Last fall, when we had to replace the exterior siding on our home, we decided to take the plunge and expand our family room. The Apex house we’ve lived in for 15 years is a great home, but the original family room was small – just 10 by 12 feet. We’d never been able to put a Christmas tree in there or even seat more than three people.
It took about four months, but it wasn’t as bad as I’d anticipated. We had a good contractor who used reliable subcontractors, and even though we hit a few bumps and delays, we’re now at the end of it and are really enjoying our new family room.
During the project, though, I had a few things happen that now have me questioning whether my brain functions correctly.
Just a few weeks ago, as we were nearing the end of our project, the electrician arrived to wire all sorts of things. I was in the same room cleaning and sweeping since the oppressive plastic (makeshift walls) we’d been living with to minimize dust had finally been removed.
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“Do you want me to run a cable line or a phone line for this TV?” the guy asked.
This seemed like a trick question. “Well,” I said slowly, “we want to put the TV over the fireplace.”
“Yeah, I know,” he answered. “But what I need to know is, do you want to run a cable line or a phone line here? Or both?”
I employed hand gestures. This became my first line of defense with difficult questions.
I air-drew the television with my hands and moved the air-picture over the fireplace. “What we want to do is take the TV and put it over the fireplace.”
No one said anything for a minute, so I added: “I don’t think I know what you’re asking.”
So then this nice electrician proceeded to explain exactly what he meant in very understandable terms. It was something about CAT 5 and blue wire and accessing something in a certain way. He used his own hand gestures, pointing where certain things would go.
It all sounded very intelligent. I could see his lips moving and even understand the words, but he might as well have been speaking Chinese. It made absolutely no sense to me. It didn’t even sort of make sense. I had no light bulb moment, no dawning of understanding.
The same thing happened when he asked me questions about lighting and the router in my office. No matter how well he explained it, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not understand.
Was this just renovation brain? Or had I always been this dense?
After multiple exchanges, I said something I hate to say, but found myself saying a lot with this project: “I better call my husband.”
Here I was perpetuating a stereotype! How could I? Not only that, I actually fit the stereotype. In my defense, I tried other tactics before surrendering.
When charades and pantomime didn’t work, my other line of defense was to offer all the information that I did know about the subject. I did this when the heating and air conditioning man inquired of the whereabouts of my home’s “scuttle hole,” which sounded vaguely obscene.
“Well. The water heater’s in the garage,” I said, pointing (note the combination technique—vague information mixed with hand gestures). “The air filter thing is in my office if you need to do something to that, and there are two thermostats, one upstairs and one downstairs. And the outdoor units are at the side of the house.”
He was unimpressed. “Ma’am, the scuttle hole is the entrance to the attic. Where is it?”
Finally! A question I could answer. Why didn’t he say so? I was so proud that I knew what the attic was and where the entrance was located.
It’s the small victories. Actually, that was pretty much my only victory, aside from the finished room.
But now I’m in territory I understand: decorating.