This have I learned about House Projects

(NOTE: Please realize that these Emeralds of Wisdom do not in any way address the amount of time any given House Project will take. That complex topic, involving as it does butterflies, relativity, and quantum, will be discussed in another post.)

1. If you plan a project carefully, even to the extent of writing out work instructions, something will go horribly awry at Step 2. The materials you carefully gathered will be the wrong ones, the tools will not include the tool that is critical to the job, or the destructions on the label will have changed overnight from reading “this is perfect for this application” to “using this for this application will bring on the apocalypse shortly after giving you the heartbreak of psoriasis, or possibly moderate to severe pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, depending on the moon phase.”

—Corollary: Failing to plan will not thwart this process. It merely means different things will go wrong at roughly the same rate and at the same stage/s of the project. However, they will not necessarily be worse things, so you aren’t likely to lose anything by failing to plan.

2. The Guys at Hardware Sales, who have proven heretofore to know everything, everything, about any home repair you could ever possibly need to do in this universe, will fail you. It will be the guy at the Evil Big-box Store whom you run into entirely at random, because you are carrying the disassembled pieces of the light fixture you intend to install and are staring in a lost manner at a wall full of Things in the Electrical aisle, who will save your sorry behind with a simple, elegant solution (although it will require purchase of a miter saw, but since you seem to wind up needing to cut miters several times a year anyway and they never turn out straight with the tools you now have, this is not such a big deal. Particularly since said purchase is more cost-effective than driving down to Snaotheus’s to borrow his.)

3. Only a hopeless optimist purchases a power tool (or anything else requiring assembly) expecting the instructions to actually show (by virtue of clear, unambiguous drawings) or tell (likewise, with written and numbered steps) how to assemble the thing after it’s out of the box. To wit:

—The destructions for the new miter saw contain microscopic drawings, with lines pointing ambiguously to two? three? maybe even four? parts, none of which is labeled or even drawn out as anything more detailed than a minuscule ink blob except for one that’s called “B,” which is not shown in the parts list, wherein parts are identified as “1,” “2,” “3,” etc.

—The tools promised to be included for assembly . . . won’t be. Anywhere. In any form. Not even drawings that you could, in a fit of great desperation, cut out with scissors and use to conjure the real thing through sympathetic magic. (If you don’t have any blood handy to make that feasible, don’t worry—you will soon. Very soon.)

—If by a series of unprecedented miracles you manage to get most of the “1,” “2,” and “3”-type parts installed in likely places, using your own tools (the ones that most closely resemble those you think they might have meant when not writing or drawing the destructions), three parts will be left over. None of these parts will be included in the parts list, nor will any have a number or letter identifying it. You must assume that these are critical parts and the whole thing will blow up in your face if they aren’t put into place, disfiguring you horribly and possibly even reducing your corpus to kibble bits, but there ya go, if you can’t find a place for ’em, you can’t.

—If against all odds you have reached this step and intend to unlock the saw arm, there will be nothing anywhere explaining how to do this or showing where, or whether, a locking pin might be hidden. If you can find this elusive item, you are among the thrice blessed, and should rush out and spend your entire paycheck on lottery tickets at once.

—Since you intend to use this power saw to cut trim and you need a nice, clean cut, you cleverly thought ahead (see #1) and purchased a 110-tooth blade (compared to the standard 3-tooth ripping blade it comes with, guaranteed to make a beaver-chewed log look smooth as satin by comparison). At this point, you discover that (surprise! surprise! really, surprise!!) nowhere in the 40-page destruction booklet is it explained how to change the blade. Evidently, you have purchased an immortal blade that is stuck inside a POS amalgamation of mismatched, unnamed, unloved parts thrown randomly into the box as it ran screaming from the factory.

—Using your god-like reasoning powers, which have made your species your planet’s dominant life form, you deduce that you need to pull the plastic blade cover back and anchor it some way so you can see how the blade is mounted. Good luck with that; maybe you’ll discover how to do it. I wound up putting a rubber band around it and hooking it around something that stuck out the back, which was not, as narrative causality might require, either the missing locking pin or a handy bit intended to hold back the cover. Instead, at this point I—hark! lo! verily!—discovered the “included wrench,” which was black, pressed into a black locking slot mounted on the black back of the blade arm, and rolled into a black recessed area never designed to see light.

—And it didn’t matter anyway, because once I determined I needed to unscrew a little arm that covered the blade’s mounting bolt, I discovered that even though the Included Wrench fit over the mounting bolt, there was not enough mass in my entire body, nay, in the entire previous body that encompassed its now-missing extra person, possibly not enough mass in an entire black hole, to knock that sucker loose so it could be unscrewed and the new, many-toothed blade mounted. I just gave the hell up and moved on to the cutting things up part.

4. If you measure six times and cut once, the piece you cut will fit perfectly. Until you go to actually install it, at which point it will have mysteriously expanded or contracted so that it either
a) falls through its intended resting place and rolls down the east cliff jungle, not to be seen until an archeologist uncovers it 10,000 years hence, or
b) cannot be crammed into place with crowbars and an elephant.

5. At this point, remember that the Anastasia & Drusilla Construction Company (motto: I’ll damn well make it fit) is your friend. Get a knife and shave the rectangular shape down at one end so it’s more trapezoidal. Go get the hammer. The big hammer. Stick the narrow end into place and then pound that mothah for all you’re worth. It’ll fit. Trust me. If it doesn’t, pound it ’til it does.

6. If you decide you need to finish off the day with just one measly success, say a simple chore you’ve done 500 times like laying down a line of caulk on a window, so you can feel slightly less incompetent, then go get the caulk gun, climb up the ladder, and go to it. You will discover that remaining in the tube is precisely 1.26″ of caulk. Not the 38″ you need for the area next to the ladder. At this point, you have two options: You can
a) remember #1 above, or
b) forge ahead, naively believing that at some point, sometime, things have to stop going wrong simply because quantum randomness demands it. If you opt for b), please understand that your reasoning will be pathetically wrong. The caulk will have a different consistency from the stuff you’re used to and you will shortly have festoons of caulk dripping and swagging alongside your window.

7. It is at this point that the wise person swears and throws things. Gives up. Goes inside. Has a beer.

8. If you are among the wise, you will now discover that you have no beer. What you do after this is entirely up to you, although a warning frequently delivered by mothers, involving things ending in tears, may shortly be applicable. Maybe better to grab a good book and go to bed.

One thing for sure: the damned house chores will still be there tomorrow. Lurking.

Posted by wordsmith

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