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Do I understand your question man, is it hopeless and forlorn?

by anna at 09:42 AM on October 11, 2003

You know that show Amazing Race, where pairs are put through various rigmaroles as they trot the globe in pursuit of a $1 million prize? My wife and I have been caught up in just such an ordeal for months, though for slightly smaller stakes. We aim to unload our 40 year old hovel and turn a six figure profit.

The problem is that it's so run-down and the decor is vintage seventies. So far we've put in new bathroom fixtures and floors, painted the entire house, replaced fences, wallpapered, hung new blinds, gutted crumbling walls, landscaped, installed new light fixtures and fixed the railing and chimney. All that's left is to have the hardwood floors refinished.

This process takes three days, during which time we can't walk on the floor. We've thus been relegated to our dank basement, where we've thrown two bare matresses. (Shades of The Godfather, when the capos went to the matresses.) We've got a cooler for our half 'n half and yogurt, a coffee machine and a microwave. We've got a DVD player and a pile of rented movies. The chinchillas are down here too, because they're real sensitive to fumes. The birds, toads, fish and iguana will have to tough it out upstairs.

Of course, the furniture had to go somewhere. We crammed as much as we could into the kitchen, bathroom and den. The rest went into a 15 foot cargo van we rented. A sign at Budget Truck Rental warned that we could wind up liable to the tune of $45,000 if we didn't buy the insurance. Despite the fact that I'm lucky to clear $45k in a year, we declined.

For impoverished sorts, we've accumulated mad stuff. I lugged item after item out to the truck as my wife wrapped curios in newspaper. Eventually I had it winnowed down to things that it takes two to carry. We started with our box spring. I noted that it had no springs and that the wooden slates were all broken. "Remember that Valentine's Day when you promised me a new bed but only delivered a matress," she asked. "Yeah," I lied. A spirited discussion ensued and it turns out that I'll either buy a new box spring to replace the creaky 15 year old one or live like a monk. Mattress Discounters here I come!

Sundown came and we're still hoisting huge pieces of furniture out the door. Or should I say the doorway, cuz we had to remove the door to get my son's desk through it. This behemoth weighs about as much as Rosie O'Donnell, only more unwieldy. No way we could lift it, so we dragged it across the floor, leaving visible gouges. Oh well, it'll be refinished tomorrow, we reasoned. Which means there's no way it's coming back inside. There the $400 desk sits, out at the curb, free to anyone with the brawn to haul it away.

As the drudgery dragged well into the evening, tempers started to flare. My wife complained that eventually I'll pass out and she'll be left to toil alone. She may be the only woman alive who could make you feel guilty about going to bed at midnight when you have to be up at 6 AM. (Then again, most woman are pretty good at manipulating guys with guilt among other tools in their array.)

I woke up on the mattress with the ironing board and footsball table within inches of my head. I had that disoriented feeling you get when you awaken hung over in a strange alley. My son's alarm is blaring, which means it's...7 AM. Bah! I scramble out of bed and make a beeline for the coffeemaker in the kitchen. Woops, it's downstairs. I brew coffee and toss a Toaster Strudel into the micro for my son. He saunters in, munching on a Quaker Oatmeal to Go Bar. "Don't bother with breakfast," he says.

I stumble bleerily into our halfway renovated downstairs bathroom. The faucet are all new so I struggle to get the right bathwater temperature. I clean up in a hurry, just scrubbing the parts that stink. I go to shave but there's no mirror so I pull one off the dining room wall. I'm sitting on the floor in my robe with my balls hanging out. It occurs to me that I've never seen them while shaving before. I fish through a plastic bag and pull out what I think is toothpaste but is actually acne cream. Yuk!

No laundry is clean so I go through that routine where you whiff it to see which garments reek the least. Balanced on my pillow, I iron a pungent shirt and pants. I'm wondering just how late I'm running. I tear through the house in search of a clock that isn't stored away but find none. I crawl through a maze of furniture in my den but my shoes remain just out of my grasp. At last I lay hands on them and dash out the door, bleeding from my chin. Scavengers are already picking through items we've discarded at the curb, but the floor guys are nowhere to be seen. The clock in my car's broken and the DJs are acting like the time is some closely guarded secret. Traffic's backed up to the horizon and beyond. My trademark Ray-Bans are packed away in my nighstand, which is ensconced in the front of the truck. The sun is boring into my bloodshot, photophobic eyes like a Lasix laser.

So I finally make it to to my job all disheveled and harried. Who'd be seated at my desk but my stern boss! "Glad you could stop by," he sarcastically says.

This saga should end there but no. That night we're in full bunker mode with our provisions on hand. I pop Identity into the DVD player and summon my son to navigate the myriad screens and make it play. My wife fires up the micro to pop popcorn. Poof! We're plunged into darkness like hapless postwar Iraqis. We keep plugging it into different outlets but the breaker keeps flipping. Then it broke altogether. So we're trapped downstairs without power, with no movie and a useless bag of unpopped kernels.

Yes Bob, it's indeed hopeless and forlorn. Yet through it all my wife remains steadfastly chipper. "Make the best of it," she chides me. This lady is amazing.

comments (7)

Re: visible gouges upon dragging a desk across hardwood floors - a few small patches of carpet turned upside down and placed under the legs (or bearing surface) go a long way. If the wood is splintery, a tarp helps the glide. Alternatively my parents were tennis fanatics. Once we had to move huge stones from teh back of the house to the front of the house. So we used a bed of tennis balls under the stones. As the stones moved forward, we took the bright felt ballbearings from the trailing edge and rollled them across the top of the stones to be placed under the leading edge. I can imagine doing the same with a variety of objects and surfaces - including an upside down desk.

I hope your fish are ok. I once had a housemate wipe out my tank by finishing a coffee table in the living room with the windows closed. Though he was a biochemist, it never occured to him that pumping organic vapors through a 20 gallon fishtank for 12 hours might kill the inhabitants. I hope they died happy.

by chris at October 13, 2003 11:07 AM

Cool, The Chris has a pragmatic side as well. Great moving advice.

The fish are a hardy lot. It's a cichlid tank where only the strong stand any chance of survival. I call it The Darwin.

by anna at October 13, 2003 5:05 PM

What a nightmare, Anna. I would've been mortified at the boss thing. Absolutely mortified.

by jean at October 13, 2003 9:47 PM

Jean, when comments are few I reread the post to see why. Rereading this one, I can tell you that it hardly conveys my sense of helplessness. 'Twas indeed a nightmare but now it's over and the floors look stellar. Where's my money?

by anna at October 14, 2003 5:41 PM

re: shaving and balls, i know what you mean. sort of.

the bathroom in my new place, is quirky. it's small and awkwardly shaped, with a clawfoot tub taking up most of the floor space. at the sink, the wall needs to 45 just to have enough space to stand at the mirror and brush your teeth, look at your own pert morning nipples, or give imaginary speeches. the tub doubles as a shower, and with the hanging curtain, is a behemoth in the room. so my crafty roomate and i get just the clear curtain liners to go 'round the whole tub. now the shower chamber is like a hot window display. until the world fogs up from use, you've got two mirrors to check yourself out while showering, which is a strange sight. it's a little like walking into a bathroom with a huge mirror over the toilet, where you get to watch that movie of yourself urinating. you know the one. then you realize that the stream comes out all slanted, or in a vertical beam, or really twists a lot on its way down to the water and out of your life. lesson here? put a mirror anywhere new, just for a while, to learn more creepy things about yourself.

by lajoie at October 14, 2003 7:50 PM

btw, really liked the story.

by lajoie at October 14, 2003 7:58 PM

I hate restrooms where the mirror is right in front of the toilet. I never look.

There's been a little rush in posts lately. Maybe the comments are just getting spread thin. Although a few people do seem to be AWOL.

by jean at October 15, 2003 4:09 AM

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