From Offshore: DIY — with apologies to Tom Sadowski
Thursday, September 22, 2016 10:32 AM
Tom, I think we think alike. Want to get coffee? You hang around much? Ever find yourself with idle time to loiter around Rockland’s cafes mingling with the foreign language students, the off-season schooner deck gangs, the rained-out roofers, the indigents, retired beatniks, city councilors and stranded islanders? Ah; well, I do.
Eva Murray lives, works and writes on Matinicus Island.
Mr. Sadowski’s “Just Saying…” column last week was spot on (for me, anyway). This business of feeling somehow obligated to do all the stuff yourself — a problem I also have — can get a body into a bit of a mess. The writer Robert A. Heinlein said, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog…” and his list went on. “Specialization is for insects.”
There is deep satisfaction in doing much for ourselves, until that little voice in the back of our head sings out, “Uh, that could hurt…” Dental work comes to mind, and maybe ski instruction. This business of who cuts the hair, though, is simply a vanity. My husband (since we are talking about spouses here, and that’s fair because Tom started it), ahem, my husband has no vanity. Just about none. His idea of sartorial splendor is anything aside from his usual overalls. He asks me to cut his unstyled and utterly random hair now and then, usually when it gets to tickling him on the back of the neck. I know how to do a few things. I can drive a truck backwards onto a ferry. I used to be able to read music in “viola clef.” I do my own taxes. I cannot cut hair. I argue, “You don’t want me to be the barber, it’ll just look like ear holes. It’ll look like we weed-whacked around a bicycle helmet. It’ll look like you put too much Kraken in your hot chocolate and decided to do it yourself on the sidewalk with a butcher-shop window for a mirror.…”
He says, “It’ll look fine.”
I don’t do nails, either. I don’t even have other people do my nails. I suppose I could go and get an estimate.
Twenty years ago Paul and I added on to our house. We did everything we could ourselves. I dug the trench for the four-foot frost wall with a spade. We got out the graph paper, took the measurements, drew the designs and ordered the lumber. Conscripting a few neighbors, we poured concrete. I felt that we ought to build the structure ourselves, but thankfully we were brought to mind of the months of rain and snow that would inevitably pour into our dwelling considering how long it would take us to actually frame the thing up, so we buckled and hired framing carpenters. They had the old wall down, the new room up, and the structure tight to the weather in a few days. Paul wired and plumbed and installed the gas lines. I painted, but first, I taped and mudded the Sheetrock — and shouldn’t have.
My DIY nemesis was Sheetrock. With a couple of gallon paint cans duct-taped to my sneakers I spent the better part of two days with a hawk, craning painfully up at a large ceiling, and then there were the kitchen walls. These days, it’s looking pretty decrepit. I probably won’t be tackling the repairs myself. That feels a bit like admitting defeat, but then again, so will another beginner-level mud job. Just saying (as the feller says). Sheetrock is the invention of Satan anyway.
Welding is different. Tom’s absolutely right about overthinking this sort of thing, and carrying too heavy a burden of respect, aware of only the finest among the building trades. Not everybody who wears the little polka-dotted hat under his welding helmet is exactly a shipbuilder. Encountering the occasional knuckle-dragging ape, the one-hit wonder who can do his or her job well but who otherwise can just about make toast, barely, is a great confidence-builder for the rest of us poor slobs. Thanks, you guys.
Sadowski mentioned worrying that he wouldn’t have enough time to learn how to pilot a plane and play the tuba, among other things (good luck on learning how to give birth there, uh, Tom). Anyway, I played the tuba in our municipal 4th of July parade this past summer. I do not know how to play the tuba, but that didn’t seem too big of a hindrance.
I guess I sort of do know how to pilot an airplane, a simple airplane anyway, a small one, on a nice day. More than one person has mentioned to me that they assume I am now “Going to buy an airplane and fly back and forth to the island myself now, right?” to which I might reply, “I can weld a little, too. You don’t see me working on submarines.”