On being … strange consolation

By Ingrid Sapona 

In the last column I wrote about the kitchen reno. It’s going well – pretty much on time and on budget. So, though I had paid nearly 50% up front (down payments to different suppliers), there have been a number of major outflows from my bank account this month. When I see my ever-declining balance, I remind myself that it’ll all be worth it. 

So, a couple weeks ago I noticed that my driver-side front tire looked a bit low. Over the years I’ve realized that I’m not a good judge of whether a tire is low, however, so I didn’t panic or anything. (It was most definitely not flat – it just looked a bit bulgy at the bottom.) I made a mental note to keep an eye on it, and I did. 

Over the weekend I mentioned it to some friends while we were sailing, and one of them offered to have a look at it. He was surprised to learn that I had a tire pressure gage in my glove compartment, but that I hadn’t used it. I explained I never feel I’m using it quite right. He was shocked when he discovered the pressure in the tire in question was – if my gage was to be believed – a measly 15 psi. (All the others where at about 32-35 psi.) 

He followed me to a nearby gas station and filled the tire for me, telling me to keep an eye on it. Within a week it was looking about the same as before he filled it, so I figured I have a leak. So, one morning I decided to have Gord, my mechanic, check the tire. My hope was that maybe I had picked up a nail somewhere and that all it needed was a patch. 

No such luck. Gord found the leak but was unable to patch it because it was along the edge. Knowing that they always say you should replace both front tires if one goes, I said, “OK, I guess you’ll have to find me two new tires.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t that “lucky” either. Gord said I really need four new tires. When I asked why, he claimed he told me last time I was there that my tires were on their last legs. (That is not a direct quote – his language was more colourful.) Uh, no, I’m sure I’d have remembered that, I told him. 

I waited while he searched on-line for what he thought would be suitable tires for me. The grand total, including installation, ended up being $700 plus tax. When I told him that $700+ for tires wasn’t in my budget for this fall, Gord said, “Awe, that’s nothing! I had a guy in here last week and each tire was $700!” I told him I realize that lots of people spend WAY more than me on their car and so they probably have much higher bills, but how does that help me? His response: “I’m just saying….”  

When I got home Brian, the contractor, was working away. When I told him that it had been an expensive morning, he asked why. I told him about the tires and he too started with the “Awe, that’s not bad for tires…” I just shook my head and said, “I know, could have been more expensive, but still – it’s an unexpected expense just when I’ve been paying out a lot this month for the kitchen. And besides, how is knowing it could have been MORE expensive helpful?” That came out a bit curter than I intended and Brian sheepishly said, “I’m sorry, I was just trying to make you feel better….”  

I ended up mentioning the new tires to a few other folks and it’s surprising the number of people who try to console you about an expense by telling a story of someone else’s bigger expense. I don’t find such comments in themselves comforting. Indeed, it seems odd to me when others try to console by offering comparators that just don’t necessarily seem comparable to the person they’re trying to console. Indeed, every time someone reassured me the tires could have cost more, I felt like yelling: “For heaven’s sake, I drive a Toyota Corolla because I don’t want to pay $700/tire!” 

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about what people say to console others. It’s a bit of a tricky business, isn’t it? That said, I think the true comfort comes in counting yourself lucky enough to have folks around you who at least try to make you feel better.

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona



On being … expected, but surprised?

By Ingrid Sapona        

Monday was the first day of my long-awaited kitchen reno. Demo day, as those home renovation shows refer to it. I’m not really into those shows, but I’ve certainly watched a few. One of the things I’ve always found odd is how much the hosts seem to LOVE demolition day. The glee with which they swing a sledge hammer makes you wonder why they’ve got so much pent-up hostility. 

As you might expect, I spent the entire weekend boxing and bagging the contents of the kitchen and closets (new tiles throughout the entrance and hallway means the closets had to be emptied too). I piled the boxes and such into a mound in the living room. And, because everyone who has ever had any renovations done has warned about having dust everywhere, for good measure I draped a plastic drop cloth over the mound. I was ready… 

Monday morning Brian, the contractor, arrived on time – all by his lonesome. We briefly talked and I told him that when he starts, I’d go pick up the tiles. He was surprised I wasn’t having them delivered. I explained that the guy at the flooring store talked me into picking them up. Brian thought that was crazy. “Tiles are heavy,” he said. I assured him I’d be fine – I’d just make a few trips. He then went to his van and got his tools. He came back and went to work. He started by removing all the cupboard doors and piling them neatly on his dolly. 

I ended up needing only two tile runs and each time I returned, Brian helped me unload them. When he stopped to eat his lunch, we chatted. I told him I was expecting the kitchen to look like a disaster zone, given how “demo day” is depicted on the reno shows. He shook his head and explained that he doesn’t make a mess because then he just has to clean up more. Amen to that, I thought! 

Turns out his method was more deconstruction than demolition, which was a relief. He was so careful and patient, I didn’t even notice that he had already taken down the backsplash, which was a mirror. When I asked how that went and whether he wore gloves so as not to cut his hands on broken glass, he said he didn’t need to. He explained that he took his time and pulled slowly and so he got it down without breaking it. Pretty amazing, I think. 

He was quiet too. About the loudest it got was when he let screws fall to the floor. I tried to stay out of his way as much as possible, which is hard for someone like me who, for lack of a better way of saying it, likes to watch. But, I figured he’d be more productive without my inevitable question and comments. By the end of the day the room was a shell. Before he left, he tucked his tools into a corner, swept the floor and then vacuumed from my front door to the elevator in the hall. 

Taking up the ceramic tile was on tap for day 2. I knew he would cover various doorways with plastic to contain the dust before he started working. I figured it would be loud, as well as messy, so my plan was to leave for the better part of the day. He phoned me when he was ready to leave and so I came home. He made better progress than I imagined. Poor guy looked beat though. 

After he left, I must admit I was pretty surprised at how much dust there is, even though he had tarped off the other rooms. I was also surprised at how fine the dust is. Powdered sugar isn’t this fine. After he left, I wiped down the furniture and the table with a damp cloth, but when the surfaces dried, they still had a greyish hue. Oh well… 

On the up side, at least I felt a little less silly about having draped plastic drop cloths here and there, though I was kicking myself for not draping a few more things. I had moved my computer into the bedroom and just before I left, I pulled a bright magenta shower cap over the CPU. I felt stupid doing so, but when I saw a light coat of dust on the cap, I was glad I did! Can’t afford to ruin the computer. 

I suspect that everyone who has had any renovations is smiling (or perhaps laughing?) reading this, as it probably sounds pretty familiar. Heck, they may also be chuckling to themselves about other surprises they know I might be in for. I guess I’ll find out for myself in due time. Of course, not all surprises are bad. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is how conscientious and detail focused Brian is – two qualities I definitely appreciate. 

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona