Monday, November 24, 2008

Pleb the Builder!

One of the chief disagreements that Wifey and I have had regarding our charming European home is the lighting in the living space on the ground floor. This common area houses both our living and our dining room, and in the past we have illuminated it via several Ikea pole lamps.

I like Ikea pole lams. They’re cheap, which is nice. They’re portable, which is also nice. And when your spouse turns them off, if she does it slowly you can imagine that you’re at an upscale gentleman’s club and she’s about to give you a private dance, particularly if you choose that moment to jam a fiver in her panties and grope her.

Or maybe that’s just me. Okay, I don’t use the fiver, but I do grope. It’s one of the best non-verbal ways to say “I love you”, right?

Wifey, however, does not like the pole lamps. In fact, she finds the bottom level of our house much like a dungeon: dark, cold, and filled with people that she really doesn’t care for.

Some time ago, I accidentally installed a new wall lamp in one corner of the room. This unit has been operating now for a month without either burning the house down or going on the fritz, so Wifey decided to give me a little more challenge: she bought a chandelier.

I came home from work one evening to discover the thing in a box on the table, and her proudly telling me that she’d gotten it on sale: only sixty euros. That’s a hundred bucks in non-Monopoly money, which is actually pretty good for lamps here.

Needless to say, I was terribly excited with the thought of climbing atop a ladder, drilling holes in the ceiling, and hanging a forty-pound mass of metal and glass directly overhead. So I did what any husband does when faced with a similar situation: I procrastinated.

Weeks passed, and although eating around the box with the chandelier posed some problems, it eventually got to where we viewed it as one of the family. It was a lot less trouble than the kids, I can tell you that.

All that changed Friday . Wifey went out with friends, and I had to cut out of work early to pick up our children. Plus the two children of her friend. Plus the daughter of a woman that we don’t particularly care for but whom Wifey shuttles around sometimes. Other than the times that she gets so annoying you want to toss her in a creek in a burlap sack, this kid’s not so bad. So I hear; I spend all my time with her looking for burlap sacks.

Well, we got home, and the children went upstairs to play. I was a little disgruntled with Wifey, so I decided that the best way to take it out on her was to finally hang this stupid chandelier.

No, I hadn’t been drinking, but I do suspect mental illness played a strongly contributing role here.

I got the mounting bracket up, then hung the thing up, then realized it was time to go again, in order to get all the children ferried to their varying activities. “I’ll be back,” I said to the unwired chandelier waiting for me.

Jokingly, I told the children I was going to leave it hanging a few hours to see if it fell down.

Several hours later, we returned, to find not only Wifey but also the chandelier, right where they should be. Wifey was somewhat less than impressed, as the chandelier didn’t yet work, but did appropriately ooh and aah that I’d gotten it hung.

She did not ooh and aah when I said “if you think it’s hung well, come check me out.”

Come Saturday morning, I jumped on the task with both feet: Operation Light-the-damn-dining-room had begun! I spent some time swearing, splicing wires, and getting everything just so. My shoulders aching, I prepared to make the final tie-in of wires to chandelier.

“Do you want me to do anything?” Wifey asked.

Since children were present, I couldn’t say what I was thinking, so instead I opted for “just sit there and look pretty. I’ve got it all under control.”

Just as I said this, the house leapt six feet into the air. Either that, or the chandelier fell six feet as I knocked it off its hanger. The net effect was the same: with a loud crash, glass went everywhere, Wifey’s table, which she loves, was brutally scratched, and I had just payed a sixty-euro dumbass handyman tax to stimulate the local economy.

Wifey’s chandelier, whom I had eaten dinner next to every night for the past three weeks, was utterly destroyed.

Have you ever done something stupid, and just after, wished that you’d be injured so that you’d get some sympathy instead of blame? I felt just like that. In fact, I leapt off the ladder, hoping to break my leg or shove a shard of glass through my foot, but instead I ended up just smashing more glass flat.

If you thought the house was cold before, it was nothing compared to how cold it was gonna be, trust me.

“Never mind,” I said. “We’ll just pop out and get another lamp, right?”

“Wha?” Wifey had lost all capacity for rational speech. “Guh?”

“Great! Let’s go!”

So off we went. Turns out, though, the lamps were on sale for a limited time only, and now cost 120 euros. Well, not so bad: almost 200 euros for a lamp. Still less than I expected to pay. Right? Right?

“Hey,” I joked. “You wanna get two for when I smash this one also?”

This joke did not pan out as I had hoped.
Upon return to the house, I did what I should have done in the first place: I punished the children and sent them to their rooms. Helps me focus. Then, with a degree of skill that would make any home-improvement Bob from Vila to Thebuilder jealous, I wired up and hung my very own lamp.

And lo and behold, there was light. Lots of light. The bottom floor is now no longer dark. It’s still cold and full of objectionable people, but I’ll be darned if I’m moving out or paying exorbitant heating rates.

I have, however, moved all those Ikea stripper-pole lamps up to the bedroom, where they belong.

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