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!

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