On being … a little like sausage-making

By Ingrid Sapona        

I’ve always believed in life-long learning. But I must admit, I wasn’t prepared for all the things I’d learn about myself as a result of my kitchen reno. 

One of the most surprising things I’ve learned is that I don’t have to have a ready answer to every question a worker asks. Having been a good student and well-paid professional, I take questions seriously and when I don’t have an answer, I feel put out. So, for example, when the contractor asked whether the dishwasher plugs in or if it needs to be roughed in – I had no idea and I felt quite stupid. Should I have asked that before buying? 

By about the third such question related to one detail or another regarding the appliances, I finally realized it’s perfectly fine to tell them if I don’t know the answer and to suggest they to consult the specs for themselves. While that kind of reply might sound like a no brainer, it doesn’t come natural to me, but I’m learning….

When a mini-geyser erupted as the countertop guys tried to put in the sink, I worried I chose one that wouldn’t work with my building’s plumbing configuration. And, given that the hole for the sink was already cut into the stone countertop, I was beside myself, thinking I had screwed up big time. The countertop guys explained the pipes would need to be cut, but that was a plumber’s work – not something they could do. Even then, as they explained the issue on the phone to my contractor, I couldn’t imagine the shutoffs could be moved and the pipes simply cut and re-fitted.

The next day, when the contractor finished, the new pipe configuration looked like a piece of modern art, with fancy, in-hose shut off valves that I’ve never seen. So, a few days later the countertop guys returned and with the magic of silicone glue (or whatever), the sink was in. No need to worry at all. Lesson learned: while this is my first rodeo, clearly (thankfully) it’s not the contractor’s! 

The fact that the condo’s small means I end up seeing things (like the geyser) and hearing the workers’ occasional murmurings of “whoa” and “whew”. I’m learning that such mutterings don’t necessarily mean something’s gone wrong, or that they translate to a finished product that’s somehow inferior. Indeed, I’ve been trying to figure out why I’d even think such a thing. I believe it comes from my having seen more than a few jury-rigged solutions on boats. 

Jury-rigging is about finding solutions when something breaks and you’re at sea and you’re forced to use whatever you have at hand. For example, if you discover a hole in the hull, you plug it with whatever you’ve got until you can find a proper, long-lasting solution. But often, when a make-shift solution works, it ends up becoming the permanent solution. So, whenever I hear an oops or some whispering, I wonder whether the fix they’ve come up with is the best they can do rather than the best solution. I don’t think it’s a trust issue on my part, but maybe it is…. In any event, I’m working to overcome those feelings. 

The bulk of the reno’s done and I’m very pleased with it. But there are a few add-ons I’ve asked for that will end up extending the process. These mini-projects have presented additional opportunities to hone another skill: the art of being specific “enough”. As the reno was just getting under way, I decided it was an opportune time to re-design all my closet shelving to better suit my needs. (I had to empty them all to have the new flooring put in, so why not try to reimagine them too.) 

From lengthy discussions with the contractor about the pantry cupboard, which was part of the original plan, it seemed clear we were both on the same page. And, when the pantry was installed, I realized he built exactly what I said. But, I also realized we hadn’t discussed the materials he’d use for the interior. I wish we had, as I’d have preferred something a bit different. My mistake. But, with shelving yet to be done in the remaining closets, I have another chance to practice articulating both the functionality and esthetic I’m after. 

As I mentioned, I’ve learned a lot about myself this past month. But I’ve also gained an appreciation for the fact that some things – like sausage – are best enjoyed when you don’t know exactly what goes into it and you don’t watch as it’s being made!

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona


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