Sheila and I have bought three houses together, including one in Mexico. Here’s what happened last time, building on a theme established with the first two houses:
Sheila walks in the front door and proceeds two or three feet. “I love this house,” she announces to me and the strange realtor who will now refuse to negotiate the price more than ten or fifteen dollars. Something ineffable has called to her, and she is happy. I like her to be happy, so I try to look around with her eyes. That way, I don’t really see the 1950’s painted metal cabinets (no, not well preserved) in the miniscule kitchen or the faded,scratched, gouged, outerspace-theme countertop in same kitchen across from the gasping refrigerator.
It’s six years later. We have replaced every appliance in the kitchen and laundry room except for the water heater, which was born in 1983 and is no doubt planning a hideous end for us and The Pets. We have replaced the countertops twice and the cabinets once. We have spent thousands of dollars on a kitchen that still looks like crap.
A significant number of thousand dollar bills were siphoned off last summer by a contractor named Alan who spent lots of time making friends with us and reappearing on numerous occasions to re-measure. Why was it not obvious to us what is going on when a man measures the same space 15 or 16 times? The man is trying to make the answer come out differently, you bozo! There’s a problem here!
But Ms. and Ms. Bozo did not notice. My father was busy dying last summer and I was still working a million hours a day. Unbeknownst to us at the time, She had a problem with her heart that was not allowing for proper blood flow to her brain. I am not trying to be funny. To skip all the painful details and cut to what you saw coming, Alan did not measure correctly. Well, everything fit in snugly without the molding around the doors, which was the way Alan left it so that we could “touch up” the paint later. When we finally got around to “touching up” (the entire kitchen needed two coats) the paint and putting the door molding back, months later after my father’s death and She’s open heart surgery, we couldn’t open the oven door. Alan was off by about an inch, and had left us no wiggle room.
This could be a 600 page book with the next chapter titled “Various People Offer Advice” and taking up 500 pages of the book. What I am trying to say is, don’t butt in here with a brilliant suggestion. 1) Anything that involves Alan is either not possible or involves the discharge of a firearm. 2) We’ve already heard it and it won’t work. 3) It costs anywhere from 10 thousand to a gazillion dollars, and involves ripping out lots of things that are fairly new and we like and we already paid a lot of money for and it still won’t look all that great, even though the oven door will open.
Here’s what happens most of the time when people offer advice on anything in your house, whether they are friendly amateurs or professionals:
1) They ask you who put this in.
2) They tell you that something isn’t centered, and in everyone else’s kitchen in the entire world, even in mud huts, it is.
3) They hint that although everything appears to be up to code, your house will probably still burn down. After it explodes. A variation on this is “It could happen tomorrow or not for 20 years.”
4) They warn you sternly that the simple solution that you yourself have come up with, albeit in your opinion still costly, will keep your house from selling 15 years from now when one of you is dead and the other one is headed off to the nursing home and doesn’t give a shit.
5) They tell you that the part that you like and think looks good is the low-grade, low-class, ugly, cheap version and the clear implication is that everyone else, even people who live in mud huts, knows this.
6) They tell you that if you pay $10,000 in cash instead of credit, they will give you a $90 discount and let you have something that already belongs to you “for free.”
Thanks for listening. I know what we’re going to do now.