We had a simple plan. We always think we have a simple plan. We should know better.
Not all of our plans are simple, but we tend to get around to tackling the simple ones first because they seem so… well… simple. Once begun, though, our plans seem to fall prey to whatever the opposite of entropy happens to be called—disentropy, antientropy, unentropy.
You know about entropy. That’s the principal that says things tend to devolve into their simplest form over time. It’s the principle that disproves the theory that if you give enough monkeys access to enough typewriters for enough time, eventually, they’ll write the complete works of Shakespeare. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Instead, the monkeys will find that flinging typewriters full of poo is much more entertaining than just flinging poo and they won’t type anything at all. That’s entropy! Another way to say it is: we all rot. Left to its own devices, nothing gets more complex over time.
Our plans, on the other hand, given enough time, tend to become infinitely more complex than we can possibly imagine. (Or is that Obi-Wan Kenobi if Darth Vader kills him—I can never remember…)
I think I’ll call it Murphentropy! That makes it the subclause of Murphy’s law that states that there is no such thing as a simple plan—only people foolish enough to believe they have one.
And I know it’s true, because it once took us two years to rebuild a bathroom. What happened was, we went to a local home improvement store which happened to be going out of business and we found a corner shower stall. And we thought, “hmmm… that corner shower stall would fit into that our teeny broom closet of a master bathroom, and then we’d have another shower we could use, and (everybody say this together): It will increase the value of our house!” Uh-huh. Only the corner stall wouldn’t fit in the bathroom with the existing vanity. If only we could find a pedestal sink. We kept on browsing and, lo and behold, we found one. All we needed now was a new toilet—white, thank you—please God, don’t make us put the harvest gold one back in. Soon, we found ourselves a white toilet, and it was all on sale, and all we had to do was rip out the old bathroom and install our new booty and our lives would be complete!
Have you ever tried to install a shower stall in a bathroom that doesn’t have an existing shower? It’s not as easy as it sounds. You see, your standard shower consists of “pipes” which make “water” come “out” when you try to take a shower. Because our bathroom didn’t have an existing shower, there were no “pipes” and hence, no “water.” The thought of standing around naked in a shower stall with no water seemed somehow inefficient to us in terms of getting clean, so we knew we needed pipes. Only, to install pipes, you first have to perform a complex ritual involving seven plumbers and an African witch doctor dancing around a bonfire on the summer solstice offering prayers to Goombar, the god of bathroom plumbing. If Goombar is pleased, you are allowed to install your pipes. Apparently, we pissed Goombar off.
So what happened first was: I hired a plumber. I foolishly, naively, stupidly, hired a plumber. The plumber came out and crawled under the house and made lots of important plumbing sounds by essentially banging randomly on any pipes he could find. Then he cut out enormous hunks of wall board and sautered some new random pipes onto our existing random pipes and then presented me a bill for approximately half the national debt. At this point, I foolishly, naively and stupidly believed that the plumbing was finished and we could install the new bathroom. I believed that right up until David came home from work and laid eyes on our new pipes and declared them “all wrong!”
Now I know what you are thinking. David is a computer guy, while the plumber is… well… a plumber. So wouldn’t the plumber be far more qualified to get the job “all right,” than David would be to declare it “all wrong?” I indulged in this sort of thinking as well—for about twelve seconds. Then I realized that A. I have to live with David, while B. I do not have to live with the plumber. So naturally I sided with David. Unfortunately, by declaring the plumbing “all wrong,” it was now incumbent upon David to make it right. And David didn’t seem to be in any big hurry. Mostly, he seemed to be considering what he was going to do—you know—while he was watching TV or we were camping in Death Valley. Maybe he was sneaking out every full moon and doing dances to try and get back into Goombar’s good graces. All I know is that we had this empty little cave where our bathroom used to be and we had a bunch of unopened boxes containing a new bathroom taking up space in the shop and that was the state of affairs for a good looooong time.
So what finally happened was… we invited my parents up for Christmas. Or was it Thanksgiving? I can’t remember, but the end result was the same. The thought of having to share a bathroom with my parents for up to a week was horrifying enough to motivate David to fix whatever it was he didn’t like about the pipes so that the bathroom could proceed.
This necessitated a rather comical scenario wherein David’s father came over and spent an entire day crawling around under the house banging on pipes in a vaguely plumberish way and attempting to carry on a conversation with David (who was in the house) that went something like this:
David: “Can you find the hot water pipe?”
Dad: “Mmmff mmmff mfff…”
Dad: “Mmmff mmmff mfff…” (louder this time)
David: “No! Not that one, it’s the other one!”
Dad: “Mmmff mmfff?”
David runs outside and crawls under the house.
Sounds of banging on pipes.
Sounds of muffled conversation.
More banging on pipes. (Goombar likes it when you bang on the pipes a lot.)
Then David would reappear in the house and yell, “Okay, you have the hot water line?”
And dad would yell “Mmmff mmmff mfff…”
This went on for most of the day. They were probably not as efficient as the plumber, but they made up for it by being far more entertaining and much cheaper. In the end, I think it cost me a couple of sandwiches and some soda for lunch. The toughest part was the physical discomfort of having to stifle all of my snorks and giggles whenever one of them was near enough to be offended by my mirth. And in the end, they fixed whatever was “all wrong.” Or perhaps they just banged on pipes in a manly fashion and didn’t change anything and just never admitted it. All I know that when we finally got around to hooking up the shower, water did come out when you pulled the little handle—take THAT Goombar!
The part of the project that turned out to be the most difficult was actually the linoleum. It turns out that your bathroom floor is glued on… with real glue! (Who knew?!) That means that if you put the glue down and then you put the floor down on it and you screw it up? There’s no backsies. You have to rip the whole thing out and go buy new linoleum and start all over again or you have to immediately sell the house to unsuspecting buyers. If it hadn’t been for the fact that the bathroom was roughly the size of your average postage stamp (if you cut it in half), we might have been intimidated by the prospect of putting down a floor and hired somebody to do it. As it turned out, we did just fine once we got brave enough to try.
You would think that this project would have turned us off to rebuilding bathrooms, but it wasn’t that long before we actually did it again! The root of the problem was that we purchased a house that had been built in the early 80’s, but apparently, the people who built the house had really, really fond memories of the 70’s. The carpet was avocado green. One bathroom and parts of the kitchen were harvest gold (the kitchen counters were actually the kind with gold flakes embedded in them) and the other bathroom was baby blue. The overall effect was to scream “POLYESTER PANTSUIT!” If Donna Summer had dropped in, she would have immediately begun looking for the disco ball. So it was either start listening to the Bee Gees again or start working on the house.
Ironically, the second bathroom turned out to be far more technical than the first. That’s because this time we (again foolishly) went from a shower stall to a tub and shower combo and the bathroom wasn’t, technically, large enough for the tub. In addition, the old shower had leaked down through the subfloor and we were afraid we would have to replace the joist and THEN when we went to replace the wallboard, we found out that we were the proud owners of “The Amazing Sort-Of Trapezoidal Bathroom.” Which shouldn’t have surprised us because when we tore out the old dry-wall, we found an empty beer can inside. And the piece de resistance (literal translation: stupidest thing we did) was that we installed a pocket door in the new bathroom which was so daunting a task that even the linoleum had no power to frighten us this time around.
This time, though, we were at least smart enough to know that it wouldn’t be a simple project, so naturally, we finished the second bathroom in only six months. Maybe that’s because we had learned a valuable lesson when we rebuilt the first bathroom—invite your parents to spend Christmas sooner this time! (I think I was actually adding the last coat of paint the day before my parents arrived.)
And of course, all this was by way of introduction to our latest “simple plan,” affectionately known as “the water project from hell.” But now that’s going to have to wait for another day!