Notwithstanding the above, it was painfully obvious to me that if we were going to make it through the next few months with our sanity intact, then we would need help, lots of help. With my wife being the handy one in the family, and with her being largely incapacitated, I would be hiring someone to handle the touch-up and reno work around the house. I would take inventory of all jobs that needed doing and outsource. And of course there was no way we were moving ourselves. At this stage in my life, I no longer had friends who would offer to carry my furniture on their backs in return for nothing more than a lukewarm Budweiser and box of Pizza Hut’s finest. Perhaps I should even pay someone to pack and box our shit up too. I had never experienced such a luxury before, but perhaps now was the time. As far as Christmas went, it would have to be cancelled this year. Or perhaps I could convince my 3 year old that her birthday was Christmas or vice versa? So long as I could manage to scrap one of those events from the calendar, we’d be in half decent shape.
First up was the work that needed doing to our house. Like I mentioned it was an older house, a character house, and one that we had spent far too much money doing far too much work on in the 7 years since we had bought it. At this stage, we were down to the short strokes though. I had a closet shelf that had been partially unhinged for the better part of a year. I had a bathroom fan that wasn’t properly secured to the ceiling. I had a set of bi-fold closet doors in my daughter, Olivia’s, room that hadn’t been properly installed since I had first attempted to do so 4 years prior. That little failed project had cost me $300, a full weekend, and 16 combined hours of actual grunting and groaning, and had left me damn near in cardiac arrest . . . . .and a closet without a functioning bi-fold door. I had some chipped paint and drywall damage on some walls. And you know those rectangular white plastic pieces that fit around a light switch to finish the look? Well I needed a couple of those plates installed as well. I had conservatively figured it would take a professional a couple hours to do the entire job. Factor in the ridiculous rates they charge for time and materials, and I budgeted $500.
I found a guy online, his page said he was reliable, dependable, experienced, and efficient. The fucking lord savior Jesus Christ as far as I was concerned. His name, like any good contractor’s, was Joe. Joe came over to assess the work at hand, and like any good contractor Joe drove an over-sized tank-like pick-up truck. Splashed across the side of the truck was the slogan “No job too big or too small for Joe!” As far as I could tell he had more storage space in the box of his truck than I did in my garage. I quietly wondered to myself if he had enough space back there for the tools needed for my little project. I greeted Joe at the front door, yes this was definitely my man. He was pushing 60, gruff unshaven face, plaid shirt with worn faded jeans. Steel toed boots and a clipboard completed the look. There was no doubt that in his free time, Joe liked to drink beer and kick some ass. We were definitely about to test his company’s slogan.
Joe stepped in and we started walking around the house. First up, I showed him our front closet where the shelf was unhinged a bit. I told him to put that on the list.
“Sooooo . . . . . you’re looking to have that shelf there fixed?”
“O kaaaay”. He then proceeded to tell me how to complete such a minor job. “So, I am going to go to Home Depot, buy a little plastic anchor for about twenty five cents, put it in that hole there, and reinsert the shelf rod into the plastic anchor”.
“Sounds good Joe.” Good old Joe was dealing with a new level of ineptitude here.
We were off to a great start. Next up was the bathroom where the fan was not well secured to the ceiling. Joe continued to look unimpressed.
“So, what I am going to do here is take out my screwdriver and screw that back in. Should take about 5 turns.”
“Great Joe”, this guy knew his shit and I couldn’t have been more pleased.
Moving down the hall, I showed Joe some of the paint chips that needed filling in on the walls. They were small, but predictably well beyond my level of expertise in the home reno field.
“Joe, if you wouldn’t mind fixing these paint chips here”
“Right, so I’ll take a paint brush and dip it in some paint and then dab it over those spots”.
“Sounds good Joe”. I was beginning to feel like Joe was already re-thinking what his new slogan should be. That truck of his would burn more in fuel coming back to our house than he would earn filling in my paint chips and screwing my screws. Nevertheless, I continued dragging Joe around the house showing him all the various work that needed to be done, Joe was diligently taking notes but all the while no doubt questioning my manhood. He hadn’t even seen the hot red Civic hatchback (look forward to that story in a future series of posts) I had parked in my garage yet. After showing Joe the light switch plate thingy that needed to be purchased and screwed in, he made his final notes and told me he’d get back to me with a quote. In light of the fact that he seemingly came prepared to discuss a full gutting and rebuild of my house, I felt a small victory. My to-do list would be much shorter as we approached Armageddon. Joe’s quote came back estimated 2.5 hours and $650 including time and materials, most of which I figured was gas for his truck. Evidently, it pays to learn how to use a screw driver at some point in your life. As I had never learned that lesson, Joe just earned himself $650 and it was time for me to move on to the next task at hand.
It gets worse, read Part 3: ‘Accelerate” here: