Waiting For The Repairman

I am in dire straits. Working on far too little sleep and in dire need of coffee. None in the house and I can’t leave because I am waiting for the appliance repairman to show up. Supposed to be here between 8 and 12.

Have little energy so cannot type full sentences. Grumpy and irritable. Cranky and annoyed. Must get caffeine soon. Wonder if neighbor would think it strange if I knocked on door and tried to bum a cup of coffee off of them.

Sitting here drooling at the thought of wonderful, warm mug of life sustaining sustenance. Good time to send me to Gitmo to handle interrogations. No mug of life sustaining sustenance to be found. No patience.


A Leaky Faucet- Just One More Household Project

Just a few short hours ago my son complained that I am spending too much time working on projects around the house and not enough time playing with him. For a moment I was aggravated with him. It is not like I want to spend all of my free time puttering around. I’d love to have time to lounge around and play. Don’t get me wrong, I do some of that, but not as much as I’d like to.

As the big guy stared up at me I smiled and told him to go get a flashlight and flat head screwdriver. I remember having similar conversations with my own father. I used to ask him to put the tools down and come play catch or chess, or whatever. And he did, just not as much as I wanted him to.

A few minutes later I was greeted with my flashlight and screwdriver. Before he could run off I grabbed the big kid and sat him down. I asked him to help me fix a few things around the house. He smiled and told me that he would use the screwdriver and I’d hold the flashlight. I smiled back and let him take control. As I sat there I watched him fumble around with things and found myself channeling my father.

“Be careful or you’ll strip that. Watch out, you’re going to scratch the hell out of that.” And just as I glared at my father those many years ago, he glared at me. I smiled again and told him that I wasn’t angry, just trying to help him learn.

The beauty of owning a home is that you never run out of projects. The real challenge is trying to figure out which projects can easily be handled by yourself and which should be farmed out. I know how to do a lot of things and what I don’t know I can usually figure out. But the reality is that sometimes it doesn’t make sense to do some of these things myself.

My method for determining what to take on and what not to is relatively simple. I look at the project and try to estimate how long I think it will take to complete. If it is big, I come up with an estimate and than increase it by a third. Things always come up and since it is not my full time job I can’t always avoid the hurdles.

Alongside the time estimate is the question of how much will it cost. Here is an example. Dear Shmata Queen, ignore the numbers, I am using them strictly for the purpose of this example.

I can paint my house for about $1,000. Or I can hire a crew for $3,000. In theory it is easy to say that I should do it myself and save the $2k. However it ignores the time factor.

The crew can do the job in five days. That gives one full day of prep work. They’ll come in and hydrowash the house, sand, etc. Then they’ll the spend a chunk of time doing the stucco, the trim, doors, windows etc. They’ll spend the last day walking around the house doing touch up work.

If I do the work myself it will take a minimum of three full days to do the prep work. That is assuming that I am able to work a full day and am not interrupted. Then I’ll need another four days to do the painting and whatever time it takes me to do the touch up.

In my example I have the crew finishing the job at least two days faster than I can. In reality I expect that the difference will probably be even greater. They’re professionals and do this all the time. I am decent with my hands, but I’ll be slower at some of it. And like I said it is not my job, I am not so foolish as to think that I’ll work unencumbered.

So let’s revise my estimate to something like this:

Professionals: $3,000 cost for a five day project.

Jack: $1,000 cost for a ten day project.

I don’t know about you, but my time is worth a lot. I am willing to pay two thirds more to avoid tying up my free time for two weeks. Not to mention that doing so also helps to free up time to play with the children. The day is going to come in which they don’t come looking for me. So I want to take advantage of the moment.

P.S. For those who are curious I do have a leaky faucet. It is in the kitchen. I had to order a new cartridge from the manufacturer. The good news is that I have a lifetime warranty so it doesn’t cost anything. The bad news is that I have to wait for it to be shipped to me.

In the interim that drip, drip, drip is irritating me. But as I said there are a ton of projects to be done. Later this week I am going to replace the handles on the shower tub and maybe install a new sink in the bathroom. I am kind of going back and forth about that as that means removing an old ugly vanity. I pull that, put in a new sink and a new vanity and the old tile in there is really going to look bad. That is the sort of thing that leads to a push to remodel the whole freaking bathroom.

And now my head hurts.

Memories of a House Part 2

You can find the first part over here.

Our landlord called me at the office to let me know that he was serious about evicting us and suggested that I could make life easier by cooperating with him. I told him that if had been a mensch about things it would have made life much easier for him. There was a long pause on the other side of the line and I knew that he was trying not to blow up at me.

I didn’t give him time to say anything and told him that I appreciated his position. I explained that I understood why he wanted to move quickly and I told him that we weren’t going to wreck the place. I asked him to understand that just as he was going to look out for his best interests so would we. I said that if he wanted to work out a better arrangement it would be wise for him to discuss it with me.

Again there was a pause. I knew that I was testing his patience and that he felt like we were in the wrong. But I also knew that while I sat in my office there was a newborn in my home and as a new father I was nervous and inexperienced about a lot of things. That nervousness translated into making me a bit more intransigent. It should be added that sleep deprivation probably helped to make me a bit more cranky.

We went back and forth and eventually I told him that I didn’t see any reason to continue speaking. We had been given 30 days notice to leave and this was only five days into it. Continued discussion was just going to turn into an unnecessary pissing contest. I wasn’t going to destroy the place and I wasn’t going to waste time arguing with a ignorant fool.

Life is funny in that you can’t ever really plan for things. I mean you can plan for this and that, but things happen. I was just short of 27 when I got married. At that time buying a house seemed like a pipe dream. Yet just a few years and two jobs later I had made enough to come up with a down payment. It wasn’t quite as much as I had hoped for, but it was enough.

In truth I was excited at the idea of moving back to the Valley and buying a house. I felt very old, I was a father and going to be a homeowner. It was all so surreal.

Next came the process of trying to find a realtor. I didn’t really know any who handled where we wanted to be, but I figured that someone would be able to recommend someone good. With limited time I was most interested in trying to figure out where to live. Debated moving in with the folks or in-laws.

Neither one sounded good to me. I remember trying to sell myself on the idea, thinking that maybe we could live rent free for a few months. After all the big kid was the first grandchild on one side and the only one on the West Coast on the other, surely they’d love to have more access to him.

But the idea of living with either set really didn’t sit well with me. Even if they let us stay rent free it was unlikely to give us that much more for the down payment. I figured that I needed six months to make a real difference and I was definitely against that. We had enough to buy a place. I figured that we’d find a starter house, somewhere to live for a few years and then leverage to buy a bigger place.

Out of time to write more now. I’ll come back to this late.

Memories of a House Part One

Memories of a house sounds like the title of a book. I suppose that I should Google it and find out whether it is or not. If it is not already taken maybe I’ll grab it. Who knows.

We bought our current home in August of 2001. A little more than a month before 9-11 turned much of the world upside down. Prior to that we had been renting a condo in the city. We had lived there for a good five years or so. It was a place to live, but it never quite felt like home to me.

Located just behind the Fox Hills Mall it had been a suitable location for the time, but suitable locations are not how you want to describe the place you hang your hat. Instead of traveling south to see my friends on the Westside I now headed north. And even though I didn’t have to take the 405 it still took just as long to get there.

I resented that.

Initially the condo was great. It was bigger than the apartment that we had lived in and had some amenities that hadn’t existed in the old place. But it had all sorts of little things that I didn’t like. I suppose that part of the reason that it never really felt like home was because I never got beyond my irritation with those little details.

They may say not to sweat the small things, but it is those little details that can add and enrich your life or make it really irritating. Having to walk down three flights of stairs to do laundry wasn’t a big deal until Little Jack’s arrival necessitated a huge increase in the amount of laundry.

Did I mention the problem with the A/C and heater. It might have been the city, but the summers were still really hot and the winters relatively cold. So I often found myself unsatisfied with the temperature. And I could mention that I found myself disappointed in the selection of movies theaters, restaurants and bookstores.

That new shopping center off of Howard Hughes Parkway helped to alleviate that, but it didn’t show up until the last six months we lived there.

A couple years into life in the condo I was fed up and it became house hunting time. Problem was that that little thing they call a down payment was virtually non-existent. One income and grad school tuition made it too difficult to look seriously, at least for a while.

But perseverance and a change in employment made a huge impact and suddenly the question wasn’t whether purchasing a home would happen, but when. Once the cash flow improved and purchasing became a reality my mood changed. Hanging out at the condo was more tolerable, but only because I knew that if I could hold off about a year I’d have saved up enough to buy the house I wanted.

That plan was my first mistake, or should I say voicing it out loud. Within three months or so of mentioning it the landlord decided that he wanted to get in on the nascent housing boom and asked if we wanted to buy it.

I remember the day I took the phone call asking what I thought about owning that amazing place I had been living in. As he listed its benefits I almost choked. I couldn’t believe that he thought it was worth what he said that he wanted to sell it for, but I didn’t say anything. All I did was ask for a week to consider the options.

And then for the next week we tore out our hair trying to figure out if there was a way to buy more time. Didn’t happen. Landlord insisted on a decision and so I thanked him for the opportunity and said that we were going to pass. He said ok and made arrangements to come see the place.

The old man as I thought of him (he was probably same age as I am now) came by and walked through the entire place and said how pleased he was that it was in such good shape. He was surprised by Little Jack’s appearance, or should I say his existence. When we signed the lease the kid hadn’t even been a gleam in my eye.

Anyway, landlord looked me in the eye and told me that if I cooperated with getting it ready to sale he would be generous in allowing us to stay long enough to find a new place to live. What I didn’t know was that he was going to renege on his promise of a couple of months or that he was going to demand access several times a week for himself, handymen and realtors.

Maybe it was inevitable, but the relationship soured very quickly. I had told him that cooperation wasn’t a problem, but he needed to provide more notice than an hour. And so in short order he dropped off paperwork saying that since our lease had long since gone to month-to-month we were being evicted.

I remember reading that note, the one in which he said that we were evicted. As a brand new father I was less than pleased by this turn of events. I understood that he wanted to take advantage of the rise in real estate prices, but I wasn’t going to let him hurt my family so that he could make a buck.

So I called him and explained that as a result of this notice I was going to refuse entrance to his people. I would still allow him access so that he could see that the place was in good condition, but he was going to have to wait until we left to do any work on it.

In the next section I’ll share some more memories about this and how this led to a rush to buying a place and a thirty day escrow. More on this later.

Crossposted here.

Plumbing Problems

One of the best parts of the weekend is the opportunity to take care of household chores. There is nothing that I like to do better than to clean up the garage, remove clutter and do the 1,987,862 other things on the list.

This weekend I received the gift of a backed up shower/tub. It is one of those things that I get to deal with once or twice a year. Dependent upon which shower backs up I can identify the source of the problem as being either tree roots or an accumulation of hair courtesy of the long haired ladies who reside here.

My initial solution to this sort of thing is try and clear the drain myself. I have a snake that I sometimes use or every now and then I may try a chemical solution. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

This time around I decided that I wanted to try a different approach. So I went out and purchased a hydraulic drain flusher that is similar to that shown in the picture here. It is a simple concept. Attach it to a water source and use hydraulic power to force the clog to clear.

Sounds good. Looks like it should work. Only in my case it didn’t. We went from experiencing a slow draining shower/tub to a very…….very…..very…..slow draining shower/tub. It always warms the cockles of my heart to see that the solution has backfired and is going to cost more time and money.

So now I am waiting for my rooter guy and his massive snake to come clean it all out. Of course I looked into renting a snake and found out that it was ten dollars cheaper than having the rooter guy come here.

BTW, did I mention that he said that he’d be here two hours ago. It is ever so gratifying to see that my time is so valuable to him.