Aches and Pains

I can’t stop taking pictures of holes. This one’s in our ceiling; the one in the road from the other day turns out to be a culvert issue that will get repaired probably next week.

There was an older gentleman here in town whom I first encountered at the chiropractor’s office and later saw at some of the ballroom dances at the Elks’ lodge. He always came alone, and while younger women would avail themselves for a waltz or two, he would often end up sitting by himself. I tried, one time, to remedy that.

I sat down next to him and maybe didn’t even get out a “how are you?” that of course would have been meant in the platitudinary sense. In my German classes with Claudia Stein, way back in high school, she tried to warn us that if you ask a German this question you should be prepared for a literal and long answer.

I don’t know if this gentleman was of German descent, but he took my question, if I even got a chance to ask it, in the literal sense, and I was bombarded by a litany of health woes. Bombarded. There was no let-up, no pause for other discourse, not even room for me to wiggle any of my ailments in there in sympathy. It was exhausting, and I probably invested all of ten minutes in this before I managed to extract myself and then practiced avoidance the remainder of the evening.

Which is not my best look, I understand. And I also really don’t mind hearing about someone’s health woes, but when it comes so unrelentingly from someone I don’t even know, well it was just woeful and overmuch.

And so I get it: people –Americans, at least — don’t really ask how you are to find out how you are unless the answer is a quick “good.” But when it comes to a house that is less than two years old, I keep trying to decide how much is normal “aches and pains” and how much are things genuinely worth complaining about.

Last night, while Lynn and I were far away, parked in front of the TV, we heard a large clatter from the kitchen. Not enough of a clatter that either of us leaped up immediately, but enough that we both wondered at the cause. Eventually I wandered that way and there, on the floor, was a light fixture that technically speaking belongs in the ceiling.

Without any warning that we’re aware of, the light can slid out of the hole it normally occupies and doesn’t appear to have dangled at all, disconnecting from its plug-in right away in its possibly-expensive plunge to the floor.

Is this something we shrug off and say, “These things happen?” Or do I put it on the list I keep toting up mentally, the seven or eight plumbing visits, the windows the factory sent out that were defective, the solar tubes that disconnected almost immediately, the chunk of mortar or stucco right by the door that worked loose a year ago, the same door the weatherstripping is coming off of, the step off the deck that has already caused one mishap and continues its lopsided treachery?

I understand that nothing comes without maintenance. I did own a home before this one for more than a quarter century. We even had extensive renovation to that one done by the same contractor. Which is part of the dilemma. We just didn’t seem to have the same problems in a 60-year-old tract home that are bedeviling us here.

Take solar tubes, for instance. The contractor put one in our old kitchen about 10 years before we moved. (Solar tubes are like skylights, except they’re round, smaller and more about diffusing light rather than giving you a view of the sky.) Roofwise, it was at a point where snow shed off a higher roof, and it held a lot of snow because it was on the northwest side of the house. In 10 years I never looked up at it and thought about maintenance.

Here, the kitchen tube quickly filled with moths because, it turns out, the extensions of the tube separated in the attic. Branden, from my woodshop, couldn’t even get them to join back together like they ought to, so now there’s duct tape functioning as tubing. But the diffuser plate at the kitchen ceiling has also had water on it, both before and after the duct-tape repair. It’s just one or two splotches, but they’re splotches I didn’t notice in a decade at the old address.

The windows refusing to close did turn out to be a factory issue, one suffered by other purchasers here in the Gunnison Valley, and the problem appears to have been satisfactorily fixed. Plumbing has been a whole melange of issues, some of which are just likely to be on-going. Weatherstripping, loose mortar? Maybe you expect that to come loose after one year — I don’t know.

I thought the deck step separating from the ground was due to wood shrinkage; Lynn thinks it’s subsidence of the concrete block underneath. Either way, the step is loose and listing, even as the step at the other end, also not in contact with the concrete, remains relatively sturdy. If it’s only one of us who breaks a neck, that’s one thing, but right now it’s a distinct hazard for guests.

But I’m really at a loss regarding the ceiling light. When Branden moved a light in the garage ceiling to make way for the loft he manufactured for us, he told me I was looking at a $40 light bulb. If expensive light fixtures are going to rain out of the ceiling without any warning . . . we probably need to up our liability insurance.

I’m sure there’s a lightbulb joke in here somewhere, but I don’t know the punchline. I have no idea how many people it takes to change one of these — or at least put the fixture back into place, nor do I have any idea what keeps it in place. We can see a sort of clip up in the ceiling, but it doesn’t seem to match anything on the smooth sides of the fixture, which may contain a broken bulb after falling nine feet. Maybe not, maybe it’s lots of hardy little LED cells. We won’t know until we climb up and attempt to put things to rights.

I just don’t know what made it come loose in the first place, and I am now trying to decide if I festoon the ceiling with duct tape, same as in the attic, to hold this expensive non-tract, non-60-year-old house together in a way I just don’t recall having to do one house ago.

I know you didn’t sit down to hear about my aches and pains, and you’re probably sorry you didn’t even ask and I’m regaling you nonetheless, but I am baffled and wondering how much of this we tolerate as normal happenstance. I feel like light fixtures should stay in the ceiling until they’re invited out. But maybe that’s just me.

The uninvited guest.

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