Forget what you’ve heard about the brave little toaster; nothing is quite as useless as a household appliance that has gone walkabout. I’m thinking of the automatic dishwasher that for the past six weeks has been roaming about my living room. No matter where it comes to rest, it’s in the way. You can’t wash dishes with it because it’s not hooked up to anything. As an end table it leaves much to be desired. It’s too tall to serve as an ottoman. It’s just in the way—same as the free-range oven currently wedged in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room.
Whenever I go looking for the refrigerator, I have to squeeze past the stove, step over an air compressor and push aside a shop vac. Atop Anne’s beloved mid-century dining table sits a microwave oven, ringed about by dirty dishes waiting to be washed in the bathtub.
Our lives have been in disarray now since early November, when the renovation of our kitchen began. On television, these demos and rebuilds look so easy. Thanks to time-lapse photography, the average project takes just half an hour. And the yuppie homeowners are all so cheerful! But for an old man like me, home improvement takes a terrible toll. That’s because I’m set in my ways. Each morning I go through the same habitual movements. Like a carpenter aunt, I follow a familiar scent trail from bathroom to kitchen, to refrigerator, to coffee maker. Move the refrigerator and the coffee maker and I begin to wander aimlessly like a box elder bug. I keep reaching for stuff that isn’t there. I don’t know where to sit, or where to set my coffee cup. My geriatric cat Casper is equally disoriented, and has begun peeing in the entry way closet. So now whenever friends come over to see how the renovation is going, the first thing they see—and smell—is Casper’s litter box.
Another thing that troubles the cat is the constant parade of strangers, most of them strapping young men packing heavy-duty power tools. Those guys trouble me as well. I mean, just who IS the man of the house? Time was, it was me, but now the head honcho appears to be our primary contractor Drew. Drew’s a large fellow who drives a black Silverado. I’m an old hippie who putters about in a four-cylinder orange VW van. The other day I offered to help Drew unload a door from the back of his monster truck.
“Sometimes it’s easier if just one guy does it,” he replied. And, indeed, he did make it look easy.
Lately I’ve noticed that my wife and Drew are spending more and more time in sotto voce consultation. Meantime, I’ve retreated to my backyard bunker, which I built myself over the course of about ten years. Sure, the fit and finish leaves much to be desired. I used up so much caulk to fill in the gaps that it somewhat resembles an Oreo cookie. But, so what? It’s MY man cave—and, like Casper, I can piss wherever I please.