Over the past couple of weeks, we've had contractors in the house. They've been painting our hallway and a couple of rooms upstairs.
(And the dog's been helping them. A regular Poochlo Picasso, she is.)
I feel I should mention here that my wife and I actually can paint. Not masterpieces, mind you, nor art of any imaginable definition. But we can paint rooms. We've done it. I've seen us. So I feel a little silly saying that we've hired a bunch of guys to come over and slap a few cans of off-white on our walls, when it seems like something any self-respecting homeowner ought to be able to tackle.
A: I never said I was a 'self-respecting homeowner'. Just a homeowner. If somebody offered to paint my walls -- or mow my lawn, clean my gutters, whitewash my fence, tidy my basement or replace my shingles, and they weren't saying those things euphemistically ('Sweep my chimney'? Um... no, thanks.) -- I'd totally let them. If they'd do it for free. And sing a happy little song while they worked.
Would that make me less of a 'homeowner'? Who cares? With all that work out of the way, I'd have plenty of time to find a way to live with myself. Trust me.
And 2: When I say these guys are 'painting', it's not quite that simple. Sure, our bedroom they're just painting. Pretty garden-variety stuff. The missus and I probably could have handled that level of latex-slapping in the boudoir on our own.
(That's right. For some people, latex slapping in the boudoir is garden variety. I said it.
I wonder where those sorts of people hang out. Maybe I could hit them up for pointers.)
"Try stuffing a watermelon into a brown paper lunch bag, and you'll have some idea what transpired that day."
But our bedroom is not the problem, lack of lusty latex slapping notwithstanding. It's mostly the hallway, which runs the length of the house, up the stairwell and back to the front. And is covered in wallpaper. Underneath the wallpaper is plaster. Hundred-year-old horsehair plaster. And I'm not going near it.
We've dealt with the plaster in this house before. Soon after we moved in, we got the wild and crazy idea of taking down the flowery wallpaper in the dining room and painting on top of whatever we found underneath. Which turned out to be a lot of large, gaping plaster holes, by the time we'd gotten the wallpaper down.
So we patched. Poorly. And sanded. Poorlier. And painted, as quickly as we could in the darkest, wall tumor-hidingest red we could find, and we never spoke of the ordeal again. I won't even go in that room now. I think it wants revenge for what we did to it.
Needless to say, the decision to hire contractors this time around was a no-brainer. That doesn't mean the experience has been painless, though.
Take this morning, for example. I woke up and made myself marginally presentable by nine o'clock, the time the painters have been coming by. I heard the knock on the door, and shuffled downstairs in my untucked shirt and one inside-out sock to let them in. They marched upstairs to get to work, and I took an inventory of how best to get from 'let the painters in presentable' to 'venture into public presentable'. No small feat.
My biggest obstacle was the pants. In my usual rush to get reasonably unnaked before the contractors showed up, I'd slipped on a pair of jeans that had already been worn. By me, thankfully, or I'd have the further problem of explaining how I'd split a pair of my wife's pants from the thighs down. Again.
(By the by, if you've been harboring some wild idea that I might look simply fabulous in a pair of wrecked Jordaches pulled halfway up my legs, I can disabuse you of that notion right now. Try stuffing a watermelon into a brown paper lunch bag, and you'll have some idea what transpired that day.
Also, you'll have an uncomfortable mental image you may never quite shake. So you've got that going for you.)
So there I was in my slightly-used jeans, facing a denim-clad dilemma. Painters upstairs in the bedroom meant dropcloths and plastic sheets everywhere, so I wasn't getting fresh supplies from the bedroom. And most of my jeans were sitting dripping wet in the washer, anyway -- the result of a failed attempt to sneak in a critical load of laundry between contractor visits.
Sadly, 'clean, but wet' helped me in this situation about as much as 'single, but not blind' helped me trying to find a date back in high school. In other words, not at all.
I searched for a 'Plan C', and soon formulated one: I'd just slip down to the basement while the painters were working upstairs, toss the old jeans into the dryer for a quick freshen-up, and be off on my merry, dryer sheet-scented way. No problem.
So that's what I did. Down the stairs, two Bounces in the dryer, jeans off, jeans in, set the timer for five minutes on high, and settle in to wait it out. Everything was peaches and candy -- other than a pair of awfully chilly knees -- for the first two minutes.
Then, as I was perusing our extensive stock of empty laundry detergent bottles to pass the time, I heard a noise on the stairs behind me. I whirled around, in nothing but my t-shirt and happy face underpants, to face two of the painters. In the basement. Two floors away from where I expected them to be. The nerve! I gathered up the last fleeting shreds of dignity and demanded to know what they were doing all the way down here, when the painting job was clearly up two flights of stairs.
The nearer one just cleared his throat and pointed. Beside me. To the shelf, in the basement, next to the washer and dryer. Where we keep the paint.
For the painters.
He grabbed a can -- not my can, mind you; a paint can -- and they backed slowly up the stairs and went back to work. The dryer dinged at me (three minutes too late, thank you very little, Maytag), and I retrieved my pants, covered my smiley-faced shame, and got the hell out of the house as quickly as I could.
Now I just have to hope they finish the job today. If they show up on Monday, I'm not sure I can let them in the house. I certainly can't look them in the eye again. And when the bill shows up with a new item for 'hazard pay' or 'liquor to make us forget', how the hell am I going to explain that to my wife?
Eh, I guess it could be worse. At least I don't have to buy her another pair of jeans.