Category Archives: House Shit

House of Pain

When I was younger I used to try and do well at school. I’d do my homework, revise for tests, and generally try to get good grades, so I could end up at university. Then I tried to do well again – I’d actually get out of bed and show up for lectures. I’d take notes, do the assignments, and even write up all the boring lab work we had to do, so I could get a job. Then I tried to do well at my job. I’d use initiative, make good decisions, earn the company money and generally try not to step on my proverbial dick. And what was the point of all this? So that when I was a grown-up I could have my own house.

When you’re used to living at home the idea of your own house is a magical thing. It’s the place where bedtime is whenever the fuck you want it to be, and the music is never too loud, and your room is exactly as messy as you like it, and the washing up can wait. And when you’re used to sharing accommodation a house is even better. It’s the place where the food you buy is still in the fridge when you want to eat it, and you never wake up to find sick all over the toilet seat (unless it’s your own), and all your crap is always wherever you left it.

So, having spent all this time being good, and earning money, and occasionally moving to a bigger house, it has occurred to me that the whole idea was fundamentally flawed. Having your own place is a great plan. Owning your own place – not so much. You see, a house is, I have realized, merely a collection of things that are waiting to go wrong. It consists of a furnace that breaks in the winter, an air conditioner that stops working in the summer, a dishwasher that stops working every year, a garage door opener that shreds its little plastic gears and gives up the ghost, power that unaccountably stops being delivered to certain rooms, roofs that eventually leak, shutters that invariably blow off in the wind, gutters that fall off, windows that rot, a sump pump that freezes up in the cold, a deck that rots and needs re-sealing, wood that needs painting, grass that wants cutting, leaves that need clearing, faucets that start leaking, and all manner of annoying things that require sudden, unanticipated trips to the hardware store, where people in orange aprons will make you feel like in incompetent twat before informing you that they don’t actually have whatever it is that you desperately need to make your stupid fucking house work again.

This is the season of holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas – the time of year where your house is absolutely guaranteed to cause maximum frustration by developing faults that require time, money, tradesmen, hardware store visits, and time outside in the cold shouting “fuck” at inanimate objects. And if you’re a man you will attempt to address these faults yourself rather than call someone in, partly to save money, but mostly out of sheer pride, so that the tradesman won’t look down his nose at you and communicate silently his lack of belief that anyone could call him out to fix anything so trivial.

So it was when the garage door opener packed up last weekend, just as I was trying to get out to the gym. To cut a long, boring story short I opened it up, found the drive gear that needed to be replaced and sent off for the part. Eventually it arrived, and I set out to complete what should have been a simple man-job. But I had reckoned without the gods of the hardware store, who looked down on me in my pride and decided to shit on me. The part slid into place but the three beautifully positioned screw holes were no use to me, on account of the fact that they had not been threaded. So, having vented my spleen with several high volume emissions of profanity, there I was, at the hardware store, looking for either a tap and die set or a pack of self-tapping screws, so I could bodge the job and get the door working again. (You see I find it very useful for getting in and out of the fucking garage.) But now that it’s done I’m not filled with satisfaction at my newly working house; I’m merely reminded that the clock is ticking to the next unexpected problem, and associated aggravation. It’s like waiting for a kick in the bollocks – you know it’s coming, just not when, where from, or how hard. Merry Christmas!

My Biggest Fan


I just installed a new ceiling fan because the old one broke, and this house definitely needs something to make the air move in summer. This pleased Mrs Bison, who hated the old one as it was a shiny brass thing – she prefers the brushed nickel look, but not so much that she’ll bug me to replace something that’s working fine. So off we went to Home Depot, to peruse the many and varied ceiling fans there to be found. Almost every one had lights attached, which we didn’t want, and it took us a while to figure out that they were an option which could be fitted or not. A staff member pointed this out and directed us to the end-of-aisle display where there were simple models that were more to our taste.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I don’t rate myself that handy when it comes to fixing and installing stuff, so I asked “Is this easy to install if you’re replacing an existing fan?”

“Oh yes” said the assistant “just connect black to black and white to white – it’s really easy.”

You know how things sound simple in the store, when someone who probably never even got a ceiling fan out of a box, let alone installed one, is explaining it to you? Well, I removed the old fan and it wasn’t quite “black and white”. In fact, all in all, I had black, white, green, blue, red and bare copper wires to contend with. Yeah, I figured it out, and it wasn’t difficult, but nothing you try and install yourself ever ends up being as simple as they make it sound in the store. That’s why I apply the “What’s The Worst” doctrine to all home improvement projects. This works as follows: I assume that I’m going to get halfway through the job and then either find it impossible, or fuck it up. What’s the worst thing that can happen? If the answer is “You leave it unfinished and get a bloke in to do it next week” then no problem. If, however, the result is “A thousand gallons of water cascade down the stairs, the house is uninhabitable for three weeks, the furnace blows up and I get stuck on the roof” then I should probably consider getting someone else involved.

Mrs Bison, flushed by proxy with my electrical success (measured by the fact that there’s been no sparks or fire yet) has suggested that I replace two other shiny brass light fittings. In one room she thinks that instead of brass, something black would look good hanging from the ceiling. Depending how good my electrical skills really are, it could be me…

Copyright © 2008 Edward Bison

Blow Me


Earlier this year my buddy gave me a snowblower as it was taking up too much space in his garage. He bought it when he lived in the Northeast, where they have real snow, and consequently it’s a heavy-duty motherfucker, well beyond what is required for his current driveway. Now as gifts from mates go this one is right up there with the donation of a kidney, and I’ve been eyeing the thing as the weather got colder, just waiting to get out and try it. Well, with the snow this morning I finally got round to filling it up, adjusting all the cables and starting it…

Read more in Mr Bison’s Journal the funny new book

Just A Small Project…


I should have known better. Almost every time I take on a seemingly minor home improvement project it ends up being a hideous nightmare, and today’s was no exception. All I wanted to do was replace a few boards on my deck that had rotted at the ends; you’d think that a monkey could do it, and the weather was so good this weekend that it should have been a pleasure to be outside.

Read the rest of this story in Mr Bison’s Journal, it is easier to buy than lumber and you won’t need a truck to get it home. It is just a click away on Amazon

Stick Your Gutter…


One of the many joys of the recent rain in St.Louis is that it makes the gutter over my garage overflow. This is on account of it a) being fitted by a certified twat who didn’t make sure it angled correctly, and b) being full of tree bark, leaves, dead birds and other assorted shit that shouldn’t be in a gutter. Yes we did fit gutter guards but they are basically almost useless – I don’t know how a small branch can squeeze through the mesh but apparently it’s not that difficult. Mature, house-proud suburbanites would have done something about this by now but we’ve only been in the house ten years so it’s a bit soon for us to try anything radical like fixing the fucking thing.

Read the rest of the funny story in Mr Bison’s Journal

 

Bats


What is it with all the sodding wild animals trying to live in my house?

It’s Saturday morning and I should be taking it easy, right? I know I have to go and work out at 10:30 – it’s chest day, which means lots of bench press and incline press. Last night was soccer, and the satisfaction of having won (and scored a goal) is tempered with the perpetual joint pain that comes from trying to act at least ten years younger than I am. Rolling out of bed causes the emission of a sudden and involuntary “fucking hell!” and the kind of stagger downstairs more usually associated with drunks and extras in zombie movies.

Read more about my house being taken over by animals in Mr Bison’s journal, a laugh out loud book.

Bastard Animals


Suburban St.Louis isn’t exactly the wilderness, so I’m constantly amazed by the sheer number of animal species trying to get into my house, eat my house, eat me and/or crap all over everything. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I’m in Australia and have to fight off three venomous snakes, two poisonous spiders and a marsupial before breakfast, so excuse me if I sound like a pussy to any antipodeans out there. It’s just the sheer volume of the intrusions that’s getting old.

While woodpeckers and termites eat your house, the deer will eat everything outside your house. Your garden is just an extended deer buffet. “Deer resistant” plants simply mean that the deer don’t eat them first but save them for dessert. And to add insult to injury they run out in front of your car in the evening with their white arses flashing, just daring you to run them down and send your car to the shop for expensive repairs.

If you sit outside and try to enjoy your plants in the few days before they get eaten you’d better do it in the evening so that the St.Louis summer heat and humidity doesn’t kill you. Unfortunately that’s when the mosquitoes come out and feast on your blood. I have a bat that lives under the deck and passes the time converting mosquitoes into a neat pile of bat shit. Unfortunately it might also carry rabies, so it’s kind of a death-sentence-in-waiting in my garden. Every so often you get a plague of some other plant-eating bastard pest. We had bagworms a few years ago which meant millions of caterpillars in silken bags hanging in the trees and eating all the leaves, before falling all over the deck and drive where they’d get walked into the house on your shoes. Nearly killed my trees – the only consolation was that if you stepped on them their entire insides would shoot out of their arse in a very satisfactory green spurt.

Bagworms won’t eat your grass, however, so instead I have moles to take care of fucking up my lawn. I have hunted them with a pitchfork and speared one, pulling its twitching carcass from the earth. This can make you feel guilty for a bit, but then another one moves in and continues turning your lawn into dust, so the sympathy tends to run short quickly. Then when I’m cutting the crap lawn I have to worry about a cloud of yellowjackets rising up from a hole in the ground and proceeding to sting me all over. Running into the house while performing a spastic dance to swat away all the insects while clawing off clothes to expose the ones stinging you from the inside really does wonders for your man-image.

Squirrels eat all the bird food that you put out to bribe the birds not to eat your house. Then they shit on your deck, dig up your plant pots and try to burrow into your walls. I once had a flying squirrel, a noctural bastard that invades your attic, usually in families of eight or more. The advice from the experts was not to try and trap it, because I wouldn’t be able to, but to call in an exterminator. I caught mine in a rat trap baited with peanut butter before it moved its family in, but it had already deposited enough shit in one corner to fertilize a golf course. It was, however, satisfying to carry its corpse to the trash can knowing that I would no longer be woken up at three in the morning by its scratching and running around.

Of course there are numerous bugs, mostly dead by the time I see them, but as the next periodic spraying by the pest controller gets closer there tend to be more live ones. Giant orange centipedes were the latest bathroom delight. We also had a couple of lizards – how the fuck do they get in the house? Obviously the bugs are a real draw, and I had half a mind to leave the lizards so they’d keep the bugs down but one more shriek from Mrs. Bison as a blue/green lizard crawled from the vent by her chair was enough to peruade me to evict them. She occasionally screams at other animals, but the best by far was a black and yellow salamander that crawled on her hand while she was planting daffodil bulbs. I thought she’d been stabbed!

Outside there are countless rabbits and chipmunks, as well as a raccoon that visits in the evening and climbs up to steal the bird food. These things are mostly harmless though. The coyote that came up into the garden a few weeks ago wasn’t – it looked ready to carry off a small child. Bastard mangy thing with yellow eyes, much bigger than I’d thought.

My favorite animal though is the venomous copperhead that took up residence last year in a patch of compost in my yard. It has everything I look for in a pet – it looks good, needs no care and maintenance and it won’t destroy my house. Just have to remember not to step on it…

Copyright 2007 Edward Bison

Appliance of Ignorance

You know how it goes – the temperature rises to the point that you can’t sleep at night, even with the fan on, so you give up and turn on the air conditioner. This is excitement time – will it work or not? This year I was not hopeful as our air conditioner is frankly an ancient piece of crap and probably wasn’t improved by the frozen trees that fell on it during the winter. Sure enough, although air came out of the vents it wasn’t cold air, which is kind of the point of air conditioning. I duly went out to inspect the beast with a flashlight. This is a necessary but utterly pointless part of the home maintenance ritual – I looked for obvious signs of trauma (wires hanging off, and the like) but since my knowledge of domestic heating and cooling can be summarized in three words (absolutely fuck all) I was not about to start dismembering the bastard. I did notice a lot of big spiders living in it and it occurred to me that they might have eaten some important part of its insides.

So it was time to call in the experts. This is always an adventure – you might as well wear a t-shirt with the words “I know nothing about {insert nature of problem} – please come into my house and attempt to fuck me in the arse financially” on it. I am a big believer in information – if you don’t want the guy you call out to lubricate and attempt to penetrate you, it helps to know what the problem is ahead of time. This means ploughing through numerous internet sites looking for similar problems. Sometimes this works, but you don’t get very far with a list of symptoms like “doesn’t go cold” so you need to call out someone in whom you have some confidence.

I used to like recommendations from other people but after a while you realize that lots of other people are dickheads, and the person they called “cheap and quick” would better be described as “incompetent and stupid”. The other approach is to hire someone with a big name and advertising budget, on the assumption that they have a reputation to protect; in reality they have lots of overheads to meet, which means they basically have to screw you to survive.

Cars are probably the worst area for getting screwed. I used to be able to lift the hood and work on my engine – all you had to do was buy the manual and a few tools. It helped that my first car was a worthless pile of shit, and therefore the downside of not getting it back together again was pretty small. Nowadays they just plug it into a computer and give you a big fat quote to replace some obscure device that you’ve never heard of. [The worst part with cars is that the things that go wrong are the result of features that no sane person would require. If you need sensors to back up your car you shouldn’t even be driving. What happened to learning how to judge a space and park in it, smegma-brain?]

Anyway, the air conditioner is back on – the problem was trivial and fixed for nothing. However the guy who looked at it did confirm my initial diagnosis of “ancient piece of crap” and it will probably die in a year or so. Then I just have to decide “repair or replace?” When we asked for the quote for a new one, the salesman reached for the lubricant, so I’ll be putting that off as long as I can…

Copyright 2007 Edward Bison