Thursday, August 26, 2010

Why A Working Toilet May Be Important

Please do not be frightened off by the title of my latest post. I assure you I will not speak specifically of any bodily functions, but this story is too good not to share.

Some of you were aware of my recent house purchase and the resulting search to find any "handyman" type who would actually call me back to do some work. Contractors, handymen and the like have unfortunately given themselves a bad name without any help from me. I'm not sure if this bad reputation is a result of a deficient marketing department or a faulty alarm clock, but either way, more often than not, my experiences have been less than stellar. Now, I don't mean the work is necessarily bad but the journey along the way can be painful. Take my good buddy and contractor Don. I've know him for about 19 years. We've been friends and along the way he finished my basement and remodeled the bathroom in my old house. What I knew about Don was this - his work is good, his prices reasonable and he likes to smoke and do Suduko puzzles while he works. I also knew he was working on the contractor calender and clock which meant if he was working on my schedule he could have finished the basement in the 5 weeks he promised but he was working on his, so it took about 8.

So when I bought my little crack house, as I so affectionately call it, and needed some work done, I knew I could call Don but I thought to myself, "Do I want to call Don?" But little annoying things kept happening like my basement flooded and I discovered a large hole in the wall. So I called Don. Ever the voice of handyman reason, Don assured me it was a simple fix and he'd be in town later in the week and would call me. Which never happened. After a few more floods, my friend Wendy (see earlier Spotlight Post) and I went to work and created a concrete ski slope masterpiece that protrudes out of my basement wall but has plugged the dam.

As time passed, the little things became more annoying like I needed a new toilet because the old one was old, smelled like pee and couldn't be cleaned. So I called Don again. The conversation was as follows:
C: Don, It's Carol.
D: Hi.
C: You never called me back.
D: I know.
C: Do you not want to do the work on my house because you can tell me no.
D: No, I'll do it.
C: Ok when?
D: Um, well I can come by tomorrow when you get home.
C: Ok - should I have the toilet and the door here?
D: Yes - You need to pick those things out yourself.
C: Ok - so I'll see you around 6 tomorrow.
D: Yep. Bye.

 6:45pm the next night

C: Don, it's Carol
D: Hi. I forgot to call you. I'm not coming over.
C: Ok - When are you coming over? Because now I have a toilet and a screen door in my living room.
D: You bought them?
C: You told me to.
D: Oh
C: So when are you coming over?
D: Monday. I promise.
C: Should I call you Sunday to remind you?
D: Yeah, you can.
C: Alright. Bye

As you can guess, I'm annoyed. But I decide if he blows me off again, I'll just find someone in the phone book. Well, it ends up, I see Don Saturday and remind him that I will be calling him to remind him to show up on Monday. Then I had an electrical issue on Sunday. So I call him and he agrees that I really should have the electrical looked at and says he'll be over in a few hours. And he shows up, which is impressive as a stand alone point. He troubleshoots the electrical issue and decides to bang out the toilet while he's there. It was a bit of a challenge since the old flange was rusted out, the wax ring needed to be bigger and the hose that connects the plumbing needed to be longer. But he did it just as I had to leave to go to my mom's house. I asked him to lock up and as I'm walking out the door I hear him say "Shoot." I say "What?" He says "I just turned the water to the toilet on and its slow." I say "Is that a problem?" He says "No, not really." And I leave.

Fast forward 2 days, I'm in the bathroom and flush the toilet. I brush my teeth, blow my nose, throw the tissue in the toilet and flush again. Nothing happens. I assume that the chain has come off and open the back of the toilet. There is about an inch of water back there. I wait about 10 minutes, try again, nothing. I wait another 10 minutes, check the back of the toilet and again only see an inch of water. I then realize, this must be what my good buddy Don meant by slow to fill. But he certainly couldn't have thought that was ok? Right? So I call him.

C: Don, It's Carol.
D: Hi Carol. What's up?
C: The toilet isn't filling. I flushed the toilet once, then blew my nose, threw a tissue in and went to flush it again and nothing happened. There was no water in the back.
D: I know. I told you that.
C: Ok - Well, I didn't think what you were saying meant I couldn't flush the toilet twice in a row.
D: Well, its not a big deal. How many times are you going to do that?
C: Yeah Don, but what if I had people over. They couldn't flush the toilet one after another.
D: You're right. But how often are you gonna have people over?
C: Don - What if Max went to the bathroom right after me. The toilet wouldn't flush.
D:  Yeah - I guess you're right. But I told you when I was there and you didn't seem to think it was a big deal.
C: That's because I'm not a plumber Don.Is this beyond your scope of expertise? Do I need to call a plumber?
D: No - I can do it.
C: When?
D: I don't know.
C: Ok - well I need an actual day that you are going to show up.
D: Well - how about Saturday?
C: Ok - do I need to call you to remind you?
D: Sure - you know how I always love to get calls from you Carol.

So, the moral of the story is even if you may only have guests over occasionally, a working toilet is important in everyday life. In the meantime I just keep a large vase in the bathroom that I fill with water to make sure any unexpected guests or my son can flush the brand new toilet on demand.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Calling all Unsupervised Children of the 70's!!!

Author's note: A special shout out goes to Lawrence White who through his FB status line stirred up fond memories of what is was like to roam freely in the world.

Remember walking out your front door and not being afraid. Remember being 7 or 8 or 9 and walking out the front door of your house at 9am on a warm summer morning and knowing you may not come home until the sun was going down and you heard your mother's voice far in the distance yelling your name. Remember jumping on your bike, bare feet and head and riding in the middle of the road and not thinking about whether or not you'd be hit by a speeding car. Because, you knew, intuitively, the car would stop. And you'd be ok.

Remember living in a neighborhood and actually knowing your neighbors.Remember living in a neighborhood with what felt like a hundred kids and the elaborate worlds you created.  Remember Kick the Can, King of the Mountain, Flashlight Tag. And those of you who played with me, remember The Anything Company, my Fortune 500 Company that was subsidized by forms stolen from my father's business and the bank. Remember running in the dark and not being afraid. And your parents not being afraid either.

Remember walking along the highway, down deserted back roads and through empty fields. Remember running across the highway to get to the pond. Remember knocking on your neighbor's front door and inviting yourself to swim (or in my case - people knocking on my door).

Remember when it was perfectly acceptable for your friend's mother to scream at you for talking back because your mother expected her to do it. Remember being allowed to be a kid. Allowed to make mistakes. Allowed the freedom to learn that the world can be safe. And remember learning that life can be hard too. That people lose. That we all don't make the team. That we all don't get a trophy. And that we survived.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The joys of homeownership

I had a dream. It was my desire to one day own a home that I could really call my own. Put my mark on it and make it an extension of myself. I thought I had that once before. When I was married, my ex-husband and I built a home and I spent hours upon hours turning that home into an extension of who I was. Who we were. I scoured antique stores, auctions and the like and complied a collection of "things" that told the story of who we were. I loved that house.

When my husband announced unceremoniously that the marriage was over, I was devastated. But over the course of the next 6 months, I came to realize, that while I was mourning the loss of my marriage, I may have been mourning the loss of my home a little more. I started to remember being a little kid and having a childhood that really afforded me anything I ever wanted in terms of material things. We had a big pool. We had trips to Disney every year. We had Christmas mornings that started and ended with an obstacle course over and around gifts. But for every happy memory, I had an equally unhappy one. My parents had a volatile  relationship. My father had a volatile relationship with just about everyone. And after he died, my mother thought she could make it all better by giving us things when all I really wanted that happy part of my life back.

So when I married and was able to own a home of my own, I went about turning it into a place that felt safe, secure and happy. Even when it wasn't. I think maybe that's why I was so blindsided by the news that my marriage was over. I had planned this all out the right way, hadn't I? I had a light and airy home. I chose each piece so carefully; a reflection of the things I found joy in. He seemed to love it too. In fact, he did because when it came to splitting the "stuff" up, he showed much of the attachment to those "things" as I had when I bought them.

I learned a valuable life lesson from that experience. I don't need things. I need a roof over my head and a good life. I have a handful of pieces that I have carried with me since then that will stay with me until I'm dead and gone. Even when I moved into this tiny little place, I knew exactly what I could let go of and what needed to stay. And the things on the stay list are small. I have an original Rea Redifer painting that was given to me  by Rea. I have 2 pieces of furniture that no one in their right minds would have bought but I did and handed them over to my neighbor Jim Donohue, who saw their potential and turned them into family heirloom pieces. Both Rea and Jim are gone now but I still have a piece of them with me and that's what is really important.

When I first walked into this little place I now call my own, I saw potential. Now, I'm not gonna lie. I saw a mortgage payment smaller than my rent payment and a $6500 tax credit too. But I saw a place that, while tiny and old, could maybe tell my story again. That is, once I patch the hole in the foundation and tear out the  kitchen.