I have been awake since 1:27 a.m. Many times there is no good reason for this stupid insomnia, but this time there was a specific reason: It’s too friggin’ hot in my house to sleep. It doesn’t often get into the 80’s in the Puget Sound area, so very few homes have air conditioning, which is fine because you usually don’t need it. Fresh air and fans will usually do the trick. The problem here is that when we first looked at moving in to the place we’re now renting, we were told several things were going to be fixed, among them the small and very rickety balcony overlooking the backyard.
We listened to those things we were told, because the house is a gorgeous 1910 number, with lots of character, and probably a ghost, and we wanted to believe these things would be fixed, and because we were idiots.
We were midway through last summer’s heat wave (six or seven days in the 80’s) when we figured out that even if we weren’t allowed to use the balcony, we could still open the door leading to it and get a lovely draft through the place, cooling it off enough to actually get some sleep. When Frank*, the guy who runs the property management company that oversees our place, saw that door open, he immediately accused me of breaking the lock. I am a short, round, rather matronly-looking sort of woman of a certain age. Do I seriously look like I know how to break deadbolt locks? Your doofus of an assistant told you he locked it, but he did not. The guy paints door hinges, okay? Not that competent. All I had to do was turn the doorknob.
Anyway, almost a year after we moved in, I made a hundred-dollar bet with the Tominator that the deck will never be repaired, at least not at a time when it will actually benefit us. Sure enough, because that’s how magic works, right after we shook on it, after a year of telling us over and over that “it’s scheduled to be done soon,” Frank finally started working on the deck. Although he did tear down the railing and rip up the boards that constitute what actually makes it a balcony, the major part of this seems to have been locking the deadbolt, since somehow I manage to look clever enough to be a B&E expert while at the same time looking stupid enough to try to use a balcony that has no railings and no floor. Now we can’t even open the door to get the nice draft. It was 82 degrees here yesterday. My bedroom is an oven, and I can’t sleep in an oven, even right next to an open window with two fans blowing on me. I’m pissed.
I still plan on winning the bet, though, since Frank has done absolutely nothing else for a good three weeks now.
So, to occupy the hours that are always so endless during the agony of a tired but sleepless night, I have come up with a mathematical formula to figure out when our balcony will be usable again and at what point I can collect my benjamin from the Tominator.
Frank told us the deck would be finished with two weeks of solid work. He has also explained that he does not do “that kind of work” on Fridays, for whatever reason, and he doesn’t do any work on weekends. That leaves 4 days in a week when he will do “that kind of work” or any kind of work. In Frank language, that’s 8 days of actually doing something. Sounds good, right? Eight days, that’s nothing, right?
As we have seen over the last year, he will also not work on the deck if there is even the slightest chance it will rain. If there is a 5% chance that it might sprinkle 87 drops of rain, he won’t do so much as measure a two by four. He claims that you can’t do construction-type work in the rain, and I call bullshit. This is the Pacific Northwest, the Puget Sound. If he’s right, how in the hell did anything ever get built here at all, since ever? But his contention does give me another number to work with. This area gets measurable rainfall 155 days out of the year, which simplifies to 31/73, or about 3 days out of each week. So that’s three more days when Frank is guaranteed to not show up to get anything done on this project.
But this is where the math gets tricky, and maybe I’m being unfair. It’s entirely possible that those three rainy days could be the same three days of Frank’s automatic long weekend. I’m pretty sure there’s an equation for that. I probably learned it in my sadistics –er, my statistics class that I hated. Well no, it’s not accurate to say I learned it. Let’s say it was probably covered, and all I took away was the vague impression that I should have learned it. I spent much of my time during that class chanting my “All I need’s a 2.0, all I need’s a 2.0…” mantra and just keeping my head down. I pulled off a 2.5 and said, “Booyah!” and fist-bumped the sky.
The point is, while I’m sure it’s possible to combine those two probabilities to come up with a fairly accurate number to work with, I don’t know how to do it and I don’t care enough to remedy that. Frankly, Frank does not deserve that kind of effort or credit from me. He did show up Monday long enough to re-key the knob and deadbolt locks to our basement/laundry area so our key would work in both of them instead of just one, and now our key works in neither of them. That’s a debit in the Home Repair ledger. We are not able to push our hallway bookcase flush with the wall because we need to be able to string hair dryer and beard trimmer and straightening iron cords from the bathroom across the hall to the outlet behind said bookcase, because our bathroom outlet doesn’t work, and hasn’t worked since about a week after we moved in, last June. He finally came around to look at it in February. It still doesn’t work, and now there’s an ugly strip of wall missing that his “electrician” left that way and nobody has fixed, for another net loss in the Home Repair ledger. The linoleum around the shower has still not been fixed, the central heating unit still doesn’t work, and there are no screens on about half the windows so even when we can get a nice breeze on hot days, we also get a crapton of bugs, and I’m still waiting for a bird to fly in here and give me heart palpitations and shit on the carpet and cause Lilly the Fat Dog to destroy everything trying to get it because she is a golden retriever and, therefore, a bird dog. We were also told our yard was going to be leveled and re-sodded, way back when. Ha ha ha. The Tominator, just yesterday, dug a hole in an obscure place and used the dirt to fill in the worst hole in the pathway to the gate, the hole that has been trying to break my ankle on a daily basis since I’ve lived here.
Basically, we live here in self-defense mode, and if it’s something small yet annoying enough, we just fix it ourselves. Because, you know, we’d like to have it fixed. And it’s such a cool house. And ghosts.
The point is, Frank gets no slack from me. Three-day-weekend no-deck-working-on moratoriums plus no work on rainy days has us down to 1 day a week when he might conceivably work on making our home somewhat like we were told it was going to be when we moved in. One day per week times 8 = we can use our balcony in another 8 weeks. Right?
But we’re not there yet! More math! We still have to figure in the fact that our house is on the bottom of the priority list when it comes to anything besides collecting rent, so if someone in another of this company’s houses has a wobbly shelf in the back of the closet, that will be fixed before our front door that won’t close. Then we also have to account for illness, hangovers, sick kids and other family emergencies, vacations, flat tires, a nationwide embargo on eightpenny nails, dogs that eat homework, TSA orange alert days, flash flood watches, and days when he just doesn’t fucking feel like doing it, which I am guessing is all of them.
There is a small mitigation factor. Frank has ruled that we have to keep the space beneath the balcony clear for his tools and supplies, but I say bullshit to that, too. That’s where our huge pots of roses (that’s what the picture is for!) and peonies and foxglove live, and I’m not displacing them to keep clear a workspace that is never worked in. If me not keeping the space clear means he’ll magically show up to work and be annoyed with us and we have to drag our flora back out of the way, that’s fine. At least it got him here.
I won’t bore you with any more mathematical details and besides, it’s getting enormously complicated, such that only I, with my 2.5-in-statistics mathematics expertise, can understand. Let’s just skip right to the solution. I showed my work.*
My final calculations tell me our balcony will be usable on September 27, 2053.
I fully expect to be dead by then, which means I won’t even be able to collect my $100 from the Tominator.
*His name really isn’t Frank. I’ve changed it to protect his identity, and also because his name is really Brian, and I’ve liked virtually all of the Brians I’ve known in my life, but I can’t recall a single man named Frank I’ve admired, including the one I dated very briefly and dumped for being a jerk, but not before he pointed out to me that douchebags in movies always seem to be named Frank. He’s right.
**OK, not really. That picture is from animationoptions.com. But it looks just like my work.