Comfort- the passive enjoyment of the home by its owners. Convenience – the proper functioning of the house.
Robert Kerr, Architectural Historian
I pulled the chain. The flushing lever would not budge. The toilet was broken. A house of overnight guests for two days and the toilet was not working. I climbed on top of the toilet seat, reached close to the ceiling to remove the tank cover. Not enough headroom to look inside. Reaching into the tank, I felt a broken chain. An attempt to blindly attach it to the lever failed. Quickly I jotted words on a sticky note and stuck it to the toilet seat. Returning to my place at the dining room table where our six guests were playing a game, I announced “The toilet is broken. Please use the one upstairs.” Sympathetic faces looked at mine. Only Don’s showed panic. “I know,” my eyes said back to him. “An awful time to have this happen.” Moving into handyman mode, he retrieved the ladder from the garage. Several long and involved minutes later he returned saying a temporary fix had been found. Reminder to self, call the plumber on Monday.
No worries, no problem. Don and I know the drill. The phrase that disasters or unfortunate events come in threes has been well achieved this year. More like multiples of threes. Not six or nine or twelve. Fifteen is the current number. Yes, we started counting after four. A year of replace and repair has found us captive. Our odd assortment of broken, repaired, and replaced items includes cars, a computer, snow blower, refrigerator, paper shredder, lamp, vacuum, teakettle, rock ding on the car windshield, ceiling fans, camera, window coverings, coffee grinder, and a down comforter that suddenly lost its feathers. While most were long lived faithful workers up for retirement, why must the others follow suit?
This week I took out our blender to make a smoothie. When I pushed the button, an unfamiliar sound greeted me. There was no whirring of the fruit and yogurt. They sat still. Another try and now I was smelling smoke. Don happened to walk into the kitchen and our eyes connected. Really? Another appliance bites the dust. “Let’s go find a new one.“ Don’s suggestion was offered with both a surrendering sigh and a readiness to improve our state of mind. With these appliance and home repair situations becoming quite frequent, we have chosen to engage them as adventures.
We stood in the blender aisle at Target. Blenders have come a long way since purchasing ours over twenty years ago. Some just blend while others add pulsing, pureeing, grinding, even chopping. With my mantra of limiting kitchen electrical devices, I had never owned a food processor. Now blenders could do it all. I read the list of promised tasks printed on the box. This was the moment I could gain two kitchen helpers for the price and storage of only one. A bonus replacement.
As soon as we walked into the house with our blender purchase, a brewing thunderstorm became a full-blown hailstorm. Quarter size hail pelted against our gutter covers, sounding as if a machine gun were emptying its round. Now Mother Nature was adding her signature to our list. The roof and gutter person was called the next day and came out for a quick inspection. “Your gutter covers and roof have been pummeled,” he reported in a calm voice. “We’ll write up a report for your insurance company.” Something about the way he said pummeled or the choice of that word reminded me that it is a word I seldom use. Pummeled. A word that accurately describes how Don and I feel about this string of bad luck. A word I had not intended to know so intimately.
A noise in the middle of the night awakened me. I nudged Don, “Did you hear that?” His groggy sleepy voice replied, “I didn’t hear anything.”
“Something banged, like a drawer being shut, but I hear nothing now.” I settled back into sleep.
The next morning Don and I were sitting across from each other in the living room having coffee. I was recounting the gratitude for the improvements we had recently made in the house and looked up to the new ceiling fan. My face was aghast as I blurted, “Don, the fan!” The fan had pulled loose and was hanging by its wires. A jagged hole in the ceiling exposed lath and plaster. The fan itself was tipped at an angle and calling for help. We called our electricians, reaching them on their weekend emergency number. Within minutes they had arrived and were assessing the situation. They relieved the fan of its dangle in air and searched inside the hole. Diagnosis was a malfunction of the fan box.
“We’ll return on Monday to put in a new support. We have a drywall company we use. Happy to call them for you. After they do their work, we will return to put the fan in place. Never seen this happen before.” It was not their work that was at fault, really. A result of what seemed to be a strong fan box had pulled away. The fault lay a bit in the middle, a bit in the unknowns of an old house, a bit in who would have ever guessed this to happen. The fan’s bits and pieces are now on the dining room table. Wonder how long this repair will take?
There is a balance between what Robert Kerr calls the comfort and convenience of a house. To enjoy the comfort of a home, the convenience of its living parts is a necessary function. We were inconvenienced when the refrigerator’s malfunctioning thermostat required living out of ice chests. We are inconvenienced by our dismantled fan parts and a hole in the ceiling. Most days, Don and I live our lives effortlessly in comfortable convenient surroundings. Now we have a greater appreciation for the well-functioning machines that make life at Simplicity enjoyable. I find myself saying thank you to the washer and dryer, dishwasher, stove, furnace, water heater, microwave, television, garage doors, printers . . . Keep up the excellent work. Please do not succumb to being number sixteen on our disaster list.
Photo Credit: Joe Btfsplk – the World’s Worst Jinx, a character in the Li’l Abner comic strip by cartoonist Al Capp. (Thank you, Larry Mendenhall, for sending us this perfect image of our jinxed 2017)