December 12, 2007
Home Improvement 101
When the estimate came from California Closets, the sticker shock gave way to the typical masculine bravado men like me, real men, feel when a challenge looms before us.
Certainly, I could do over my closet for a hell of a lot less than $1300, I reasoned. After all, we're talking a few shelves, some drawers, a rack or two, and a couple storage bins.
And so it was Saturday I took off for Home Depot, bent on buying the supplies necessary to "Rickafornia" my closet.
First of all, and let me say this up front, I don't really like to go to the hardware store or Home Depot. This is because the people who work at these places seem to genuinely know what they are talking about.
I'll go into the hardware store and kind of bluff my way through the ordeal.
"I need some screws to install a vacuum hose on the outtake valve of the unit in the basement to er, trigger eh umm the drainage exhaust system," I mumble.
The guy will stare at me disdainfully for a few seconds and then say something like,
"In other words your vagina itches and your name is Clara. Does that about sum it up, Sissy boy?
That's why I usually go to the hardware department at K-Mart or Wal-Mart where, let's face it, no one speaks English.
"Hi, I'm building a garage. I figure I need a couple of these, I'll waterproof them and then attach them to the foundation I'm laying. Is this the right size?
"Si," the lady will say. The problem is I'll be holding a brassiere some lady left in the hardware department by mistake.
The problem goes back to my school years. Because I went to Catholic schools for 12 years, I never had a shop class. I never had an automotive class. Even the one plumbing course we took had questions like, "If Jesus had six washers and he gave three to poor people how many washers did he have left?" In other words, I don't know how to do anything useful with my hands besides picking my nose and masturbating, both of which I learned in the fifth grade, by the way, and immediately mastered, I might add.
I ventured to Home Depot. My problem with that place is the guys who work there are too helpful. They question you, like fifth grade nuns giving a quiz, until they eventually break you.
"Whattya building? They'll ask, inquisitively. I'll shuffle my feet and be purposely vague, because to answer would reveal the folly of my plan. As soon as you answer they start grilling you.
"OK, you need some flanges. You have a couple dozen, right? And joists, of course. Gotta get some. You do have joists, don't you?" They start raising their voice at you, disgusted with the lack of manliness they are observing. Finally I say something like, "Yeah, I got a load of concrete block in the back of the truck and some two-by sixes but my guys are picking up the joists and flanges, and all the other, er man stuff I need to um, build what I'm buildin'. I reckon I'll be OK, thanks for your help." (Hint to men: whenever attempting to be manly in the presence of other men, use the word "reckon" and make crude jokes about sex and women: "I reckon that bitch wants a piece of this joist.")
"Do you have a blue print?" the guy asked me. I looked at him blankly. "You know, a game plan." Usually, my game plan for a weekend is: bacon and eggs, check to make sure the beer is cold, decide on the hot or extra hot salsa, decide whether to melt cheese on the chili dip, check battery in remote control, turn on big screen TV, watch football for 14 hours, burp, fart, and pass out.
"I don't know what you mean," I finally blurted out.
"Well, what dimensions is it?" That was a trick question, because it implied I had a measuring tape or some other exotic device. I shrugged. "Well, how are you going to put up shelves and coat racks without knowing what size lumber you need?
"I'm gonna um, use joists and flanges and stuff," I finally mumbled under my breath.
I finally bought some pre-fab units, shelves and drawers. On the box they had little drawings of the tools I would need to assemble them. I should have known then I was in trouble, because I could only identify the hammer and the screwdriver.
Soon, I was home with all the stuff plus some pre-cut lumber I had loaded in the truck. I didn't know what to do with the lumber, but I tied a red handkerchief at the end and hung the boards out the back of my truck. (It looked really neat and I felt really manly.) Naturally, it was the wrong size, so I tried to saw a piece. The saw immediately broke. (Rule of thumb to aspiring builders: If your saw has a red handle it probably isn't made to cut real wood.)
I tried to assemble a set of drawers. After three hours, when it was time to insert the drawers into the unit, I noticed neither one had a bottom. I had assembled them upside down. When I went to pull them out by the handles, the front of both drawers came completely off. (This is when I learned another important lesson of manly wood-working: If you buy an assembly kit, and upon completion there are more pieces on the floor than contained in the unit, you probably f**ked up.)
I gathered up all the leftover crap and hid it in the truck. With Karen on her way home, I had to work fast. I nailed up a drapery rod and hung all my ties from it. A shower curtain rod now served as coat rack. I glued a hook on the wall for my bathrobe. Then I took all my crap, every box, and piled it against the back wall of the closet, one on top of the other, all the way to the ceiling. I put a rug down that somehow actually fit. Then I hung a mirror and a couple pictures.
Karen walked in to find me on the couch watching the game. "I thought you were going to do the closet?"
"I did. I now have a Rickafornia closet," I said proudly, opening the door to reveal the neatly stacked boxes, all my clothes on hangers, all my ties and belts in the rack.
"Wow," she said, genuinely impressed.
I was about to pop open a celebratory beer when she added, "you can do mine next weekend."