What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Things from the Before Time. People are returning to the office. What I’ve noticed, particularly among a certain set of semi-senior or management types, is a quiet, unspoken determination to do things the way they were done in the Before Time. There’s a willful effort at suspending disbelief and denying the reality of the Great Plague. The fact that people aren’t quietly going along with their fervent wish to roll the clock back to February 2020 almost hits them as a surprise… as if they want to wish away the fact that over the last 30 months, the people didn’t find a better way to work and arguably a more rewarding way to live. But here they are, shocked and surprised that most of their colleagues aren’t thrilled and excited to commute, spend eight hours a day siting in florescent hell, or pile into a charter bus packed elbow to asshole with 53 of their new closest friends to take a two-hour ride. The powers at echelons higher than reality can make people return to cubicle land, but their expectation that anyone will do it with a smile in their heart is going to be sorely disappointed. 

Hurricane coverage. I’ve never really understood why networks make their anchors stand in the rain looking like drowned rats for their newscast. I know television is a visual medium, but I think everyone watching has had enough experience with rain to know what it looks like when you get caught in a downpour. Sure, show the aftermath. That’s probably newsworthy at some level. During the storm itself, though, there’s honestly just not that much to see that can’t be caught through a window or from under some minimal level of shelter. Sending grown ass adults to stand outside to demonstrate that it’s raining and windy, doesn’t feel particularly useful to my understanding of the coverage.

Being a dollar short and three months late. The plumbing company I had originally planned to use to install and new and improved water filtration system (more than two months ago) called rather sheepishly on Monday morning. The voicemail went a little something like “Oh, hey Mr. Tharp… We, uh, have a plan here for your filter system… We, uh, must have put it in someone else’s file and, uh, wanted to schedule a time to come out and get started on that work.” I appreciate the level of audacity it must take to make that call, particularly after I spent a month calling weekly to see where the plan was and when they were going to get started, before giving up and handing the project to a company that came out, drafted the plan, and did the work all within a week’s time. Mistakes, I’m told, happen. This, however, is one that could have been avoided at any of five or six points along the way if they had responded to a customer’s efforts to make contact. I encourage this company to go, and I can’t emphasize this enough, fuck themselves. 

The problem with shopping small…

Social media is full of posts about how we all need to carry our commerce out with small businesses, that they’re very important, and that they support the local community. All those things are possibly true, but at the same time I’ve been doing my level best to hire various small, local plumbing outfits for a job for the last six weeks. Some don’t pick up their phone. Others don’t return calls once they’ve talked to you or just don’t show up when they’re scheduled. One even when so far as drawing up the plans and then disappeared. 

By comparison, I called one of the big regional plumbing operations at 9:00 this morning and at approximately 10:45 I had in my hand three separate proposed set ups, had made a selection, confirmed the parts order, and scheduled the installation time for next week.

Look, I’m not saying you shouldn’t support small business. Where you spend your money is a deeply personal decision. That said, I’m absolutely finished bending over backwards and practically begging them to take my money. If getting a decent level of service means dealing strictly with the big players – and paying the corresponding premium – that’s what it’s going to have to be from here on out.

My apologies to small business owners out there, who I’m sure work very hard, but honestly getting quality work done in a timely manner is far more important to me than either where the guy who owns the company lives or getting the rock bottom price. That won’t win me any friends from the Main Street Business Association, but I’m over here trying to run a household. I have neither the time not inclination to go on playing championship phone tag with companies that don’t seem to want to be bothered. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Good help. I’ve been trying to get a downspout cleaned now for the last 6 weeks. It’s the company I’ve been using for years without complaint or problem, but for this they “lost” my first appointment and now I’m told “Oh, the guy was out there about two weeks ago.” A couple of things there: 1) I’ve been home almost continuously at any time they could have been here and I’m fairly sure I’d have noticed ladders and someone stomping around on my roof; 2) Even if for some reason I missed them, the cameras wouldn’t have; 3) In the past, their guy has always left a bill either in the mailbox or suck in the front door; and 4) The goddamned gutter is still overflowing every time there’s more than a drizzle. I’ve had these guys out here twice a year for the last three or four years with no complaints or problems, so I have no idea why they’ve suddenly turned into a shitshow. I’m out of patience, but expect someone else will be happy to take my money.

2. Assumed representation. Twitter is full of posts that start with “I speak for all Americans when I say…“ Let me be clear – No the fuck you do not. Not one person who has ever led off with that phrase has ever spoken for me even when I happened to agree with what they said. I’m a grown ass adult. The only words put in my mouth are the ones I decide to speak on my own. The presumption that you can or should speak for me or anyone else is makes you sound like an absolute gibbering idiot.

3. Balloons. A couple of times a year I have to schlep out into my woods with a pole saw and attempt to recover a mylar party balloon that’s caught up in the trees. People who see balloon releases as the high point of an event rank somewhere in my estimation below the ones who think fireworks are the height of entertainment. There’s literally no reason to let balloons go “into the wild.” Your message didn’t get to Jesus or your dead grammy or anyone else. It ends up in the woods or in the water or in the fields and stays there forever unless someone happens to find it and clean up your goddamned mess – like mommy use to follow you around wiping your nose and tidying up after you. So maybe try being a responsible adult and holding a memorial, or an awareness raising event, or photo op that doesn’t end with your trash becoming someone else’s problem.  

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The joy of home ownership. I thought we had a pretty solid handle on the homestead’s water supply after last year’s well and filtration work. The fact that it literally fell apart at the seams yesterday tells me it wasn’t quite satisfactory as I expected. So, in addition to the never-ending bathroom remodel, I’ve hired another plumbing company to design and build a much less fragile way to get water from the well and through some filters before delivering it up to the rest of the house. I only laid two requirements on them for this project: It must be dead simple easy to operate and perform regular maintenance on and all components must be affixed to or supported by structure versus hanging free from the pipes. I suppose it’s just the kind of thing I’m willing to spend on if that’s what it takes to avoid future blowouts when someone has the audacity to try closing a ball valve.

2. The MAGA campaign to discredit Cassidy Hutchinson. There are lots of Donald’s supporters ranting, raving, and questioning Ms. Hutchinson’s intelligence, truthfulness, and anything else they can dream up to discredit her testimony before the January 6th Select Committee. None of them, thus far, have submitted evidence or requested that they be allowed to offer conflicting testimony under oath. If they’re withholding key evidence or information about the events of January 6th, they’re negligent in their duty. If they’re big mad because this brave 20-something former White House staffer has the personal integrity to sit down, swear in, and say true things about Donald that make him look like an out of control, petulant child, well, it’s just the expected kind of sound and fury that doesn’t signify.

3. Salad. Look, I like salad well enough. I mean top anything with enough dressing, cheese, and bacon bits and it’ll be edible at some point. In all seriousness, though, I’ve been making a concerted effort for the last few months to replace one meal a day – usually lunch – with a truly enormous salad. Even with the toppings a massive bowl full of various greens should be nominally more responsible than whatever combination of Hot Pockets or PB&J’s I’d be having otherwise. The trouble comes down to the greens themselves. Despite the salad spinning and paper towel drying and specialized containers, I just can’t seem to get a full week of freshness out of the stuff. Towards the end of every week, there’s a good wilt setting in at best. If the produce wasn’t fresh off the truck when I grabbed it, sometimes by Thursday it’s gone off completely. Hot Pockets definitely don’t have that problem. Sure, I could solve this particular issue by buying less produce on Saturday and adding a mid-week supply run, but that violates my cardinal rule of minimizing the number of times every week I need to leave the house. If this turns into a competition between wanting a salad and not wanting to leave the house, salad loses every single time no matter how many bacon bits are on it.

Well, well, well…

The bullshit of homeownership continues at pace. I’ve often thought whoever coined the notion of finding joy in owning your own home probably never owned one himself. Or maybe he had staff and an unlimited sinking fund for doing maintenance and repairs. In any case, unbridled joy is rarely my first thought when I consider what goes into keeping the roof over my head.

Maybe that’s because every damn time I turn around something needs fixing or replacing. You regrade the back yard because the basement leaks, then replace a water heater, then a furnace, then get the gutters tinkered with every few months, then you’re due for a new clothes dryer before replacing the faucet on the kitchen sink. That’s all before you take on more basic general maintenance tasks that need done weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Don’t get me wrong, I like the place well enough, but it’s all a labor of necessity rather than one of love.

It’s possible that my view of the whole things is currently jaundiced because the ants that I thought we cast out last summer and now comfortably (for them) back in my well casing. I know this because teeny tiny ant parts are getting sucked into the well, passing through my fancy filter system, and showing up in the sink, the shower, and every other place water is piped through the house. It’s almost equal parts disgusting and infuriating.

Last year, I tried the advice of the well and pump experts. This year I’m starting off seeking a fix from a local exterminator. I think I was very clear with him on the phone that I was going to insist on a solution that didn’t involve pouring poison directly down my own well. I like to think that would go without saying, but life experience tells me sometimes you need to say that obvious out loud.

I have no idea what the next step is if there’s not an effective way to kill these little bastards without killing myself in the process. I wonder if I need to pull a county permit to dig up the front yard, bury a cistern, and have potable water trucked in once a month.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Electricity. There are a lot of things I’m willing to jump into action and take care of around the house. Most things involving electricity don’t make the cut. I can replace an outlet or, if pressed, replace a ceiling fan, but beyond that in the universe of things that involve faults, the unusual, or things behaving badly, I’m a man who knows my limitations. That’s why I had a pair of electricians here at 7:30 this morning to diagnose a room full of oddly behaving outlets. Turns out, all those outlets were on a switch… located 30 feet away in a different room. Why it was designed like that is anyone’s guess. All is operating normally now, but gods, I could have fiddle around for weeks and never a connection between office outlets and living room switches.

2. The Republican Party. Does this even need going into? Paul Gosar, Maggie Green, Don Trump, Matt Gaetz, Lou Gohmert, and Jim Jordan are the contemporary standard barers for the party I’ve identified with since long before I was registered to vote. If that doesn’t scream that American conservatives have lost our way, and possibly our minds, I have no idea what would.

3. Court TV. If there’s anything worse than sitting in a courthouse watching a trial because you’re required to participate in it in some way, it would have to be voluntarily watching a trial on television. I don’t care what the latest “trial of the century” is, I just can’t see spending time hanging on every word. Like sausage, I don’t have any interest or need to know how it gets made. The only thing of even passing interest is how it turns out in the end. The breathless coverage across every media outlet in the country must be of interest to someone, but for my money it’s a waste of otherwise good airtime and electrons.  

Water stuff…

If you’ve been keeping up with the raft of home improvement and repair projects I seem to have running at the moment, today was all about water.

The well intake got raised up about five feet, which should, theoretically, mean that it will no longer periodically draw in silt. That will hopefully address the occasional experience of ending up with a sink full of beach sand. Given the other major maintenance projects that the old codger I bought the place from had deferred, I suppose needing to tinker with the well for likely the first time in its 21 years isn’t awful.

Next, the household water supply has gone from single stage spin down sediment filter to a two-stage system that should be more than a match for anything down to 5-microns. If that doesn’t get the job done, we’ve left room to add a 3rd stage at the single micron level or even a reverse osmosis filter if I get really tired of screwing around.

My water, aside from sediment, and more recently, ants and ant parts, tests mercifully clear from other contaminants… the really advanced options are something I’m really hoping to avoid. Given how many times this short post has words like “should” or “hopefully” appearing, though, I’m mentally preparing myself to take things all the way. After all the jiggering and jostling, I’m going to give the water column a few days to settle before making any further judgments. 

After this, it’s on to appliance delivery and driveway repair. As always, I suspect whoever coined the phrase “the joy of home ownership” never, in fact, owned a home. 

The ghost of plumbers past…

The fact that there are now ants and ant pieces flowing through my home’s water system amps up the need to find someone qualified to service the system to a pretty high degree of urgency. I was willing to make due with a little fine sediment from time to time. Mostly that meant just clearing the filter more often than I had been previously. Now that fiddling with the filter and draining off the pressure tank a few times doesn’t seem to have satisfactorily resolved the issue, I’m just going to have to accept that the problem is now well beyond my level of competence.

So far, I’ve been wildly unimpressed with the various well drilling/service companies I’ve talked to. Most admitted they were weeks or months behind schedule and promised to call back when they were ready to come have a look with whatever tests, tools, and people they thought they’d need. Over the last quarter of a year, it’s resulted in a lot of phone calls, but no actual action.

While I was fiddling with the pressure tank last night, I stumbled on the original installer’s name and had a blinding flash of the obvious. Thanks to meticulous records from the pervious owner and the internet, I discovered his company is still in business. They’re not drillers, but starting out with someone to look over the pumps and tanks looks like a reasonable place to start. I left a voicemail for him this afternoon in hopes that the draw of revisiting old work might be enough to get more than just a call back. So far I like him better than the rest because thirty minutes later he gave me a firm date and time he’d be there to give the system a good going through.

According to his records, the last time they were on the property was in 2010, after installing the system originally in 2006. I eagerly await the arrival of the ghost of plumbers past with my fingers firmly crossed in hopes that the answer will be something other than, “Nope, drill another one.”

Becoming those people…

Six years ago today the spot where I’m sitting to write this was covered by a stack of boxes freshly hauled inside by three guys from Allied Van Lines. If you find yourself in a position to move your entire household after the age of about 30, I promise you hiring the job out is absolutely worth the money. You’ll have plenty of time to throw out your back moving furniture into just the right spot or lugging boxes once they’re already in the house. Moving is chaotic enough without personally schlepping every item you own in from the curb.

For most of these last six years, every spring has involved a minor crusade against the green algae that appears inevitably on the north and east sides of the house. Usually, it was a minor annoyance that could be beaten back with a good scrub brush, a hose, a few helpful chemicals, and half an afternoon of concerted effort. It’s not the kind of yard work that’s particularly fun, but necessary for the sake of keeping up appearances.

Over the last year or two, the algae has been creeping higher than can comfortably be reached, even with a ladder. Worse yet, the roof is now showing undeniable signs that good growth of moss is starting to take hold. I love my woods full of old oaks and poplar, but this is one of the inevitable inconveniences – and not one of those that can be remedied by ignoring it until it goes away on its own. 

I’ve long since gotten too old and fat to risk falling off my own roof… a result that feels almost inevitable if I were fool enough to take on the job myself. Since I’m going to have the roof done, I might as well let them take on the gutters while there here. The fascia and soffit are filthy too. The algae needs taken care of. Since there’s a spot of it up towards the gable end, they might as well deal with that while the equipment’s already going to be here.

Yeah. I’ve apparently become one of those people… but at least the exterior of the old place will look better than it has since I took over the management here. Even if that means I’ve got to pay someone to scrub the place from roof peak to foundation.

Taking care of #2…

There are whole books written about the “joy of home ownership.” Depending on the day you ask me, I’ll probably question whether the person talking about that has actually ever owned a home. The joy of having a roof over your head is surely tempered by the random bullshit of air conditioner repairs, flooded basements, trees falling, clogged drains, and the myriad other everyday problems that come along with owning a house. More than once I’ve thought wistfully about the ease of apartment living. File a work order with the office and things got fixed – eventually – although the “eventually” added its own degree of aggravation.

Today’s adventure in home ownership is the semi-regular pumping of the septic tank. It’s a necessity, of course, but there’s something disheartening about paying good money to haul your own feces out of a hole in the back yard. Then again, it may be best not to spend much time pondering on the fact that there is, in fact, a hole filled with feces in your back yard to begin with. Probably something that’s not worth dwelling on until it’s absolutely necessary.

Whether you’ve running your own waste disposal site or you’re on town water and sewer, you end up paying for the ability to poop indoors one way or another. If you’re lucky the basic maintenance won’t lead to needing to throw even more money literally down the sewer. The number of basic home maintenance projects I’ve undertaken that haven’t resulted in sprawling mission creep you can probably count on one hand.

I’ll be the first to admit that indoor plumbing is one of the most undercelebrated features of the modern world, but making sure it all stays in working order feels like the polar opposite of the joy of home ownership.