April 13, 2024
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April 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Before the Dust Settles

I always thought it was a great idea for me to work in my house. The commute is pretty pleasant, and I’m in a central location—in the living room right at the bottom of the stairs—so that I don’t miss any of the goings on of life, and that way I can write about them. The problem is that when these things do happen, I can’t actually get any work done. Especially since a lot of these things happen right on top of me. Because I’m in a central location in the house.

Also, not everything I write is columns. This week, for example, I have some serious client deadlines that I’ve been working on for weeks and that I’m already behind on in the first place, and then all of a sudden, last Thursday, my wife said, “Oh, by the way, you know that ceiling job that we’ve needed to get done for the past few years already? Well, it’s happening next week. All week. Right over your desk.”

I complain, but if it were up to the person who works in the house to decide when construction work was going to get done, it would get done … never.

As a little bit of a background, it turns out that Passaic houses such as ours have weird features, such as plaster ceilings that just give up after a while, and light switches that control fixtures that are in entirely different parts of the house, and a fireplace with an outlet in it.

This whole thing started not long after we moved into our house, with a little bubble in the ceiling over my wife’s bed, and she was watching it grow for years. Then one day, a couple of summers ago, the bubble collapsed, and a part of the ceiling fell on her bed while we were downstairs eating supper. So after bentching (gomel), we put a piece of sheetrock over the hole as a temporary fix, which was fine for the time being, because no guests really come into our bedroom anyway, except for contractors my wife wants to show the ceiling to.

Yes, we wanted to fix it. But this is a plaster ceiling, and the way to fix it is to rip out the entire ceiling of the room, figure out what to do with the pieces, and then replace it with sheetrock. We’d done this once before, in our boys’ room. We actually made a deal with a contractor at the time that we’d rip out the old ceiling over the course of an entire day, and then he’d show up and spend about a half hour putting in the new ceiling.

But we weren’t going to try to get the same deal this time, because, besides for our bedroom, the same thing was starting to happen to the ceiling over the upstairs hallway. And that’s not something we can help fix, because part of that ceiling goes over the stairs.

So for years, we’ve been approaching every contractor we saw, trying to find one who would give us a fair price but also be willing to stand on a ladder on our stairs, and it was a lot harder than we thought. But finally, last week, my wife was at her friend’s house, and she noticed, “Hey! You have workers in your house!” And the friend said, “I know!”

So my wife spoke to them, and the price that the guy gave us was way too good to pass up. In fact, we had to snatch him up immediately, in case he’d change his mind.

I don’t even know how my wife’s friend found this guy. It’s not like he davens in their shul.

So first we had to quickly move all of our earthly possessions out of our room. We’d done this once before, for our boys’ room, and it turns out that tiny pieces of ceiling get everywhere, because—follow me closely here—your ceiling is roughly the size of your entire room. So we moved our night tables and our beds and our sheitel heads and so on into our daughter’s room, and we made her sleep in the basement. We also hermetically sealed our closets.

This job was supposed to take two days. Well, technically the guy never said two days, but he implied one day, and my wife, who works in interior design, told me that even if he works efficiently, he has to wait for the spackle to dry before he paints over it. But now we’re in Day Four. I’m still behind on all my deadlines, none of those clients care that my office is under construction, and I’m sitting in a cloud of dust. If it were just the bedroom, we could seal it off, but they’re working on the hallways, too. The entire house looks like an explosion at the flour mill.

And yes, we knew from experience that the plaster dust gets everywhere. That’s why we hermetically sealed our closets. So basically there are pounds and pounds of dust sitting on the stairs, and every time a new chunk lands, all the dust gets kicked up, and it comes rolling down the stairs toward me.

Sure, you can say this is my fault for working at home, but someone has to be home to supervise him anyway. I don’t know why he needs supervising, when he’s doing his job and all of our stuff is in hermetically sealed closets covered in hechsher tape, but someone has to be home. Speaking of which, we only really left out two days of clothes.

But at least the bedroom’s almost done. I know this because I climbed through the plastic and over the plaster and went into my room, and it was basically ready for a second layer of spackle. And it turns out that they did a pretty good job, except for a small bubble in the sheet rock over my wife’s bed.

How is this even possible?


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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