I haven’t posted in a few weeks. I would like to say that it had nothing to do with me recently buying Skyrim, but that would be a lie. At least it gave me something to do while the dumbass Superbowl was on. Hell, I didn’t even know the Superbowl was coming on yesterday until someone on the street walked up to me and asked who I thought was going to win. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I didn’t know who was playing, but I digress. Kick-ass video games and intense hatred of all things sports related aside, I have been occupied with other things. One of them being revisiting my not-so-distant past.
I received an email from my ex-boss asking for a favor. It seemed a mall about 40 minutes away needed some touch-up work done on a mailbox and counter they received. It would save a shit-ton of money if I could make a trip over there rather than having to fly someone in. From the pictures, it looked like a little sanding and paint was all that was needed.
Granted, I used to be a designer, not a carpenter… but having helped in the shop, this seemed well within the realm of my capabilities. Though having missed this past season because of being in Arizona, I still had 14 seasons of experience to draw from. Plus, no longer having any income and living solely off of our savings, I jumped at the chance to put a little extra jingle in my jeans. I sent back an email saying what materials I would need and completely forgot about it – until a UPS woman showed up at my door a few weeks later.
I opened up the package and surveyed the glitter, sandpaper and various paints packaged inside. I made a few phone calls and set up a day for the touch-up. After a trip to a pathetically stocked home improvement store to pick up a brush and some nail hole filler, I was ready. The day arrived and I set out with my GPS for my 9:00 AM appointment at the mall.
Leaving Phoenix at 8:00 AM on a Wednesday was a bad idea. A trip that was supposed to take 40 minutes took closer to an hour. Once I was out of the city though, traffic slacked off. I pulled into the village-style mall and started to ask where I could find the management offices. I got lost a few times among the sprawling stores but, after calling the operations manager on my cell, he was able to guide me to where I needed to go. I sat down in an office that immediately made me self-conscious. There were marble finishes, big glass windows and fancy underlit signs. I was wearing cargo pants and a blank t-shirt, prepared for the painting that would soon be taking place. I picked up a local magazine and flipped through the pages. After about a ten minute wait, the manager walked into the lobby. He looked just like me!
Well, not a twin, but a mid to late 50s version of me. He was wearing a dress coat and slacks but had a ponytail, Wayfarer sunglasses and Chuck Taylor shoes, all identical to mine. I laughed to myself and followed him down to storage to survey the job ahead in person.
First I checked out the counter.
Still to this day I am not sure what happened here. Either a screw was too long or was countersunk a little too deeply. Either way, it was ever-so-slightly protruding through the top of the counter – not enough to impale someone’s hand, but enough to stick out like a sore thumb.
Next I examined the mailbox.
This was going to be a problem. I was told that maybe it was packed wet, which looked like it might have been the case from the email pictures. Seeing it in person reflected a different story. This sucker was gouged out. Immediately I knew I didn’t have the right materials to do this thing justice. In desperation, I asked if any of the maintenance crew had some Bondo. I was in luck – someone had some that was just a quick golf cart ride away. Maybe I could have this thing looking good after all. I was left on my own to get to work.
First I sanded the mailbox leg smooth and applied the Bondo. Upon mixing up the putty, I noticed that there was almost no hardener left in the tube and the near-empty can of resin wasn’t sealed very well the last time it was used, making it almost unworkable. I was going to have to do this just right to avoid running out.
While waiting for the Bondo to harden, I turned my attention back to the counter. I backed the screw out a little from the underside. I then took the blunt handle end of a screwdriver and stuck it in the screw hole. Having no hammer, I took a crescent wrench and hammered away at the driver to make sure that the hole was nice and concave and not protruding from the surface. I then took some nail hole filler and patched the hole. Next I took a paper towel, twisted it into a fine point, dipped it in some white paint and dabbed the patched spot, trying to blend and fade the paint outward in the process. Satisfied with the results, I called it done.
I went back to the mailbox and began to sand the Bondo. Unfortunately, the surface was still pretty rough. It was going to take another coat. I squeezed the last of the hardener out of the tube with all of my might. This was it. If this coat didn’t fill all of the gaps, it would have to be good enough. After the putty set up and another turn at sanding, the mailbox leg was looking passable.
I took a brush and put two coats of gold paint on. While the second coat was still wet, I took a handful of gold glitter (a GLOVED hand, mind you – mess with that stuff gloveless and you’ll be walking around for days sparkling like Edward Cullen) and lightly blew glitter onto the leg until the coverage matched what was already there. I went to get the manager for his approval while the paint continued to dry.
“Did you do good?” was the first question I was asked as we walked back to the storage area, with two newly introduced assistants in tow.
“I think so.” I replied, never being one to oversell my carpentry abilities. They chuckled at my lack of confidence. The manager returned with a more specific question.
“But does it look new?”
I evaded as best I could.
“It looks wet.”
On the way down, one of the assistants asked the manager if he was in North Carolina 30 or so years ago, noticing our similar appearance. Everyone laughed. These guys were easy-going, but I was afraid that was going to change if the touch-up wasn’t up to their standards.
I opened the door to storage and stepped aside. You could hear a pin drop as the three examined my work. I started to sweat. The manager took off his glasses and lowered his head close to the counter. What did he see? Did I miss a spot?
“Where is it?” he asked, his eyes giving up.
“Right here,” I lowered my head as well, “You can see it if you look at it from this angle.”
So far, so good. The first blemish had been rendered practically invisible.
They turned their attention to the mailbox. It was quiet again as they walked around it.
“You turned the bad leg around to the back and put fresh paint on one of the good legs!”
“What?” I asked, confused.
“I’m just kidding! It looks good!” he slapped me on the back and wheeled the mailbox to a back corner. I heaved a sigh of relief and told them it had been a pleasure.
After shaking their hands and bidding farewell I started the trip home.
It wasn’t exactly a triumph for carpenters, but definitely a triumph for me.