Today being one of my first days off from school (the semester actually ends on Friday with my last final, but it begins to feel like vacation already), I had a mental list of naggingÂ things to attend to. How happy I would be to put mental check marks next to each item on my mental check list!
Here were four tasks I set for myself today:Â replacing the lining in my winter coat, buying a new hair-catching drain thingy for our upstairs sink, reupholstering a disreputable living room chair, and getting rid of a large pipe in our backyard.
First, I took my big black wool coat to a shop that advertises alterations, because its shredded lining drove me crazy all winter. The nice lady at the counter took one look and said in a vaguely East-European accent, â€œAt least $150. Better just buy new coat.â€ The costÂ seemed high, way higher than I expected to pay for lining. So I stopped by a dry cleaner where a young Asian woman told me the same amount. At home later on, I received a return call from another shop where a possibly Russian woman told me labor would be $100; fabric would be additional. â€œProbably about one hundred fifty,â€ she said, if I understood her correctly. I returned the coat to the closet.
Then I visited my local hardware store to buy a little cup for the drain in our upstairs sink. The drain was replaced the other day by our new handyman, who told me, â€œThe little catcher you have is a little too big. You need one size smaller.â€
The guy at the hardware store looked at me as though I was speaking gibberish, or Martian. Which always happens to me in hardware stores. â€œYour new drain should have come with something like this,â€ he said. â€œIt doesnâ€™t have something like this?â€ I explained that our handyperson had instructed me to come to the hardware store to get a new thingy. But it turns out no one makes a smaller size. The one-inch size we had was the smallest size available on earth. Our new handyman apparently installed some weirdly non-standard drain which will no doubt clog again because no hair-catcher fits it.
Undaunted, determined to cross at least one item off my list, I entered the upholstery shop on the same strip as the hardware store. I had come prepared with a photo of our chair, highlighting its shredded arm. I waited while the proprietor helped another client. At last he turned to me and gazed at my photo. â€œAh, another wing chair!â€ he said in a vaguely East European accent. â€œLook at the books I have!â€ He gestured to the shelves of upholstery sample books he had all around the room. Hundreds of them.
â€œUh,â€ I said, intimidated by the number of books and pages. â€œI want a similar fabric. Can you help me find something?â€ He looked at my picture again, skeptically.
â€œYou want novelty?â€ he said. I told him I didnâ€™t think of the old-fashioned book-themed print as â€œnoveltyâ€ exactly.
â€œLook on computer,â€ he said. â€œFind what you want. Then bring back to me.â€
â€œI was actually hoping for some idea of cost? An estimate?â€ I asked.
He raised both arms in the airÂ and shouted, â€œEveryone asks this! How can I say with no fabric? Say $5000! How isÂ that?â€
I smiled sheepishly and skulked out of the shop, realizing only gradually that he didnâ€™t actually mean $5000. Still, I have no idea how much reupholstering the chair would cost.
One item remained on my list. For years (years), weâ€™ve had a long metal pipe lying tucked up against our backyard fence. I have no idea how it got there. One time, we left it out for the garbage men, but they didnâ€™t take it. Too long, too heavy, too big. So today, after procrastinating for years, I called the city and asked to arrange for a pickup. I will get this one thing done today, I thought to myself.
â€œHow long is it?â€ the guy on the phone asked, in regular Ohio English. I had thought of this! I had measured it before I called! About 20 feet, I told him.
He conferred with his boss for a minute.
â€œYouâ€™ll have to cut it up,â€ he said. â€œFour-foot lengths, or they wonâ€™t pick it up.â€
â€œCut it?â€ I asked. â€œWith what? How would you cut it?â€
â€œA pipe cutter,â€ he said, which made sense. â€œYou donâ€™t have a pipe cutter?â€
No, I said. I donâ€™t have a pipe cutter. Neither in the sense of a tool, or in the sense of a person who cuts pipes. My husband doesnâ€™t cut pipes. Neither do I. No pipe cutter.
Two footnotes I would like to add. The foreign accents I mentioned, mostly East European, have no relevance to the story. No xenophobia here. Except for the upholstery guy, who was a little volatile, they were perfectly polite. The accent is just a realistic detail.
And, yes, these are First-World problems, and I have nothing significant to complain about.
I realize that.