Move the Decimal.

April 14th, 2014 by

Why am I writing after 2 frigging years? Because I want to. I’d say I need to, but needs seem to arise more often than biannually. UPDATE: I’m still married, I still live in the same house, I still have the same job, and I still enjoy doing super tedious things for little or no pay.

My brother just bought his first residence. A cool condo in the city similar to my first place. He quickly learned the same lesson I learned a few years ago that I called “moving the decimal”.

Shit gets expensive. You work more, you make more money, you have more stuff, more responsibility. You used to consider purchases in the hundreds of dollars worth sleeping on. Well, pick up that decimal and move it at least one space to the right, because you’re going to be crapping out $1712.36 here and there like you’re supposed to be okay with it. This is not a rich person problem, either. You’re either a hard enough worker and smart enough (notice I did not say “lucky”, because stuff like this doesn’t happen to lucky people, and lucky people don’t stay rich very long) to absorb these things when they come along, or you figure something out to make it happen because you have to. In a weird way, it’s the American dream. Sort of. Whatever. Shut up.

So he’s having to fix some stupid thing pretty much every day at his place, and I never realized it, but I never really stopped fixing stuff at my house. The difference is I enjoy fixing stuff, and try to make it so it will never break again. My brother might enjoy it, but I don’t know. I’ve only met him like once. As soon as you fix everything in the house so it will never break again, the house probably burns down or something. I’ll let you know.

I like fixing the things I can figure out how to fix. I replaced a capacitor on my air conditioner and felt super awesome for not killing myself. The next month, the capacitor on the other air conditioner shat the proverbial bed, so I fixed it, too. Then I wired the fan motor backwards, and for those of you that understand how air conditioners work, running the fan backwards on the condenser makes it not work. Because I was too stupid to look at it and notice the fan was turning the wrong way, I called a guy with a name tag and he charged me about $100 to move two wires and undoubtedly left firmly convinced that I am the biggest dipshit on the block. Which I may have been.

That was minor.

Since our house was built by a criminally insane construction foreman and the make a wish foundation in 2004 (long before building inspectors were invented), they spastically stapled whatever wood was on sale all over the sides, painted it (in some cases priming it first), and ran for the hills before the first rain. They also used a scatter gun on the roof when installing the ridge vent, so we have no fewer than 7 leaks that come and go. The wood trim is rotting in lots of places, and I’ve seen better looking paint jobs in war torn Crimea.

I wonder if there is a Crimea River.

So I start getting quotes on having the work done. It is baffling. Having built lots of stuff, I have a very general idea of what is involved in the project, as well as how I want it to be done. The weird part is how the prices you get are at once so specific and so wildly rangy. Tearing down the columns and replacing the rotting wood is going to cost either $13,694.07 or $961.63. So what the fuck. I’m guessing they don’t just call it $1000 or $14,000 because they want you to think they put on a green tinted visor one night and pored over the numbers for hours in a dimly lit room with one of those adding machines with the big long ribbons of paper all over the place. Okay, fine. But how can there be a $12k difference when I described the work exactly the same to both parties? I don’t ask, because I know the answer I will get, and it will be anything but satisfying.

I ended up going to a friend of mine who owns a contracting company, and he gave me a price that was acceptable in context. I say that because on the one hand I know it is a lot of work and I know he will do it right, but the idea of basically taping a new car to my house is something I have yet to reconcile.

Then last week I was in my garage making really nice wood into smaller pieces of wood, and I noticed the little winged bastards all over the floor like the Jonestown massacre. Text to my wife –
“Hey, guess what? We have 65,000 new pets. Their termites”
“Seriously? You’re grammar sucks”
“It’s going to take forever to name them”
“and shut up. Autocorrect doesn’t know me”
“Can we get rid of them?”
“I can’t, but I think money can”
“did you find some or something?”
“no. termites, silly. Of course money.”
“no, but this will get exponentially more expensive when they eat the basement out of the house”

When it comes to things I can’t do myself, I really feel like I have a small air cannon, like a potato gun or whatever, and it is stuffed with U.S. currency. The last thing I want to do is fire it at all, but I just point it at the termites and spray the problem with cash. At least fixing the house has a visible effect. It cost over a THOUSAND BUCKS to have termite guys come out and drill holes all over the foundation of my house and pump 45 gallons of AIDS or whatever kills termites into the ground. I asked why the regularly baited termite traps all around the house didn’t work, and they said “sometimes they get past them”. Thank you again for the totally unsatisfying answer. And for putting in more termite traps. Now I have like a hundred of these things that may or may not work.

And holy god, the fucking grass in the yard. I love yard work. Sounds weird, but I do. I have come to the conclusion that we are not meant to have grass. Maybe it does just fine in the savannah or Michigan or lots of other places where my house isn’t, but carefully tending to it with pre emergers, lime, sprinklers, professional people with those backpack sprayer things, and above all, going into the yard several times a year and just repeatedly firing the cash cannon into the air does nothing to make grass grow. Oh sure, they’ve offered to completely till it and sod it, but I’m busy launching $50’s out of my attic onto the roof right now.

I know, Crimea river, right? I have neato house and a neato wife and a neato job. I’m really not complaining as much as I am observing in a way that is indistinguishable from complaining. The good thing about the pain in the ass parts of life – you know those times when you are so busy you start to wonder why you don’t just live in the woods, is this –
When it’s all over and you’re going about your life as normal again, you feel satisfied (which is far better than just happy). Further, you tend to remember the best parts of the worst times. The feeling of stress and holyshitness fades first, and you see what you have to show for it. Dead grass and a bunch of poison in holes in the ground, sure. But I’ll win eventually, and the house won’t leak or fall down, and we can work on reloading the cannon for next time.

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