The Sandoval Signpost (Web edition) is pleased
as punch (diet punch that is) to bring you the humor
and insightful human observations of Daniel Will Harris,
author of My
Wife and Times. —Ed].
How putting up shelves got me down
By Daniel Will Harris
My wife always thinks that the very next shelf
I put up will, once and for all, end clutter as we know it.
She sincerely believes this—until about three minutes
after the shelf is up.
She admires the shelf—brimming with things, (many of
which would have fit ever so neatly into the trash), then
she looks back at the room and in a split second of horror,
realizes even she can't even see a difference. Somehow we
have filled yet another shelf and yet made no dent in the
room's clutter quotient.
A few weeks later, after the shock's worn off, she'll see
another sliver of space on the wall and announce, "That
would be perfect for a shelf. It would really clean up this
I have stopped cringing (though not sighing) because it does
no good. The cycle has begun again, like the seasons. It's
always the same. We go to the hardware store. She has me move
dozens of very long and heavy pieces of wood until she finds
one that has just the "right" grain. She exclaims,
"I can't believe how expensive wood is!" as if she
hadn't just bought another $25 board a few weeks earlier.
She says, "Should we put it in the trunk?," like
our trunk's made of rubber and can expand to fit it. I say,
"It won't fit," and she says, "I can make it
fit," and we try and it won't. She'll then get it to
fit into the car, because she can get anything to fit into
the car, which probably explains her confusion about the trunk.
I'll sulk while driving home, because I know that one end
of the board is sticking into the padded panel behind the
back door where it will create a permanent dent.
The board comes home and "ages" in the garage for
a few days or months or as long as I can stall. One day she'll
remember and stain it. Then she'll say "Put it up now—I've
already done everything else!"
Some people say they have two left feet. When I do home improvements
I feel like I have two left hands. I rarely find the studs
in the walls, even with the help of an electronic stud finder.
So I make a lot more holes than should be necessary and if
I was smart I'd buy stock in a spackle company.
Then I struggle. I curse. I fear that I've driven a screw
into an electrical cable that will light me up like a flashbulb
and launch me airborne off the ladder, my skeleton glowing
as if in a cartoon.
I inevitably realize I've put the brackets on upside down,
or in the wrong place and have to rip it out and start again.
If I do ever find a stud, then it's guaranteed I've put the
screw in the wrong place and won't be able to get it out because
the head is stripped.
If she's nearby she'll give me helpful hints to which I generally
scream, "If you know so much why don't you get up on
this ladder and do it!" It's never pretty.
Lest it get routine, each shelf has it's own surprises. Last
week I put up an especially difficult shelf which had those
hateful keyhole hangers in the back so everything has to be
measured correctly (who's bright idea was that?). I finally
got it up and put everything on it, then I made the mistake
of closing the back door. This minor act apparently sent tremors
down the hall which released the shelf from the wall, sending
its contents flying.
To me, this just made the point I had been trying to make
to my wife—it's time to hire someone to do these things.
To her it just made the point that I needed to do it again—right
Since there was no stud in the exact position required by
the hateful keyhole hanger I'd used a molly bolt which either
had neither molly'd nor bolted, but had managed to make a
hole in the wall large enough stick your tongue through (I'm
not saying I did).
Fixing this airy new addition to the wall took two entire
days. I managed to lose three toggle bolts to the hungry wall;
they were swallowed whole. I finally realized I needed a big
toggle bolt and a washer the size of a saucer, which I actually
found at the hardware store with the help of three clerks.
I assembled the toggle, a hex nut, the washer, then the bolt,
and voila, I now had something on the wall that could have
passed for modern art in the 80's. If I'd remembered to put
a stop nut at the end it would have been really good, but
I figure it will stay up at least until it doesn't.
And now I just wait for the cycle to begin again. I'm seriously
thinking about removing all the wallboard in the house and
just using the studs as shelves. It'd save a lot of time.