Reno 911

as in short for renovation. But I’ll get to that brewing suburban adventure in a moment. First I had a scare earlier this month when I picked up my car from some relatively routine maintenance (something about preventing a wheel from falling off that sounded non-deferable), and immediately started hearing a drafty noise from the front passenger side. “What’s this?” I thought, “My car didn’t make that noise before I brought it in. What did they do?” It was not always noticeable and it seemed particularly windy out so I thought maybe when the wind blew the right way it was coming through the vent strangely or something. So I didn’t think much of it until it seemed to reoccur a few times during the week. I felt a definite draft once or twice, and one time when I was giving a coworker a ride he closed the door and there was a rattling noise. “Did you hear that? Something is not right with that door,” I lamented. “Maybe this is what happens when your car turns ten years old.” We each commented on how cars, like people, do not last forever. I thought to myself that history was repeating itself here — we were contemplating a home renovation last year when we realized we needed a new roof and my car needed a new clutch, setting us back one year. And now, with our kitchen renovation in sight, new costs were cropping up again. “Oh, the first world problems!!” I screamed at the impenetrable traffic in the Alewife Parkway roundabout. “Have ye no mercy?!” The other drivers refused to make eye contact. So I can’t remember if it was later that night or the next day when I got into the car it occurred to me to check the passenger-side window. With a small push of a button, I rolled up the window which had been open just a crack all week, solving the problem. The window was open!!!!!

Ah my goodness. Seeing neither the forest nor the trees. If you refuse on principal to read any further, convinced you will learn nothing and feel only more embarrassed for me by the end of this entry, I understand. All I can offer is my complete honesty as a ridiculous human being, somewhat adrift and just one or two degrees too removed from the instincts and know-how that have allowed us to survive on this planet. I mean let’s face it: how many of us, if stranded on an island with a wealth of natural resources, could reinvent a lightbulb, much less the combustion engine, a phone or a computer? Collectively I think we could start a fire… I’m reasonably confident that’s something we’d accomplish. Then we’d be reaching absently for our non-existent phones. We’d be unable to google anything. We’d curse animals for their speed and cunning and settle for eating plants and berries. We’d each set out to build elaborate traps to catch animals but would fail to tell others where we built them… and we’d just trap each other. In the end, the few survivors would wear the bones of their fallen (and eaten?) friends around their necks. What? Sorry, I mean… could you pass the peas?

The above was my Thanksgiving toast last year… speaking of apocalyptic visions, we are knee deep in kitchen design and cabinet quotes as we plan to update our 1950s kitchen. Our cape style house is in desperate need for at least one semi-open space instead of the four smallish rooms on the first floor, so we will be tearing out the wall between the kitchen and living room and redesigning the kitchen to get our fridge out of the middle of one wall and tucked in where some cabinets are now. So I quickly learned that this involved replacing all of the cabinets. Hardwood cabinets built in place when the house was built will be replaced with basically a bunch of plywood boxes with some hardwood doors on them, for a few more thousand dollars than seems reasonable… and yet, a bunch of seemingly reasonable people are giving us these quotes, all in the same ballpark. It’s almost as if they’ve conspired together to overvalue these things, like, oh say, junk bonds? Junk mortgages? Could that happen in this country? Is it ever not happening? I thought it was fitting that at the big box store kitchen design station they sell movie popcorn, candy and soda at those same movie concession prices.

Ah, but on the bright side we met with a bunch of nice local contractors, one of which took a real liking to our cats but was also a bit cross-eyed… which made us nervous. He seemed to have a bit of trouble taking basic measurements, reading the numbers on the tape measure. Nice guy but we were picturing the final product having a bunch of strange angles… setting a glass down on the new countertop and watching it slowly slide off and shatter on the new tile floor, pieces then rolling off the floor and through a small gap under the new door to the porch. “Uh-oh… that’s not right. Does it feel cold in here? Oh wait, I left the kitchen window open.” So we settled on a highly recommended guy who also plows our neighborhood for the town. He might be employing the plow truck during the demo phase… “Sir… we wanted to keep that side porch… never mind.”

The planned renovation has given me some ideas for other improvements. Are you sick and tired of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors crying wolf, so to speak? They go off in the middle of the night when you decide you’ll risk the CO poisoning and go back to sleep. Or they go off every time your wife uses the oven (sorry, Karen… I think your batting above .500 on that front tho, whereas my oven use seems to induce nothing of the sort… what? I’m sleeping on the couch? Ok). Or they do that annoying chirp every 6.5 minutes when the batteries need to be replaced. Well, why not replace those annoying contraptions with some real live chirpers? That’s right, folks, for a limited time through you can purchase a family of canaries to alert you to air quality issues in your house. They were used by miners for years until they decided to organize and the mining industry reached an impasse with the International Federation of Mine Canaries (IFMC) in 1982. Now you can support organized labor and gain some valuable members of the family by bringing in 3 or 4 canaries trained to sense when smoke, carbon monoxide, unhealthy methane levels and gratuitious and low-talent pop music are permeating your home. Trained to drop dead at the first sign of trouble, you will have no trouble spotting when danger is near. And no annoying chirp or piercing siren!! Just an unpleasant smell if the dead canary is not removed in a timely fashion. If you order now, you can qualify for a special deal that will replace your first dead canary at no additional charge! To qualify for a free replacement, the canary must have departed in the line of duty and not due to some workplace hazard such as a cat or a microwave. And really, if it’s even crossing your mind to microwave a small animal, you should seek help. I wish I didn’t have to spend time in this promotion on this topic… but past experience has taught us to mention this up front. Anyhoo… for your very own happy family of canaries, dial 1-800-CHRPNOMR, or visit to start you on your path to a safe and chirpless future. Batteries not included… because they are not needed!! You will need to feed them some seeds and water… you can find some stuff in the couch to feed them most likely. But also if they die because you don’t feed them, that invalidates the free replacement deal. I meant to mention that earlier too. Are we still on the air? Should I do this again?

Ok, so maybe next time I’ll have some renovation pictures to share. Maybe we’ll uncover a priceless artifact from colonial times when we remove the wall and that will make all our fretting over cabinet costs fall by the wayside. Or maybe we’ll save on batteries when we adopt some canaries. Until then, hope you’re all braving the winter and keeping a stiff upper lip thru the Patriots deflate-gate crisis (“Brady!!!! Why, oh why??????” the kids hear this from me anytime I’m in the downstairs bathroom with the signed picture of Tom Brady on the wall. But really how’s that different from every other household in New England?).



About ericf73

A modern-day combination of Noah, Godot and Clark W. Griswold.
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