Friday, July 9, 2010

Painting House Combines Frustration, Satisfaction

(From the July 8, 2010 issue of the Grand Haven Tribune)

There’s an old joke about a man who finds an old dusty lamp. When he rubs it a gorgeous genie comes out. She says she will do anything he says, as long as he can request it with only three words. A good joke-teller pauses here to allow listeners’ minds to wander and imaginations to work. But the man doesn’t hesitate in his answer. He says: “paint my house.”

The joke is funny because it’s an unexpected answer. But I have a new understanding for that man. I was supposed to be enjoying summer by now, relaxing at the beach and otherwise not working so hard. But now that I’m well into painting the upstairs and main floor of my house interior, fantasizing about a genie painting my house seems perfectly reasonable.

When we bought the house we hired someone to paint. We were busy clearing out of the old house and handling other details of moving. We thought hiring a painter made sense for that reason. Otherwise we would have painted the house by ourselves. I remember being a little impatient as we waited for the painter to finish rooms so we could move in. Now I have a new appreciation for the time it takes to paint.

On the other hand, the professional we hired had it easy. Our house was empty. All he had to do was paint. We seem to spend the majority of the time moving things out of rooms so we can actually get to the job of painting. Where did all this stuff come from? I don’t remember moving this all into the house a dozen years ago. I won’t mention any names, but there is one occupant of our house who could seriously take this opportunity to clear out a few things. They could be donated to a theatre company, any number of missions, or the Imelda Marcos shoe museum. It’s just a thought.

I’ve had other thoughts as we slowly move through this project. One of them came to me as I stood on a ladder, sweating, thinking it would be a whole lot easier to just cover the walls with posters from NASCAR and Snap-On Tools and go sit on the patio with something cold to drink. I’m not even in to NASCAR or tools. I’m just coming to the point that any way to cover the walls quickly is starting to seem like a superior idea.

Not really of course. Painting is much better. How else could I acquaint myself with the beauty of colors like “delicate lace,” “soft chamois” and “tuscan winds.” Paint manufacturers use names like this so we don’t mind spending more on a bucket of paint. Anyone can offer tan or brown or white. But when the stuff I’m rolling on my walls is called “tuscan winds” I start to develop a loyalty and admiration for the specific brand of paint. Plus, if and when we finish this project, we can tell our guests we did this room in “soft chamois.” They will say “ohhh!” We will feel creative, sophisticated and relieved, like Martha Stewart once she got out of prison.

Of course, those paint colors can be confusing too. The little color samples they let you take home sure look nice, but the actual paint can leave a different impression. This can be a frustrating process. If you are a man getting ready to paint your house with your wife, I can give you a heads up. It starts by spending hours playing with various options and holding samples against the wall. This process is sort of like World Cup soccer, because it involves holding up colored cards and you can plan on “extra time” that seems to never end. Once colors are actually selected, you feel you have made major progress and actually buy paint. But be warned—actually painting does not mean the decision process is done. I thought painting, like baseball, involved no crying. I was wrong. I’ll spare all the details, but to paraphrase the Good Book, sometimes a man has to humble himself and repaint.

As I write this, we are approaching the final two rooms that need to be painted. I am getting eager to be done. It has been hard to see the blue sky and sunshine and be stuck inside listening to weather reports and Home Depot paint department ads while I’m pushing a paint roller. I am hopeful that I’ll finish the project with time to enjoy the beach and my patio. If the weather turns bad just as I finish the project, I’ll just sit inside and stare at my walls.