“We’re going to remodel our kitchen!” I said excitedly to my friend Gloria.
“Good luck, sweetie,” she answered. “Get ready for six months ofÝ hell.”
“It’s only a little kitchen,” I added.
“Get ready for five and three-quarter months of hell,” she countered
“No, it will be fine.”
“It won’t be fine. It will be awful. Trust me. When we remodeled our kitchen, I had to wash dishes in our bathtub for six months. I went to Home Depot every 25 minutes. I had to practically sleep with a contractor, a painter and a plumber whom I hardly knew, but whom I eventually got to know far too well. Listen Suzy, remodeling is no picnic. Get ready for bankruptcy, depression and paranoia. If I were you, I’d reconsider it altogether.”
“I can’t. I’ve already paid for one square foot of Corian countertop. We had to take out a loan.”
“See what I mean?” she said, shaking her head. “Good luck.”
But Gloria was wrong. So was Lisa, who told me she almost got divorced over her kitchen cabinets. My friend Lenny said he threatened to kill his plumber; Barbara went into therapy during her remodel; Carolyn joined the Peace Corps and left the country altogether; and after seven years and four contractors, Craig and Dominics’ house remains unfinished.
Unlike anyone else I know, I enjoy remodeling. I love the sound of swinging hammers, singing saws and the soft swish of a wide paintbrush. I like picking out crown molding, faucet knobs, showerheads, and door hinges. And I especially love going to Home Depot.
I can’t explain it. Never one to enjoy shopping or spending money, I’ve been running errands to Home Depot daily for five weeks.
Sometimes I go twice a day. Once I made a record three trips before 2 p.m. But my personal best is visiting four different Home Depots, all within a 24-hour period.
I’ve gone so often to our local Home Depot, I know the staff by name. I wave at the folks behind the Special Order counter: I say hey to the gals in the Returned Items section; I greet the Window Lady and the Countertop Guy as if they are old friends. I make nervous jokes with the women at the cash registers, as I write them enormous checks and hope they won’t bounce. Naturally, the dude who checks receipts at the Exit sign flags me though. Hell, I’m practically part of the staff. Sometimes I ask customers who look lost if I can help them.
I’ve been thinking about applying for a job there. I’ve peered inside their secret lunchroom, overheard their cheerful conversations. I know who’s dating whom in plumbing and who wants to ask out someone in linoleum flooring. I’d like to punch a time card, walk around in an orange vest and warm ski pants with a tape measure hanging at my side. I’d direct people down the correct aisle to heating supplies or colored grout, cut a few wires, saw some wood, and shake up a couple cans of paint. I’d sit behind a desk in the kitchen department and say to hopeful remodelers, “Now this special order will take about six weeks, if you’re lucky. It will cost $4,000 and you must yank out your sink now.” When the customer whines, “But how will I do my dishes, make dinner, or entertain? How will I keep my children from starving, my husband from having an affair and myself from going insane?” I’ll shake my head knowingly, roll my eyes and say, “Do you want this order or not? Any indecision on your part will hold things up another three weeks. And who knows if the manufacturer is going to raise prices or change colors? There’s no guarantees in this business.” Then I’ll look at my watch, zip up my orange vest, close my catalogues firmly, smile and add, “Excuse me, it’s my lunch break. Gotta go.”
Susan Parker is a north Oakland resident and author of “Tumbling After,” which will be published next year. She can be reached at email@example.com