Saturday, August 19, 2006

Day 21, Friday- "Know when to not do-it-yourself."

After visiting the nice insurance lady at the office (free bad strawberries!), I got to work at the house on some electrical work. Changing out plugs and replacing cloth-wrapped wire were the orders of the day. This is an old house, but so far I’ve only found a couple of old wire runs- and all have been easily replaced.

I also tested the circuit breakers. You can too- just try to strip wire without cutting the power. It is like a little tiny-bit of personal lightning. You even get a little thunder. Need a little workout? Just wash your hands- leave them damp- and strip the wire. A half of a second of 120v is like 50 pushups.

So anyway- visitors came! They brought Bowpicker! They brought Diet Pepsi! They brought Bowpicker! We ate perched on a lovely dinette set made of upside-down Tillamook Ice Cream buckets while they carefully observed the “do not put anything on the floor that might come within 2 feet of your mouth” rule.

I would like to point out that these visitors got the deluxe tour. One person will even receive a lovely parting gift (a big cabinet that is going away). Everyone who comes by gets a tour- but the best tours are reserved for people who bring Bowpicker. No Bowpicker, no deluxe. It is truly that simple.

Unless you are the acting HR director and other upper-echelon types- you get the deluxe tour too. Really, I mean it.

What is the difference between the standard and the deluxe tours? Two things:

1. I tell you where NOT to step
2. I point out the places that I hurt myself and/or did something especially dumb
3. You get mentioned in the blog

Isn’t that worth the price of a half-order of fish and chips?

Thus, Leslie, Deb, Mike, Lorrie, and Andrea- so ends your deluxe tour. Thank you for keeping your hands and arms inside the ride at all times.

After everyone left, I finished up the electrical chores and moved on to the most hated of all jobs- linoleum removal. No easy way to do it- but you can make it fun by making it dangerous. I got a floor scraper with a four-inch razor blade. Yeah, baby- I’m using tools that you can’t even bring into the Courthouse.

I went home for dinner and found a package from dear-old-dad on the front steps. A plastic TLC Life Lessons figurine entitled "Know when to not do-it-yourself." He features two missing hands and a saw on the ground beside him. Gee, thanks, pop. The wife laughed for a good twenty minutes and put it on the mantle.

We then made our last supply run. We were talking about how I was going to put a door on the Harry Potter room (a small room under the stairs) for the girls, when my bride remarked on how she might like to use it for storage. This upset my eldest (who had been planning to use this space as an Abby-free reading zone) a great deal. I tried to comfort her.

“Don’t worry, sweetie, the door is kind of small. If mommy tries to use it she’ll get stuck like Pooh-bear in the rabbit hole.” My little girl started beaming. I glanced back at my wife.

Oh. Dear. God. That did not go over well. It was explained to me later.

“So, you sell me out to the kids, and you talk about how my big fat ass will get stuck in the doorway,” she whispered through gritted teeth.

“No, I said you’d get stuck like Pooh-bear.”

“Pooh-bear got his big fat ass stuck after eating too much honey. They had to starve him to get him out. So, how big do you think my ass is? Huh?

This was it. I was going to die. Better try something, or it’s a closed-casket for me. “Oh. Um. Well. Errrr. Well, Pooh got stuck because he was a bear going into a rabbit hole. If he went into a bear hole, he would have been fine. See, the space under the stairs is kid-sized, but you are adult-sized, so you’ll get stuck!” I scooted as far away as I could.

“Pooh got stuck because he had a big ass! Never tease a woman about her age, or her weight. Not. Funny.”

I may be celibate, but at least I’m alive.

Total costs: $1,500

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Day 20, Thursday- Where the cell minutes go.

After letting the paint in the room dry, I carefully taped the walls in the Princesses’ Palace of Pink and painted the trim with three coats of a nice bright semi-gloss white paint. I ate dinner and returned to the time sink to remove the tape and touch up and scuffs or blemishes.

I pulled the tape and watched in horror as large (3 inches!) chucks of paint came off with the walls. I did what any rational, calm, terminally exhausted, stressed out person would do. I swore. Loudly.

I actually made up new and exciting compound expletives.

At this point, I found myself angry, frustrated, and looking to complain. So, I called the paint company helpdesk. Again. Hey, what the hell, it is an 800 number and it is printed on the can.

My call was answered in the order it was received by a nice man who said his name was Bobert and wanted to know who I was.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

I fought the urge to hang up. I was going to complain! I had a legitimate concern!

I managed to stammer out “um, I think I’ve talked to you before.” Questions swirled through my mind- like "aren’t these call centers supposed to be huge operations?" and "what the hell are you doing?" and "you can't win five bucks in the lottery, but you get the same guy at the call center on different nights?" I swallowed hard.

“I’m glad to be of assistance, sir, can I get your first name and where you are calling from?” Bobert was chipper. He obviously just started his shift.

“Yeah- Tom, I’m calling from Astoria, Oregon.”

There was a long pause, followed by a sigh. “You are the monkey man, yes?”

“Um, yeah. Look, I wasn’t expecting to get you again…” I felt my face turn bright red.

“Yes, what is your problem this evening?”

“Err, you know, um, hey, can I talk to someone else?”

“Sir, I assure you, I will assist you in whatever manner I can. Now, what is your problem this evening?”

“Yeah, but that whole monkey thing…..”

“Yes, well it is after hours, and there are only a couple of other people here now. You can hold, but I assure you that I will handle your call in a professional manner.”

Damn, I was already burning time on the wife’s cell phone. Holding would probably not be good. I decided to go for it. I cleared my throat. “You actually work for the paint company?”


“The actual paint company.”

“Yes, in an office in Florida.”

What? “In Florida.”


“What, Florida, India?”

“No sir, Florida, United States. I came here from India.” Bobert was getting a little annoyed.

“You moved from India to Florida to work in a call center?”

“In India, working in a call center is a very good job.” He sounded a bit defensive.

“Yeah, not so much here.” I replied.

“That was a lesson I learned very soon after coming here. Now, what is your problem this evening sir?” Bobert was done with small talk.

I described the paint coming off the walls in big chucks to the nice person on the other end of the line. I explained my frustration and my reservations about using their products in other rooms.

There was a pause, then Bobert shared his idea on what may have caused my problem. “Maybe your monkeys pushed too hard when they put the tape up,” was the reply.

The bastard.

“Monkeys using painter’s tape isn’t funny, Bobert.”

Bobert apologized. He asked a few more questions- were the walls clean, was the paint dry, the normal routine. I let slip how I cut it with Evil Empire paint.

“You mixed our paint with another brand?” He sounded incredulous.

“Yeah- it was like super, monster pink. I needed to tone it back.”

Bobert sighed. “That is probably your problem sir. I suggest you refrain from doing such things in the future. Our guarantee does not apply in such circumstances.”

“I really don’t see how…” I stammered, “I mean, isn’t paint just…”

“Goodnight, sir, and thank you for calling.” The line went dead, and Bobert was gone.

Total costs: $1,368

Day 19, Wednesday- Posted with reservations.

So, the post is a bit late. I was going to just post a quick update on co-worker's visits, working with tile, and the effects of paint fumes. But then I read an old news article.

I sat on it, stewed over it, and finally decided that, if you can laugh at my exploits and injuries, you can sit through what I’m about to say. To really understand everything, first, you need to see this:

Reduction in charge leads to plea in manslaughter case
By E-R Staff

OROVILLE -- A reduction in the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor induced a plea Wednesday in connection with a 2004 traffic fatality near Forest Ranch.

Edward Bosqui Brown, then 57, of Merced, was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter, after his pickup collided on Highway 32 with another vehicle.

Daniel Roger Box, 45, of Chico, was killed and his 6-month-old grandson was slightly injured in the crash.

Investigators said Brown was driving east on Highway 32 above Forest Ranch on Aug. 1, 2004, when his 2001 Toyota Tundra pickup, which was towing a camping trailer, crossed over the center line, colliding head-on with Box's passenger car, a 2002 Toyota compact, which was returning to Chico from the Lake Almanor area.

Witnesses told CHP Brown's trailer had started to swerve and may have contributed to the collision.

Brown pleaded no contest Wednesday in Butte County Superior Court to a reduced charge of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, which could carry up to one year in jail.

A second charge of DUI causing injury was dismissed in the plea bargain.

Brown's attorney, Dennis Hoptowit, said he did not believe alcohol was a major contributing factor in the crash.

Now you need to understand why I care.

I went to that crash as a fireman. The accident left a debris field that stretched for a few hundred yards. It was the debris that we saw when we pulled up in the Engine. My first thought was that someone had hit a tree and left a large chuck of twisted metal in the bushes on the side of the road. A second look showed that the unrecognizable metal hulk was actually a “Toyota compact.

Another engine had arrived first, so two firefighters were busy tearing off the roof in hopes of reaching the occupant before he died. A third firefighter was lying on his stomach through a hole that may have been a window, trying, in vain, to secure an airway for the man inside.

The fourth firefighter was kneeling next to a bloody pile of plastic.

I grabbed the trauma bag and came up next to the solo firefighter. He was pale, and looked as if he had been kicked in the head. I looked down and realized we were looking at an infant in a car seat. Outside of the car. The bottom third of the carrier was filled with congealing blood and a small child sat half-crying, half-whimpering and in obvious distress.

A tiny corner of light-blue fabric peeked above the gore.

“Oxygen,” I said- mostly to myself, “get O2 on him now- flood him.” I pulled the heavy green cylinder out of the bag and attached the smallest mask we had. I opened the valve all the way when I heard a loud bang followed by a shout.

“Tom! Get your jaws and get over here! Have Mike take that over.” We learned later that the baby had a few lacerations, some mild abrasions, and a fractured skull. Yeah, minor injuries.

I sprinted back to the rig, shouting at Mike as I went back. I doubt he heard me. I opened the rear compartment and pulled the Jaws, the hydraulic lines, and the pump out. I carried the gear back to the main wreck. I approached the two firefighters pulling the roof. One was covered in hydraulic fluid and trying desperately to cut the last post. The other, a Captain, directed me to the driver’s side of the wreck.

I set up the jaws and climbed into the dense brush. Instantly, I was enveloped in the smells- antifreeze, gasoline, acid, diesel fumes, oil, and blood- the smell of a crash.

With a loud "pop" the roof came up and we flipped it to the rear of the car. I got started on the driver's side wreckage. Out of the corner of my eye I saw three people working desperately on the driver.

I started tearing apart the car, and listened to the rhythmic cadence of someone counting out chest compressions over the roar of the hydraulic pump and the scream of bending metal.

My Chief was beside me, holding back brush and offering advice. The remains of the front fender had to be pulled away, and then what was left of the door could be worked on. The driver’s leg was pinned by this twisted metal, preventing his removal from the vehicle.

The paramedics arrived. We stopped tearing on the car, and held our breath while one of them tried to intubate the victim. The paramedic looked at his partner. “The trachea’s gone- I can’t get the tube in, and he hasn’t been breathing for at least fifteen minutes.”

My Chief tapped me on the shoulder, and I started tearing again, being mindful of the leg. The door was almost free and I was shoving the tool farther into the hinge points when someone yelled “Stop!”

The paramedic checked the victim one last time. “I’m calling it- he’s gone.” The firefighters backed up a little. I gave on last twist on the controls for the jaws and door popped loose, freeing the man trapped inside.

We pulled him out of the car, and set him on the side of the road under a sheet, where he would wait for his last ride. We picked up our gear and started to pack up. The arms of my turnouts and my gloves were covered in blood. There was still dried blood on the reflective strips when I turned them in six months later.

Where I was, we saw a lot of accidents. Many were worse than this, but this one stuck, and does to this day. Maybe it was the fact that the baby wasn't much younger than one of my own. Perhaps it was the idea of a family getaway coming to such an end.

The point is this: most people read articles like the one above and think that the driver died instantly and without pain. They believe that the little kid in the back had a scratch and was fine. We never realize how bad these things are.

The truth is, Dan Box died horribly.

He survived the crash, and struggled to live for some time afterwards. The force of the impact destroyed his face and neck. His teeth were all gone. He suffocated in the wreckage of his own body on the side of the road while men struggled, bathed in blood and sweat, to save him.

We know now that our best efforts could not have saved him. We did not know then. That's what bothered some of us. Did we work hard enough? Did we move fast enough? Did we? What IF....

But now we know. Dan died because someone, who decided to drink, decided to tow a trailer that he decided to overload, and then decided to drive too fast. Ed Brown's truck crossed the center line and the DA called it an accident. The decisions leading up to the final event have been disregarded. The aftermath of those choices has been sterilized, wrapped up, and given to the masses as a seemingly just end to a short, tragic story.

Dan Box's family owned a nursery where my Grandfather bought roses and I purchased azaleas. Dan Box was coming home from a weekend with his family, his new grandson in the back seat. He was a husband, a father, and a grandfather. Now, he is only a memory.

The man who did this- who killed an innocent man, and walked away uninjured- is going home with what amounts to a traffic ticket.

Yeah, well, Daniel Roger Box wanted to go home too. I think people tend to forget that.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Day 18, Tuesday- Pretty in Pink

It was time to paint the Princesses’ Palace of Pink. I checked the color of the dried pink paint on the wall. Oddly enough, my little test patch had grown and multiplied around the room into many almost artistic little patches. Stranger still, it seemed to be at Abby level, and the paint looked as though it had been opened and closed by tiny little hands.

Must have been my imagination.

At any rate, the color was just too, well, much. A lot too much. So I cut it with Evil Empire White in a Tillamook ice cream bucket I just happened to have handy. I called the new, lighter, and easier on the ol’ retinas color “Pralines and Cream.” Hey, it was on the bucket. (The old color was called “girl talk”.)

I finished the first wall and stood back. What had gone on the wall in a light bubblegum color was drying as something else. It is a very feminine color. Guys get uncomfortable girly. I needed to come up with a new name for the color.

About that time I noticed that by check felt a little cold and damp. I looked down and saw a rather large glop of paint on my shirt. I lifted up my shirt and suddenly realized what color the paint was. I rechristened the paint as “Irish Guy Nipple.

I was pulling my shirt down when I looked up and saw my next-door neighbor. She looked straight ahead and walked into the house. I’m pretty sure it looked like Chris Farley doing a bad Prince imitation from over there, but I just have to let it go.

I finished another wall and noticed that once the paint dried, it looked different once again. The new name would no longer do.

It was still very feminine. Then it dawned on me.

My little girl had put on her favorite pretty dress to go play at a friend’s house. She had truly dressed up, right down to earrings and good shoes. All to see a friend.

A friend who is a boy. It was a big deal, because she said it wasn’t.

After all of the primping, her friend did not notice her dress at all. It bothered her, but only a little bit.

I realized that someday soon, boys would notice when the pretty little redhead takes the time to dress up before visiting.

Thank God for “make boys uncomfortable” pink paint. No straight guy could ever get past this color, he just would never be able to be comfortable, or confident, in a place that, well, pastel. I renamed the paint color to “Emasculation.”

Sadly, that name is already taken by a men’s cologne sold in Orange County, California- it is marketed to the $200 haircut, get a pedicure, pee-sitting-down metro-sexual crowd. (Do you drink wine with pizza? Do you offer to hold your wife’s purse? Then Emasculation by Calvin Klein is for you….)

I continued painting, and tried to figure out how I could make the room terrifying to males, but have no effect on the young ladies living there. Obviously a large poster featuring a bloody axe and the words “I’ll cut off whatever he touches you with, up to and including his torso” would be a bit much, and a pre-dug gravesite in the backyard is just dangerous and impractical. I needed to think harder.

It dawned on me as I finished up. I’ll add maxi-pad perfume to the trim paint. See, men can detect that family of scents at quantities as low as one part per bazillion. And we all fear it. Ladies, if your man tells you he can’t smell it, or he doesn't get that "run away" feeling when he does- he’s lying.

It is a smell of danger, of embarrassing errands, of death itself. Our fear is so ingrained that when in stores, most men avoid the feminine hygiene isle (and those on either side) all together.

Want to end beer sales? Put maxi pads next to the Budweiser. The men won’t know why, but they will be unable to buy a cold one. They’ll walk up, catch the smell, and go to another store.

I will call my new color (with perfume) “keep your filthy paws off my daughter you freak or I will give you a new definition of hurt.” I think it will sell well.

Then again, I think I'll stick with “Pralines and Cream.” I wonder what color a praline is.

Total costs: $1,368

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Day 17, Monday- Covers in just seven coats!

For reasons which I am still not entirely clear on, dark colors require more coats of paint than light ones.

No, really.

To paint over the “God-Awful-Green” with white paint requires one coat of primer, one coat of white, and a little touch up.

To paint over the same “God-Awful-Green” with red paint requires one coat of primer, four coats of red, three touch-ups, and finally two more coats.

When the time comes to paint over the red, however, a sandblaster will be required.

The reason I mention this is simple- I had to wait for everything to dry.

Plaster, paint, the works.

So I slacked off. Did nothin’. So there.

Total costs: $1,368

Monday, August 14, 2006

Day 16, Sunday- A “Safety-First” kind of day

Got a late start (8:00am) as I slept in a little. Thought about going to Mass, but quickly came back to my senses. It was cloudy- and clouds help bring lightening. I know a sign when I see one.

My first project of the day was to tear off the stovepipe that remained from the pellet stove David relieved me of. Brought out the trusty ladder, set it in position, gathered my tools, a can of roof patch, and a new vent. I arranged my supplies and proceeded to scurry up the ladder.

I learned something today. This roof is steep. Dangerous steep. Stupid Steep. It is, however, just fine at the beginning. The roof begins as gentle slope near the dreaded edge, then suddenly juts skyward like some gothic cathedral.

I learned how steep it was on my first aborted assertion. Five steps and I was sliding down, feet first and on my belly- tools careening into open space, thinking (in order):

  1. Oh shit!
  2. Wow- this is a strong gutter, I wonder if…..
  3. Ouch. Stupid roof.

So, as I sat on the ground at looked up, I remembered that great advice given to all boys when they are growing up. “Get back on that horse!

So I did. I'm a fireman! I'm not afraid of any stupid roof! I will teach that horse a lesson! I started off again.

I made it to the stovepipe and, bracing myself, got to work. That is when I promptly slipped again. I was able to control my descent better this time, thinking (in order):

  1. OK, stop before the edge.
  2. Shit! Stick the landing- feet first, bend the knees.
  3. Ouch. Stupid blackberries.

Yep. I may have “stuck” the landing, but I pitched forward and landed in blackberries.

Joy. I gave up on the roof and went inside. Time to polish brass!

I hooked the wire brush wheel to the power drill and went to work removing years of wall-candy from the old hardware. About ten minutes into it, the drill slipped and went running (at 1500 RPM) across my knuckles. Hey ladies, dermal abrasion really works.

When I finished swearing, I went over and put my gloves on (yeah, I know) and went back at it. After another fifteen minutes, the wheel skipped again and ran across my wrist, just below the glove. That kind of stung.

I spent some time with my friend Medical Tape and stemmed the bleeding. I then went back to work, holding the piece of brass between my feet in a sort of yoga/lotus position. That worked really well, for about thirty minutes. Then the drill, obviously possessed by demons, jumped up and slammed into my crotch. That’s right; I got 1500 RPM of spinning copper wire love right in the beanbag. Thank God for Levi’s.

For the record, no I do not have a vice at the new house. It is at the old house, over four blocks away.

When I finished hyperventilating, I pulled myself up on all fours and crawled to the bathroom. After making sure the boys were OK, I decided to move on to demolition. I started pulling off the old wainscot.

Of course, the plaster came with it. Well, capital-letter-crap-on-a-stick. That’s going to be a ton of fun to fix.

That’s when I went home. My lovely wife looked fried. “I can’t do anything. The baby is all over me and the internet is down. It just hasn’t been a very good day.” She looked exasperated, exhausted, and frustrated. She was not, however, bruised or bleeding.

“Go run you errands, I’ll watch the kids.”

"Good day at the house?" she asked, heading for the door.

"Just about average." Sadly, that was the truth.

I went to work when back once she got home and just painted trim. Nobody got hurt, no surprises. Just music and paint.

Total costs: $1,368