Tuesday

February 28th, 2017

The Village Idiot

The unhandy man

Jim Mullen

By Jim Mullen

Published Nov. 17, 2014

Sue can always find some silly excuse to go to the building supply store. Like: If we don't fix the leak in the roof, the living room ceiling will collapse. If we don't replace the three missing risers on the front porch steps, someone will trip, break a leg and sue us. If we don't fix the freezer, all the food will melt and spoil.

I'm a city boy; I know nothing about this stuff. When she said she needed to get grout and spackle, I thought she needed them to finish making dinner.

"Pick up a nice little wine, dear, we're having 'Braised Grout Stuffed with Spackle on a Bed of Wilted Frisee and Sauteed Wild Mushrooms.'"

And I don't want to know anything about fixing the house. The three scariest words in the English language to me are "Do It Yourself." Why on Earth would you want to do it yourself when you can pay someone else to do it for you?

The sheer size of home improvement stores prove I'm in the minority here, but their size should also be a warning sign to all homeowners. It means you're going to spend a fortune "improving" your home, which you already paid an arm and a leg for.

When we were renting an apartment in the city, our friends would always wag their fingers and say, "You're just throwing money away on rent. If you bought a house, all that rent money would be equity." So we bought a house in the country. Now all that money is equity. For the home improvement stores.

Don't believe me? Try to find a parking space at one. You have to drive around for a half-hour waiting for someone to leave. Some of them are open 24/7. I saw a sign in the lumber department once that said, "No wood cut after 10:30 p.m." If so many people want their wood cut after 10:30 p.m. that they had to make a sign, we are in the middle of a national do-it-yourself epidemic. No contractor I know is working at 10:30 p.m. It's hard enough to get them to work at 10:30 a.m.

The DIY set is obsessed with kitchens and bathrooms. If they're not remodeling them, they're adding new ones. I expect to start seeing real estate ads soon that read, "Nine-bathroom, two-bedroom home, newly remodeled professional kitchen with cathedral ceiling, granite countertops, Viking stove, sink carved from a solid block of Carrara marble. Second bedroom could be turned into a tenth bathroom."

These stores are full of guys (well, except for my wife and many women like her, who married lazy, loser, good-for-nothing, glued-to-the-sofa husbands) who are going to install Jacuzzis by themselves. Guys who are buying pressure hoses to clean their decks -- decks that they built with wood that they bought here and presumably had cut before 10:30 p.m. There are guys buying tools to cut bathroom tile, tools to cut pipe, tools to cut wire.

On one trip, I had to use the restroom, which always seems to be a 2-mile walk from the front door, past guys who are buying screen doors, plywood, miter boxes, arc welders, PVC pipe, crushed marble and dropcloths. I get to the men's room, walk up to the urinal, and it's full.

It seems I have discovered the one thing do-it-yourselfers can't do. I'm in a store full of guys who know how to install a toilet, but don't know how to flush one.

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Jim Mullen is the author of "It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life" and "Baby's First Tattoo."

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