Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Solution to the screw in the paint can

So I’m sitting halfway up the extension ladder pondering life with the blade of a ceiling fan hanging precariously over my head like the Sword of Damocles. From a downstairs bedroom rise the cries of a baby and within my head the lyrics from an old Talking Heads song keep recycling: “How did I get here? And, my God, what have I done?”

The questions fly around my head like escapees from Pandora’s Box:

A. How did I get the extension ladder through the house and into the upstairs guest room without knocking over the Christmas tree and can I repeat it in reverse or would it be better to open the window and just slide it out to crash on the driveway below?

B. Which will come first – (a) Christmas, (b) Melody getting released from the hospital, or (c) Conner settling down for a nap?

C. How long can I sit on a rung of an extension ladder before my butt falls asleep?

D. How much should we pay Brian for painting the upstairs when I’m the one on the ladder?

E. And most importantly, how do I find and rescue a screw from the bottom of a full can of white ceiling paint?

I have lots of time to ponder. One of the secrets of the bizarre “World of Men” is that people usually leave you alone when you are on an extension ladder even if it is oddly indoors instead of its usual place on the outside wall of a house. So I take on Pandora’s questions one by one. Being an intellectual kind of guy, I soon come up with answers:

A. Very carefully. And since I’ve been to Lowes twice a day for three days buying more paint, it will be easy to paint over the ten or eleven gouges I’ve already put in various walls by banging the ladder into them coming up the stairs with it.

B. I can’t predict this one. Melody’s blood sugar has been bouncing around since morning sickness became 24-hour sickness. But I have faith in doctors. And Conner will fall asleep soon. Ah! But there is a related question – Annabelle! Annabelle is Brian and Melody’s new puppy. A combination of a German Schnauzer and a Slinky. Long body, tiny legs and she is staying with us too while Brian stays with Melody at the hospital. I’m not really sure if Annabelle was the pick of the litter or the entire litter since she seems to be more than one dog…she is everywhere, all the time.

Believe me, there is nothing that will get your heart beating faster than stepping on a puppy while you are carrying an extension ladder up a flight of stairs.

C: Three and a half minutes. My butt has now been asleep for half an hour, even after shifting from right to left buttock an back again a few times.

D: $499.50. When Brian was laid off for the month of December from his painting job at the shipyard, we offered him $500.00 to paint the upstairs. This was wonderful because I hate to paint and this would save me the agony and help the kids out at the same time. I did offer to help him move some of the furniture and told him I’d be his subcontractor for 50 cents. Thankfully he had done everything except the guest room when Melody got sick. I didn’t expect to put two full days into this. But a deal is a deal. I’m going to frame the 50 cents and hang it on my wall!

E: Now this one is the real challenge! Being so damn smart, I figured it would be easier to roll ceiling paint on the ceiling if I took the blades of the ceiling fan, even thought I’ve installed enough ceiling fans to hate them with a passion. It’s just enough of a vaulted ceiling so the stepladder didn’t reach – hence the gouges in the walls coming up the stairs.

The amazing thing is that when the first of the two screws holding the last fan blade came loose and I dropped it and it bounced off a ladder rung, arched into the air and – what are the odds? – landed with a perfect little “kerplunk” right in the middle of the one, newly opened gallon of flat ceiling white latex.

Heck. I have a toolbox full of assorted wood screws but this is one of ten perfectly fitted metal screws to fit a fan blade. I look down at the white paint in the can and consider going to Lowes, buying a duplicate ceiling fan, taking out one screw and throwing the rest of the fan away.

I consider pouring the entire gallon of white paint over Annabelle until I find the screw.

Getting a little more serious, I think about the fact that Latex paint is pretty washable so maybe I should roll up my sleeve and just slide my hand completely into the paint can and find the screw that way. That seems a little yucky, however.

I could buy a magnet and tie it to a string?

But, finally, I climb down the ladder. Carefully, because by now my butt is asleep all the way to my feet. And I take two wooden paint stirring sticks and begin using them like the chopsticks of a blind man, moving them slowly across the bottom of the paint can, trying to find the screw by feel. In a gallon of thick paint, this is a very subtle game, to sense the tiny additional resistance when a wooded stick makes contact with a screw. After several minutes, stooped over a paint can, focused like a sonar operator in a submarine, I detect a miniscule ping. I freeze. I slide the other stick down slowly, bring them up slowly together and almost lose it with excitement when I see a little round white blob at the surface. I jam it against the side, let go of one stick, reach in with two fingers and come up with it in my dripping fingers. I stand up, turn to go and wash off the screw (and my hand) in the bathroom sink…

…and step, once again, on Annabelle.

Falling back against the wall, arms flailing, I let go of the screw which spirals up into the air again and down, down…toward the open paint can…down in slow motion...and…

Thank, God, misses the can!

But lands on the only section of carpet that has not be protected by plastic.

I re-adjust my glasses to see how bad the paint stain on the carpet is going to be and suddenly I can’t see out of my right eye which reminds me that my fingers were still covered with paint which is now smeared on my glasses.

Maybe I’ll charge Brian an extra quarter for hazardous duty pay.

Meantime, it has become quiet in the house. Conner is blissfully asleep. And I kind of think Melody will be home by Christmas. It will be a nice Christmas and if it does get too crazy, I can always go and sit on the ladder.


  1. You have solved one of the biggest mysteries of my little life: why my husband spends so much time on extension ladder!!! I often get a little nervous when I see him on one, and immediately go to him to hold the base of the ladder and, of course, I begin to chat away.... I see now that I am defeating the purpose of his 'lofty aims' and that if his goal is alone time, he does not want me there holding the ladder. My husband is grateful to you for this insight - whether he knows it yet or not!!

    Sounds like you had one of THOSE days. Pretty nifty screw-retrieving abilities there!!

    Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  2. I can see that Christmas is an interesting time had by all over your way! I hope Melody is better.

    Have a joyous holiday, all of you!

  3. I laughed so hard at this post that I cried this morning. Have a Merry Christmas and hopefully Melody will be home to celebrate with the family.

  4. The first thing I thought of in reference to the screw in the paint can was this "thing" that my parents use to have. It was this flexible kind of springy like tool that had these little claws on one end that opened and closed as you pressed this mechanism on the other end. It was about 18 inches long. I think it was meant to be shoved down a drain to retrieve objects or gunk. (Boy that was one heck of a description...but it's forgive me..HAHA)

    Anyway, it would have been perfect for that screw! Every home should have one. :)

    Glad things are working out and hope Melody is better and gets home before the holiday.

    Happy painting!

  5. I see Murphy's Law is alive and well!

    My own dismal efforts at home renovation have become so much the stuff of legend, that my wife now invites my sisters-in-law over to watch. Nothing like having three women in canvus backed chairs, eating popcorn and waiting to be entertained by some spectacular goofup, to throw you off your game.

  6. I once tried to install a ceiling fan, with very little success and had to call in a neighbor. My husband only deals with living things. Why on earth people begin such projects just before the holidays amazes me! Finally, your DIL should be fine, my daughter was sick 24-7 for months and ended up having a little girl...I am guessing it is hormones and this will probably be a little girl.

  7. Hey there, Sir!

    LOL, you went through so much trouble and thinking! So I congratulate you! If it was me, I'd probably ask someone to do it or just forget about it lol! But then again, I'm just a kid with zero knowledge about the house.

  8. Murphy's law is right. I was thinking it was about time was a B&B amazingly funny story. I would have left the screw in and gotten it out when all the paint was used up. LOL. Do hope Melody is better and home soon. I went through that a couple of times within 7 pregnancies. I know the comment. "Didn't you know how to prevent that?" But you know us Catholic from cradle to grave. Hope Melody is home for Christmas.

  9. Now, I would have gone with the magnet. Funny post as always, and I hope Melody is home soon!

  10. Murphy's law at work again. The screw falling into the paint can is the same law the governs toast will fall buttered side down.

    A few days ago, just as I was getting off the elevator, one of my silver earrings fell off, and right into the crack between the floor and the door, down into the bowels of the elevator shaft. Gone forever. So I took off the other earring and dropped it down too.

    Did you manage to get the paint off your glasses?

  11. Oh, you poor man! What an ordeal.

  12. I can't think of anyone who makes me laugh and smile as much as you. Too bad you're taken!

  13. If you need someone to hold the extension ladder you can call me. For only $199.50 I will try and make sure you don't fall. For $499.75 I will guarantee that you don't fall. And if you are on my train of thought (all old newspaper people think alike) I can also guarantee that...well...

    Merry Christmas to all my boys. I love you all. Oh, and let Bagman out of the closet for Christmas.