It's not about the house.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Day Two, Project Two: Goofing-Off

“Hey, Johnny? If I wanted to take all the tapey, gunky stuff off the woodwork around the windows, what would I use to do that?”

This is the nice thing about having an in-house decorating expert: no bothersome, impatient-making research to be done. Just ask!

Goof-Off,” he said. “Absolutely. Take it right off.”

“What do I use, just like a wad of toilet paper?” Yes, Erin, because a wad of toilet paper is the answer to everything. Spiders, head colds, cat puke -- a wad of toilet paper and a squirt of Windex, and you’re set.

“No,” Johnny’s very patient with me. “Just a rag.” At last! A use for that garbage bag of clothes that’s been kicking up and down the attic and/or basement stairs since I tried to clean my drawers a year ago! I’ll use an entire t-shirt on each sill!

“Do I need to wipe after it with something? A wet rag or anything?”

“No. Having a dry rag on hand wouldn’t hurt. I mean, you don’t want to leave a puddle lying there or anything.”

“And it won’t…?” He didn’t need for me to end that sentence.

“Won’t harm the finish at all.”

I spent two years stripping that woodwork -- and for a tolerance-challenged girl like me, that’s saying something. I wasn’t working full time on it, of course. I’d do a few hours a day for a few weeks in a row until I would go marginally mad, or the scabs the 5F5 brought out inside my nose would begin to hurt and bleed, and then I’d take a few weeks (or, okay, maybe sometimes a few months) off. But I kept going back, goddammit, and now it’s done. It used to look like this:

And now it looks like this:

And so help me god if the Goof-Off mars the finish I’m going to burn the house down and divorce him.

“So,” I went on, “I can probably get that at the grocery store, right?”

“Goof-Off? No.”

“But I don’t want to get it at Charles Street,” that’s the hardware store near where I work. It’s named for its address -- as in the Charles Street on Beacon Hill in Boston -- and it’s a great little hardware store. Their window displays are fabulous and they have or will happily get just about anything that you could wish for. But they charge twelve dollars for a roll of painter’s tape, and I’m on a budget here.

“So go to Lowe’s.”

“But I don’t want to have to make a second trip!”

“I don’t know what to tell you, love. They’re not going to have it at the grocery store.”

Oh what does he know? It’s not like he’s been doing this for thirty years or anything. They’ll have it at the grocery store. I bet they will.

Yeah, they don’t.

And before you waste your time, they don't have it at Job Lot either. Or CVS. I’m so glad I didn’t make that second trip to Lowe's. Wal-Mart might have had it but I knew that if I walked in there and they didn’t, my head was going to fly off of my shoulders and go spinning around the rafters like an unplugged balloon. Fine, I’ll go to fucking Blowe’s. Which means I have to drive past my house and go a mile in the other direction. But whatever. Fine. Puritan Manifesto, remember…

Huh. Turns out that Humvee that came to a complete stop in the middle of the road and left me blocking the intersection -- when I was so close to Lowe’s I could have thrown my apple core and hit it -- wasn’t just an asshole after all. Turns out the little Subaru in front of him was all smashed up and there was a man standing in the street dialing his cell phone. Maybe I shouldn’t have leaned on the car horn quite so hard. Well, if I could see anything around your stupid Bush-mobile…

Patience, Prudence...

I went to the cleaner aisle at Lowe’s and there were two guys working there. One was wearing a hearing aid (which I didn't notice until after). When I asked him if I was in the right aisle for the Goof-Off he said no, they were working very hard thank you for asking (seriously, I am not making this up). The other guy did not speak English. Actually that’s not quite fair. He spoke English fine, I’m sure. But when I asked him if he knew where the Goof-Off was he said “Goop? Up?” and looked inquiringly at Mister Hearing Aid. Finally a customer overheard and told me to look in the paint department, where I found it and took it to self-check out because I’d had all I could take of Blowey employees.

$4.70 for a small thing of Goof-Off, including tax. I don’t know if that’s good or not. It’s a pretty tiny can. Maybe tomorrow I should have a look at Charles Street and see how much they’re charging. Ooh, and while I’m still here at the register -- why does Lowe’s always need to know my phone number every time I buy anything from them? Do you think it matters that I always make one up?

So now I’m home and I’m off down cellar to get rags… And now I’m off up to the attic to get rags… And now I’m off to -- well, where else can I look? Ah, in the closet, of course. Tricky Johnny, trying to sneak the old clothes back to their rightful hoomes again.

Oh, so here’s a dilemma: if I reach into the rag bag and pull out a perfectly good and practically brand-new dishtowel that I know must have got in there by mistake, am I as bad as my pack-rat husband if I throw it in the washing machine and save it, or does it behoove me to chop it into little bits because I yell at him for salvaging old t-shirts? Talk amongst yourselves whilst I go get off the goof …

This is another project, by the way, that I realize does not exactly count as “home improvement.” Really, it -- like the rug I laundered yesterday -- should be filed under “shit I’ve been meaning to get around to doing and now I’ve simply found a way to force myself to get it done.” The truth is I don’t know why I put the damn plastic on the windows in the first place. It didn’t do diddly-squat towards lowering my heating bill. But yes, I do know. If we’re being honest here, I do. I know exactly why I did it.

I did it because my sister did.

You see, my sister, unlike me, makes good decisions. She finished grad school and she has a good job and she bought a nice house that’s old but isn’t falling down and doesn’t smell like cat pee. If she and her (also-good-job-having, blah-blah-blah) husband thought plastic on the windows was a good idea in their newly-snugly-insulated house, well, then, I’d put plastic on mine. Never mind the brandly-new refinished woodwork, never mind the damper-less (and therefore breezy) fireplace, never mind the daylight I could see through cracks in some of the walls. Just: “Do you really think it’s helping, Brother-In-Law?” “Oh, absolutely,” he replied. Fine then, sign me up!

(Oh yeah, and never mind that two weeks after I put it on we had the floors refinished and I had to take half of it off again to open the windows to let the sawdust out, and then go buy more plastic and do it all over. Sawdust that, by the way, coated the plastic on the half of the windows that I didn’t open and stayed there until I pulled the plastic off in March because apparently I finally found the one thing a wad of toilet paper and a squirt of Windex aren’t good for.)

He was right. Johnny, I mean. It worked, and it didn’t take the finish off. Phee-yew. I only got to use a half a rag though. Oh well. Maybe I’ll just soak a couple shirts in Goof-Off and throw them in the trash. Let the raccoons have a huffing party…

Day Two: Accomplished
Total time spent: Not including the four trips to four different stores looking for the Goof-Off? Exactly the length of one episode of “Entourage” on demand: 30 minutes
Total cost: $4.70
Johnny being always right about absolutely everything: Oh just fucking priceless


Courtney said...

Goof-Off is miraculous stuff, and as you noticed, a little can goes a long way.

I do have to love that you worked so hard to buy a can of something called Goof Off, however.

Sister said...

hey i gotta get me some of that goof off - the tape residue on our windows is starting to attract cat hair. not a pretty sight.

Sus said...

Would Goof off work on human skin? I tried to find Quickee to remove paint or stain from human skin. My Dad used to have a can under the sink all of the time. They apparently do not make it anymore and it worked like a charm.

EGE said...

I think it would work on your skin -- but of course I can't recommend it because it's probably toxic and I don't want to get sued!My hands felt sticky when I was done and I washed them with dish soap and they were fine. Maybe if you check the goof off website they will tell you what they think about using it on skin...