The Room Behind The Wall
I've never been known as a handy guy. My wife Jenny knew this about me when we got married. Still, I can't tell you the number of times since we bought our house that I've found myself with a hammer or screwdriver staring blankly at some home-improvement project I never would've gotten involved with if not for Jenny's insistence.
The simple answer- call a plumber/electrician/carpenter- isn't feasible for us financially. Those guys get paid 3 times my hourly salary. So when something needs to get done- it ends up being me. Most of the stuff I end up doing- mounting shelves, painting, fixing the DVD player when it gets stuck, and putting together Ikea furniture (whose instructions manage to be challenging and condescending simultaneously) is not really necessary work, so I can grumble about how I never had a Father and don't know how to fix the damn sink or whatever. But mostly, I complain because I don't like doing the work. I'm not very good at it- and most of all- it's a waste of time I could be spending sitting on my butt- reading a book, watching TV or just letting the sun shine on my face.
In the long run, I know the projects are good for me. Before I was married- I barely knew how to work a hammer and now I can say I'm capable of building a deck and wiring a ceiling fan. Thankfully, nothing serious has ever gone wrong with our house- a modest three bedroom in a stock-standard southern suburban town. My lack of problems is to be expected, the house is only 2 years old.
In spite of being the home's first occupants- we had nothing to do with its construction. To be clear, we don't live in one of those cookie-cutter houses that looks identical (or nearly so) to all the houses around it. In fact, ours is the only new construction on the block- most of the homes on my street were built in the 60's and 70's. Our house was built by a guy who likes to build houses- as a hobby. In other words- by a guy as completely opposite from me as anyone could possibly be. When we bought the place, our realtor said the house took about a year and a half to build and this one guy did most of the work all by himself. It's well constructed- the floors don't squeak, the pipes don't leak, and the planning that went into the construction is obvious from the neat way the electrical lines all feed into the fuse box in the basement.
I explain all of this so you'll understand my surprise when my wife Jenny told me she'd noticed a small circular brown stain in the corner of the garage closest to the house. It was November- and while Jenny refused to smoke in the house, (it was her rule- I don't smoke- but its her house too and if she wanted to light up inside- as far as I'm concerned- she had the right) she wasn't going to stand outside in the wind either- so she reasonably compromised and we put a comfortable chair and an afghan in the garage, with a small table for the ashtray, lighter, and a hefty stack of cooking magazines.
It was a stressful day at work and three cigarettes, one lit off the butt of the other that led to Jenny's discovery of the stain.