Tuesday, January 27, 2009

That Sinking Feeling

After much hardship and spousal suffering, I’m forced to share the good news. The bathroom sink has landed, and not a moment too soon. There were many hurdles involved. The term “tile guy” was uttered once or twice. There was more cursing, of course, more blood loss, more Band Aids peeled for the cause.

The new sink arrived last Wednesday, or should I say, both new sinks arrived. Yes, hubby ordered two, even though the sink I call mine is perfectly fine in every way. Not a crack in the porcelain. Flawless. Naturally, the new sinks are the wrong size. They’re one-sixteenth of an inch too large. One-sixteenth may not sound like much, but trust me on this, size matters.

On top of that, the color is wrong. The sink I call mine, the original that sits, blissfully undisturbed at the end of the counter, away from all the trouble, is beige. The new sink is bisque. Beige. Bisque. They sound so similar, don’t they? And yet, sadly, they’re shades apart. I asked myself, could two, ever-so-slightly mismatched sinks, get along? Could they share the same marble and not crack under the stress? Could they live in harmony? Why the heck not? It’s not like, God forbid, we’ve got potential buyers tracking mud through the house, saying nasty things like, “I can’t buy this dump; the sinks in the upstairs bathroom don’t match.” No, that isn’t the case, at all. It’s just us in there, brushing our teeth and washing our hands. Outside visitors aren’t welcome.

Over the phone, I issued strict orders to my husband. “Don’t even think about it.” “Think about what?” he asked. “You know what,” I said. “No, I don’t,” he said. “Yanking the other sink out. My sink.” “But the sinks don’t match and – ”  I cut him off right there. “I can live with it. It doesn’t matter. No one will notice, unless you point it out, which I know you will, so don’t.” On the other end, he put on his soothing, late-night deejay voice. “It’ll be fine. I promise. It’ll take 10 minutes to install.”  Where had I heard that before? Where had I gone wrong? Had I not made myself clear?

Before Mr. Fix-it got home and got busy, shaving off marble, about a sixteenth of an inch, to be exact, I launched a clever counter-attack. I called the woman who gave birth to him and appealed to her sense of decency. “You’ve got to help me,” I told my mother-in-law. “You’ve got to help me stop him before it’s too late.”  Together, we hatched a plan where my father-in-law, the original Fix-It Man, would call Howard at exactly 7:30, and tell him he knew the perfect tile guy for the job. It wouldn’t cost much and he could save himself all the aggravation.  The time came and went without the phone call. I could hear the power saw shaving away marble as I sat downstairs, stewing. Why hadn’t my father-in-law called? Had I not made myself clear?

The next day, I found out that a touching father-son exchange had taken place. My father-in-law couldn’t wait and called him at work. He said everything, just as we’d rehearsed, to no avail. By Sunday, hubby had installed the sink and figured out how to stop it from leaking, too. A new sink may look nice, but isn’t worth much if you can’t run the water.  An hour later, he declared victory. “I told you I’d do it,” he said. “Yes, you did,” I said. Oh, but it’s not over, not at all. I’ve got that sinking feeling that there’s more to come. There’s the issue of that extra sink, taking up space in the downstairs shower. Just this morning, Howard visited the extra sink in its temporary holding cell.

“Come on, it won’t take that long,” he said to me, flashing those cute puppy eyes. “If I can just get your sink out without it cracking, then I can put it in the downstairs bathroom, because that sink is cracked too… see? And then I can put the new sink in and put yours in the powder room and – ”  “No,” I said. I meant it, too. “No,” I said again, in case he didn’t hear me. He wanted to remove two sinks now, mine and the cracked one in the powder room?  OMG times ten. But let’s face it, it’s happening, whether I like it or not. Because in my house, when it comes to sinks, it’s pretty caulked-up.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What started as a hairline crack is now a gaping hole. How did this happen? Hubby, that’s how. Or should I say, Howard. Yes, the man I’m married to likes to fix things. A lot of things: Dishwasher door handles. Dryer drums. Kitchen tiles. Water filters. Ice makers. Sprinkler heads. Give him a project, any project, and he’s happy. Compulsive, but happy.  When he gets that crazy glint in his eye, that’s my cue to clear out. I’ve learned the hard way that lookie-loos best leave the premises if they know what’s good for them. Stand around and watch the master at work? Bad idea. Ask, “How’s it goin’?” Really bad idea. Pack an overnight bag, take up residence on a distant planet? There you go. Now you’re talkin’.

Sure, some wives might say, “Do you have to do that today, honey?” Or, “Can’t it wait?” Or even, “Should we call someone?” Not this gal. I know better than to use the “p” word. Mention “plumber” in a sentence? Whisper “repair man” under my breath? Are you insane? I’m way too evolved for that.  By now, it’s a time-honored tradition. A house part that I think still has some life left in it, in Howard’s opinion, demands immediate attention. Whereupon I step back, heave a sigh and say, “Let the fun begin.” Then I plug my ears and run. For this current event will not be G-Rated. There will be heavy cursing to go along with the requisite frustration, manly injuries and antibiotic ointment.

Alas, all it takes is a microscopic fracture to ruin a quiet day. A slight fissure appears, barely visible to the human eye, and he springs into action. Next thing I know, he’s clearing his calendar; scheduling the operation for right now, if not sooner. I turn around and off he goes to the hardware store, a trip he’ll make at least twice within the hour to prep for the procedure.  Despite the bloodshed, there will be no nurses present to hand him a bandage or maybe a wrench or, God forbid, a sledgehammer. (It’s coming. Wait for it.) No fetching young surgical residents to hang on his every word or wipe his brow. That’s fine for “Grey’s Anatomy.” But this is real life, people. My guy flies solo, as if you hadn’t guessed.

Where others spent Monday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and counting the seconds till the Inauguration, Howard decided to rip the sink out of our bathroom. When I floated the idea to patch the porcelain, instead, a temporary measure that might buy us some time, he laughed his head off and grabbed his tool box. Now anyone who watches HGTV knows that sinks can be pretty stubborn when you try to coax them out of their lodgings. Turns out, they like where they are; it’s cozy. They get insulted when you order them off the property. Many times, they refuse to scoot on principle. If a sink could speak, it might say, “I’m not going anywhere, mister,” or, in our case, “Make me.”

So that’s what my husband did. He made it do what he wanted. He forced the sink out. Posted a foreclosure sign. Issued a warning or two, and then bam, out came the dreaded sledge hammer. I heard pounding. Things were definitely breaking upstairs. The ceiling started to shake. I got so scared, I called my father. “You won’t believe what he’s doing!” My dad tried to comfort me. “What’s the worst that could happen?” “You want a list?” I asked.

Right then, Howard walked into the kitchen, carrying a chunk of marble counter top that snapped off along with the sink. “Don’t worry, it’ll be okay,” he promised, dripping blood on the floor. He disappeared into the garage, to get the blow torch.  Once again, I turned to my father for guidance. “Oh-my-freakin’-God!” “What’s happening now?” my dad asked, even though he didn’t want to know. “He’s… destroying… the bathroom.”

That was enough. My father couldn’t take another second. He was too old for such domestic chaos. He’s done his fair share of household mending. I didn’t have to paint a picture for him. He knew this scenario firsthand. “I’m hanging up now,” he said. Click. So now all I can do is wait and pray that the pending installation of the shiny new sink goes smoothly. I plan to be out of town, of course. I’m taking the dog and my second-born. I’ll send a postcard when I get settled.