Going horizontal for the holidays

Warning: Non-Running Post

Well, I am fried. It’s Thanksgiving and I’m glad I’m not going anywhere this year, or making anything. This week has featured multiple bouts of insomnia, computer problems, lots of boring exercise and stressful attempts to get some major work done on our crumbling domicile.

I embark on a major home improvement project an average of once every 7 years. That’s the level of frequency I can stand. Jonathan generally handles “repairs” (meaning hiring people to fix the minor things in our house that break or otherwise cease to function); we’ll team up for “maintenance” (tree trimming and branch-crashed-on-roof removal is a good example); I generally handle “improvements.” The repair and maintenance jobs are more frequent, but typically small. The improvement jobs are big and expensive.

In the past I have gone about pursuing a home improvement project like the overachieving responsibility whore that I was until quite recently: I would research at least three outfits, have them all come over, ask for bids from each that featured a “range of options,” get multiple references from each and actually check them. Then make the agonizing decision about whom to hire. It took forever.

I don’t do that anymore. Now I go on Service Magic and Angie’s List and look for people who aren’t obviously total screwups. I make a list of three. I invite one over and talk to them. I tell them what I want and make clear that I’m not made of money. I don’t involve Jonathan if at all possible. This is because, inevitably, the moment he turns up I cease to exist. I think the sexism is probably unconscious, but it’s there and it’s annoying as hell. Then he ends up dealing with the improver from that moment on. Resentment is fomented, through no fault of my own. So he generally stays upstairs while I handle the negotiation, contracts and scheduling. If I don’t like the improvement outfit after talking with them, I move on to the second one.

Our house has 16 aluminum windows that are approximately 20 years old. Half of them have broken mechanisms, meaning they behave like guillotines if you try to open them. Some don’t even close properly at the top, so we have cold air flowing in and warm air flowing out. Our energy bills are no joke.

I knew that buying replacement windows would be challenging. I don’t know how I knew this — it just seemed logical. Windows are a commodity, like cars or appliances, so a zillion companies are competing to get the most they can from me, the buyer of their commodity. My goal in this purchase was basically not to get ass raped, figuratively speaking. I just want windows that aren’t crap installed by people who won’t damage my house. I know — really high expectations. They should be easy to meet!

Salesguy shows up yesterday with his samples, special deals, binders with cross-section illustrations of window products, positive surveys from recent customers, blah blah blah. Was he any worse than any of the other window salesguys? I doubt it. Another one who was scheduled to show up two hours after his appointment (and they were in danger of meeting each other, so long did this sales transaction threaten to take…) has declared bankruptcy. Another company gave me a ridiculously low quote over the phone, no details. Fuck it. I hired this guy’s company. The official measurer comes by tomorrow to remeasure and place the window order. Then the windows take two days to install. I just want this done before we’re in the deep freeze of January and February.

The other project is a redoing of our front walk, front step, metal railings and porch roof supports, and resurface our back patio. This was a project I didn’t expect to be as awful as the window experience. That’s because my experience with the more “craftsmeny” projects has generally been good. I find that guys (and they are always guys: come on, girls of today, go into the trades! I should have.) who actually do the work themselves (electricians, plumbers and now, in this case, masons) are into it and want to do a good job. They are also careful about pricing things since the ramifications of getting things wrong are not good — pissed off customer, possibly canceled contract, and (I think this is most significant) direct conflict with the customer. A self-employed craftsman does not have the Teflon assholishness of your average salesperson or customer service person, who will generally not give two shits if you are unhappy.

So I think I found a good guy on the masonry front. I’m awaiting details and numbers concerning the the railing situation. He needs to contract that out — another thing I liked about him: he sticks to his set of core competencies, which is very narrow, and has other specialists (in this case an ironworks company) handle the things he doesn’t do.

Now I’m lying on the couch, watching Tivo’d episodes of “What Not To Wear,” a show I watch with no small measure of hateful fascination. They choose the same outfits for everyone: polyester slacks, print shirt, chunky jewelry, thin leather jacket, pointy toed heels and an over-sized leather satchel the color of baby diarrhea. When the women with low self-esteem meet with Ted the hair guy, treacly piano music plays. At the big Look At Me Party, the screaming freak friends talk about how the subject is “exuding and celebrating a new feminine energy that is powerful and beautiful.” Plus I think Carmindy is actually a tranny.

Today may hold a trip to the gym, but I’m reserving judgment on that until a little later in the morning. I have to go out to buy booze, though, so I may as well hit the gym. Such is my lifestyle. Conflicted much? I have lots of interesting things to read. Our pizzerias are open for business this evening. I think it’s going to be a good holiday!

I am thankful that I am not going to be climbing in the car to go sit in traffic. I am thankful that I am not cooking a 20 lb. anything today. I am thankful that I am not being felt up at the airport; I can stay at home for that.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you’re doing what you want to be doing today, because I sure am.