Someone once said, “Find something you’re good at, and stick with it.” For some of us, we’re still searching for what that may be. Truth is, I have tried my hand at a lot of things, but the skills that stand out the most are those that, well, shall we say I don’t excel at.
I was reminded again recently that there is a reason I pursued a career in broadcasting and not carpentry. My wife and I recently bought a house that we have decided to remodel prior to moving in, and silly me, I decided to do a lot of the work. Not a big deal? Well, let us review.
There was a time many years ago I purchased a three-unit apartment building, and informed my wife that I would take a week of our two-week vacation and get it in shape to place renters in it, and we would go to Florida during week two of our vacation. We were both very young and gullible at the time. She misplaced her faith in me and agreed that would be a good plan.
Six months and thousands of dollars later came the day we were wrapping up the project. A very good friend who I convinced (begged) to help me with this monumental project ceremoniously announced that he was turning on the main water line to the house. You know, so we could plant our victory flag on this project and move on with life. We even did the “mission-control” count down. “Five, four, three, two, one — main hydrogen line engaged.” Imagine my heartbreak when water came rushing out of electrical outlets all over the house. The previous owner did not winterize and drain the water lines, nor did they maintain heat in the structure — the perfect recipe for spaghetti water lines.
But wait. There’s more. We bought an older single-family dwelling, really quite a charming house in Wilmington that we were going to live in while we did some light remodeling (I kill me). The home had charming walnut woodwork throughout that some rocket scientist decided to add three coats of white paint to over the years. This could not stand. This became my Mt. Everest, and yes, I had to climb it.
I promised my wife that I would strip the woodwork, and there would be only a little mess and inconvenience, and afterward my friend and I would custom-build the cabinets she wanted in the kitchen. You know, as a reward for the slight discomfort redoing the woodwork might create.
A year and a baby later (I’m not kidding), I put the last miserable coat of stain and polyurethane on woodwork that I loathed the day I had ever laid my eyes on. Not only would I never get the odor of the stripper, the stain and clear coat out of the house, but I had to replace carpeting as I had ruined most of it while stripping the many coats of paint from it.
Being a man of my word, I enlisted the help of my dear friend again, and he built the cabinets of my wife’s dreams, and once again I was her hero – until I forgot to mention I bought a business out of state and we would have to sell the house. I almost never recovered from that.
I could go on about a money-pit we bought a few years later that I spent 10 years remodeling before becoming fed up with living in a lumber yard and hired a contractor to finish it up, but I think you get the picture by now.
More than 20 years have passed since my last remodeling nightmare, and here I am peeling wall paper that doesn’t want to be peeled, pulling up carpet that doesn’t want to be pulled up, attempting to keep plaster dust from lining my lungs and trying to whistle while I work. Suddenly, I remember why I don’t do this anymore. I can do a good job, but I am slower than a sloth, which means by the time I finish I have forgotten what I started out to do and, well, let’s be honest, a carpenter I am not.
Oh, and by the way, I promised my wife we would move in around the first of February. This time I was a little wiser. I didn’t tell her what year.
Herb Day is a longtime local radio personality and singer-musician. You can email him at [email protected] and follow his work at www.HerbDayVoices.com.