Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Mountain That Blocks The Molehill

I would like to think I am an efficient worker.

You know, identify my task, the steps it takes to do the job, acquire the tools I need, and then tackling the task.

But it doesn't always work out that way.

Yesterday, getting ready for today's family Canadian Thanksgiving events at our house, I spent the day doing the fall chores.

The first task on my list was to take the screen out of our outer front door, and replace it with the storm glass door window. When I went into the garage to get my tools and find the glass window insert for the door, I saw everything I need buried under or behind a pile of things that had no business being there.

The tools were buried at the bottom of my garage workbench, covered with papers, toy's, and boxes of things still boxed in the garage since we moved.

The glass window insert was safe against the far wall in the corner of the garage, but now impeding it's access were bags of unused potting soil, boxes of components that when put together are the pump to our recently closed swimming pool, and yet a another collection of boxes from the move – not yet un-packed.

If you neglect to unpack a box after you move, I, in my familiar Georgia speak, refer to that box as "un-unpacked".

As I stood there and looked over this pile of undone work standing before me and the task at hand, I had another one of those de ja vu moments.

When I first met my lovely wife Darlene, she lived in an apartment at the top of an old dilapidated house in the heart of the little town of Amherstburg. During one of my weekend visits, she brought out a new mailbox to hang at her door by her tiny little entrance. And as a test to determine my worthiness as a handy man, she asked if I could hang her new mailbox for her.

She handed me a screw driver, and the nice new plastic mailbox to replace the rusted tin one there now.

"Piece of cake", I said. And I took the screw driver and mailbox package downstairs and out her little private side entrance.

I started by simply removing the existing rusted box from the grungy aluminum siding. I took out the new mailbox from the packaging and held it up in place. Amazingly enough, the screw holes to mount the new box were in the exact same place as the existing holes. No drilling would be required.

"This is too easy", I thought to myself.

But the mailbox looked noticeably new laid over the grunge on the siding. I decided I needed to clean it. Back inside and up the stairs I went to get a bucket of soap and a scrub brush. When I returned, Darlene's neighbor Mike was walking up his laneway and into his house.

"What-cha-up-to Fred?" asked Mike.

"Hanging a mailbox", I said – holding up the box as to prove my task.

So I scrubbed the grunge from the site of the old mailbox. I stood back to examine the area. It was very clean now, but the wall ooked like a big hole of clean in a wall full of grunge. So I cleaned some more.

Paul, Dar's neighbor on the other side of the house came walking down the street.

"What-cha-doin Fred?"

"Hanging a mailbox".

We stood there looking at the clean spot in the wall of grunge.

"Let's get my power washer out" said Paul, and together we marched to his backyard garage to dig out his power washer and some detergent. And we grabbed a beer from his beer fridge.

Guys always have a beer when they are doing yard work together. It's one our 'Man-Laws'.

We were in the process of washing the wall when Mike came back outside and walked over to us. He brought himself a beer, because, well, he saw us working.

"What're you guys doin?" asked Mike.

"Hanging a mailbox" replied Paul.

The wall now looked pristine and proper for a brand new mailbox. We stood back – the three of us, and enjoyed a sip or two of our beers as we examined our accomplishment.

"Wall looks great now" said Paul.

"Yeah, but look at how ugly all these weeds are by Dar's door", said Mike.

We marched together over to Mike's shed and found some spades and a garden rake. We dug the weeds up and raked the ground even. Again we sat back to enjoy our accomplishment with a beer.

"Needs some plants", said Mike.

So we put our beers down and marched through the secret gate Paul built in his backyard fence to the Canadian Tire parking lot behind his house. We marched into the garden centre and after some debate, we picked up some flowers, shrubs and a miniature fir tree. We carted our new garden items back through the secret gate and over to the entrance of Dar's apartment.

We plotted and spaced the flowers, shrubs, and plants out in the area. When all were planted we removed the hose the from the power washer and soaked the beds so the plants could take hold.

"Looks great", I stated.

"We have a lot of flowers left over", said Mike. There sat three trays of Impatients that we had yet to even get to.

"You know, those would look great over here", said Paul – pointing to an area around a young elm tree in the walk way area.

"And over here", said Mike – pointing along the front of a old wooden fence that divided the front and back yards.

So we dug and we planted and we raked and watered. And another hour later we had created two beautiful little gardens. And we had consumed about three beers each.

"Hey, I still have to hang that mailbox", I said. I walked over, picked up the screwdriver, the two screws that came with the mailbox, and mounted it.

We were sitting in the shade of the elm tree between our two new gardens when Darlene's voice was heard through the upstairs window.

"Did you hang that mailbox yet?", she hollered.

"Yep, come see", I hollered back.

"It's just a mailbox", came her reply. And back she went to whatever she was doing.

"She has to come down soon", I said. "If for nothing else, to see what no-good we're up to".

So we sat there talking guy stuff, on the cool grass of the shade of the tree and drinking a couple more beers – waiting for Dar to come down to see her surprise.


That was such a great afternoon. I do miss Mike and Paul as they were both in our wedding party when we finally got married. And I wonder what they are doing these days, as we left Amherstburg shortly after our youngest daughter was born.

So I spent yesterday moving and sorting re-piling all the contents of my garage and my workbench. And then I wrestled and swore while I replaced the screen door with the storm glass insert.

And when I was done, the door screen replaced with the winter glass, and my garage pristine for the first time since we moved into the house, I cracked a nice cold bottle of beer and looked at my accomplishment.

And I thought how much better the beer would taste if only Mike and Paul were there to enjoy it with me.

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