologies to Dire Straits (and lyricists in general):



Now look at them homeowners — 

That’s the way you do it;

It looks so easy on HGTV.

That ain’t work, no; that’s the way they sell it.

I say: Honey, it’s nuthin’; I’ll do this for free.

Ain’t hard work? (Yeah.) That’s the way they tell it.

Lemme tell ya, them guys are dumb.

Wanna see the blisters on … all my fingers?

Dropped a box of tile on my thumb.


I’ve never installed a microwave oven.

Custom kitchen — deliver me-e-e-e.

Still got to move the refrigerator.

Thanks very much, HGTV-e-e-e.

(Move-a; move-a.)

The chubby hubby with the muffin top and D-cup

(Yeah, buddy, that’s his mans-iere);

The chubby hubby can’t hang up a pic frame,

And now he’s s’posed to plumb a Frigidaire?


Still trying to hang the microwave oven. 

Custom kitchen, I’m hating thee-e-e-e.

Book says I must first … hang up a template;

Drill holes through A, B, C and D-e-e-e.

(Drill-a; drill-a.)

I’ve grown to loathe this microwave oven;

Instructions making … no sense to me-e-e-e.

I’m scared to move that refrigerator — 

Afraid I’ll catch a her-ny-e-e-e.

(Ooo-a; ooo-a.)


Now looky here; looky here:

I should-a learned to play the possum;

Just admit … I’m way too dumb.

Look at that mama/she nailed it/on the TV camera:

Man. She makes it look so fun.

But who’s out there? What’s that?

My crying noises. They echo through the kitchen: Please deliver me.

But that ain’t nuthin’; I am quite used to it.

You say: Honey, it’s nuthin’? Please don’t lie to me.


About to toss this microwave oven

Through the wall of/your pant-ery-y-y-y.

And you can take that refrigerator

And stuff it where you cannot see-e-e-e-e.


Now listen here:

Look at this yo-yo; no clue how to do it.

I can’t learn nuthin’ from HGTV.

Now this ain’t workin’; ain’t no way around it.

Honey, it’s nuthin’? I must disagree.


OK, you win, you microwave oven.

Proved you can get the best of me-e-e-e.

Oh wait a second; this book’s in Spanish.

For English, see Page 23-e-e-e-e?

(Dumb-a; dumb-a.)

OK, honey, it’s nuthin’ … Wrong page, you see?

Honey, it’s nuthin’ … don’t dee-vorce me.

Can’t watch my …

Can’t watch my …

Can’t watch HGTV.

I said, honey it’s nuthin’ … I did paint, you see?

I’ll watch my …

I’ll watch my … 

I’ll watch HGTV. … 

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The dear, sweet, misunderstood love of my present life has been on a bit of a purging tear since the snow melted and she finally noticed it was safe to once again venture outside.

Ironic, I find it, how for years I have been grousing about the amount of space in which we live and how the amount of useless stuff we cram into it has far exceeded its boundaries.

In a balanced world (and by “balanced world” I mean “atypical marriage”) the stuff we need would fit perfectly in the space we set aside for it. And the stuff we don’t need would go out with the trash every week.

In the real world, however, the stuff we don’t need fills the attic, the garage, the old furniture we simply cannot get rid of because it contains storage space, the shelves we buy and bang into the walls because the old furniture is full, the storage boxes that conveniently slide under the bed because — lord knows — if there is an untapped inch of space somewhere — anywhere in the house — it has to be crammed full of crap.

Laundry baskets, which, I believe, should either hold dirty clothes being carted to the laundry, or clean clothes being carted back to their respective closets and bureaus, should not, during their off hours, be filled with the stuff that no longer fits on the shelves above the washer and dryer. And the stuff above the washer and dryer should be thrown out if it hasn’t been moved since the day the shelves were banged into place to hold it.

I firmly believe that if you own something and you haven’t touched it, seen it, thought of it, required it, missed it, or remembered it even exists, it no longer serves a purpose in your life. You should immediately throw it out.

I don’t make this stuff up. I watch a lot of home improvement TV. And I live in fear of “Hoarders.”

Note to any current wives of mine who may be reading this: This does not apply to spouses.

Also, you look lovely today.

I once invented a household rule that for a brief moment I was actually allowed to enforce. Those days — the days of me thinking rule enforcement is one of my abilities rights perks possibilities options — have long since passed. Like corn.

But there was a time when every new item that came into the house had to be balanced by the removal of one old item. If we buy a new stapler, we get rid of a vase. If we get a new coffee table, we throw out a pie plate. New car? Get rid of that torn blanket.

It worked great. Then it stopped. And since that time, the useless stuff has been allowed to take over. Like crabgrass.

Example: Shelves full of old rusted cans of furniture stripper, wrapped in the old tube socks, bed sheets and worn facial towels used to apply their contents to the furniture that has now been stripped and refinished and will never need stripping again.

Why can’t we just throw this stuff away, dear?

Because I might need it again some day, dear.

(I’m not the only one in the marriage who employs spousal pet names.)

Well how about these old, musty, mildewy, warped board games that have been buried on a shelf in the garage for two decades? Can we get rid of these, dear?

No. We can sell them at a garage sale, dear.

(Because nothing says “buy me” faster than a warped, moldy Scrabble board, or a mildew-covered Casino Yahtzee that is, to my disappointment, nothing like the real Yahtzee and impossible to learn how to play. The 25 cents we might get for these would push us one step closer to solvency. I see your point. The logic is not lost on this dear.)

And don’t even get me started on the attic. Mainly because in the 19 years since I was allowed to move indoors, I have yet to venture into it. That’s her territory and I have no idea what’s going on in there.

My reason for keeping my distance is, for me, a valid one: The doorway is too small. I have santaclaustrophobia — a legitimate fear of getting stuck in a tight space. I think she did it on purpose — had the doorway built that size.

Back to my original point, he said transitionally.

This year we have finally pulled the rip cord and begun the process of kitchen renovation. This has ignited a firestorm of purging on behalf of the little lady who does not like all of the pet names I have for her, and, if I was to guess, this would include little lady. But she never reads this, so we’re good.

Mind you, we haven’t removed a cabinet, pulled up the linoleum, purchased a can of paint or cleaned under the fridge, but the purging — oh, my goodness — the purging is in full swing.

During her month-long vacation in June, m’lady practically emptied out the garage single-handedly. I was very impressed, and told her so. Then I couldn’t find a hammer. And now I’m afraid to ask.

I am happy to report I still have a chair and ottoman in the living room and a bureau upstairs for my wardrobe (actually, the two smallest drawers in a bureau; I would never have access to an entire bureau — let’s be real. I live with a woman who needs to see a photo I.D. before she’ll dole out a clothes hanger).

I may have mentioned before that I am the principle cook, which means I am the principle kitchen user. Karen uses the kitchen to get from the living room to the porch. Also for refills of tea.

Yet in the months during which we have been planning and purchasing the pieces for this major project, she has taken it upon herself to decide it would be much more convenient for me if she moved the coffee maker over there. And put the KitchenAid under here. And rearranged all my spices, throwing out the ones she knows I’ll never want to use again. (And by “never want to,” I mean “have lost permission to.”)

It has gotten to the point at which she is actually wheeling the garbage bins out to the curb on the night before pickup — a job historically mine — in an attempt, I firmly believe, to keep me from seeing what she is finally throwing out.

The stuff I have been grousing about for years is rapidly dwindling, but I think she’s also tossing out some of the stuff I still want. There used to be no room to move in any of the cabinets and now several of them sit empty. I know for a fact she’s keeping stuff she has always liked and I have always hated. I can feel it. She’s hiding it somewhere and will spring it on me when the new kitchen arrives. I know it.

Perhaps she’s squirreling my stuff away for our next garage sale. I’ll have to bring a sock full of quarters to buy it all back.

If I only knew what she did with my socks.

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