Pliable v Stubborn

Dearest Rachel –

Every day, there is a new member of the team to meet and deal with. The last couple of days have been spent dealing with the plumbing, first in the kitchen, then in the laundry room. Today, I’ve met with the electrician.

His news isn’t particularly promising, but these are things that need to be done. While Mike and Tim were reasonably impressed by the durability and layout of the piping and wiring in the utility room, Tom the Electrician (which makes him sound like some sort of made man in the mafia – Tim the Carpenter, Joe the Plumber, Tom the Electrician – you never feel completely comfortable around someone with “the” as their middle name) is clearly less impressed. Oh, the durability is fine, but as long as we’re updating the kitchen in particular, we’re going to need to bring the circuit box up to code; which is especially problematic, since the folks that made ours have long since gone out of business. Plus, there’s a tank-like object (which looks like something you’d attach a balloon to in order to fill it with helium) sitting literally right in front of the circuit box. According to Tom, the inspector is not going to approve of that.

Indeed, there is a laundry list of things that need to be done for this job to pass inspection, it would seem. Tom has offered a few options that run the gamut between virtually jerry-rigging to full-out repiping (and yes, it would seem that the wires generally tend to be encased in pipes these days in order to avoid exposure to elements or curious critters – both of the animal and human species). The latter, he acknowledges, will run a few grand more, which is why he brings it up in the first place; not all clients are able or willing to pay for the top-of-the-line upgrades, after all.

But I think I’m tired of the fact that so much about this house was assembled by the lowest bidder. Yes, we got the most house for the least money, just like the original owners intended, but there’s no reason to cheap out now. The cabinetry I’m having put in is quality stuff, and there’s no point in skimping now when it comes to ensuring that the behind-the-scenes stuff is up to code. Besides, the difference is negligible in comparison to what I’ve already committed to spend on this project (and as I’ve said so many time before, our investments go up or down by larger amounts in the course of a sufficiently volatile month than I’m spending here), so what’s a few grand? Best to make sure everything’s shipshape, as opposed to getting everything done, only to have the inspector look it all over and say, “nuh-uh, you gotta fix this, this and this beforehand.”

So anyway, I’m deferring to Tom as the expert; he knows what needs to be done.

The question remains, though, as to whether I might be a little too pliable regarding his suggestions. One of the other matters he brought to my attention was the lighting layout in the kitchen. It seems that, somewhere along the way, the ceiling fan was removed from the picture. I have a sneaking suspicion that this would not have pleased you, but, of course, that’s something of a moot point. When I asked him about it, he made a few points that I found myself agreeing with. First of all, ceiling fans are apparently out of style – in his words, “they’re so 80’s.” Now understand, I’m not about to go along with him on the strength of this reasoning; houses aren’t wardrobes, where you can swap things out with the latest fashion trends. Really, who does that?

Okay, aside from my folks; and bear in mind, their kitchen could be considered a living showcase of the stuff Dad sold back in the day. It would actually make sense for them to keep up with the latest looks, just to have a usable example of what the company he represented could put out. But as a general rule, one chooses one’s layout, and sticks with it. Heck, sometimes folks just live with what they’re dealt, like we have until now. Talk about out of style, what do you say of the pink steel and wood veneer we were left with?

But his next arguments made a little more sense. He pointed out that, since they would already be installing can lights (really, from what he showed me, they’re more like wafers, they’re so thin. Not that Mr. Creasote ought to be eating them, but still), the fan would block the light even when it wasn’t in operation. And when it would be running, well… he described it as a ‘disco-ball effect.’ Yeah, I can dig that.

He also pointed out that the real star of the kitchen was the brand-new cabinets and appliances we’ll be installing. The lights are supposed to call attention to these things, rather than to themselves. Obviously, a ceiling fan would serve as a focal point in its own right, when there is so much else to draw one’s eye that, in his opinion, would be more worthy of the attention. It’s a fair point, and I’d be willing to go along with this new setup. Like I said, I’m that pliable.

The thing is, I didn’t think that this would sit well with Daniel. After all, he has always been fascinated by lights, even if they were supposed to blend into the background. Tom’s third argument would most likely be absolutely dismissed as irrelevant; lights, to Daniel, are a focal point by their very nature, and should be treated as such. So, I knew I had to get him into this conversation, and let him have his say. Like you, he has that stubborn streak, especially when it comes to when he wants something a certain way. Ask him about what to have for dinner, and it’s like pulling teeth to get anything more than a ‘meh’ out of him. Take away his ceiling fan, though, and you’ll have a fight on your hands, even if it’s a room he rarely ventures into.

I sometimes wonder if I’m being too soft with him about these sorts of things, allowing him to have veto power over the layout of the place. But after all, he’s going to call that house ‘home’ that much longer than I ever will (I hope); it should look the way he wants it to, since it’s going to be ‘his’ home, even after I’m gone, I shouldn’t wonder.

For the most part, however, I haven’t involved him in many of the design choices, after all. But in my defense, it isn’t as if I haven’t offered to bring him into the decision making process; he’s just never wanted to have any part in it up until now. The folks even observed that, the other day (when I presume we were over for dinner), he expressed dismay over some aspect of the remodeling process, I apparently pointed out that he could have had more of a say in things, but he refused to get involved. They seemed to approve of my approach; gentle, yet reproving.

And it may have borne fruit. After bringing him into the conversation with Tom, he seemed to grudgingly accept the wafer lights (“at least they can be replaced,” he murmured, despite the fact that they’re evidently built to last beyond my lifetime, and most likely well into his), but he’s made it clear on his own to Tom that he wants a ceiling fan in the kitchen (and to Tom’s credit, even when I was talking to him on my own, and expressed surprise about the exclusion, he made it clear that “it’s your house, you can do what you want with it,” basically stating that he could easily – especially at this early stage in the process – rearrange the wafer lights to make room for the fan), and promptly went off to research available styles that would blend in with the greyscale décor that I’ve assembled. It wasn’t even noon when he texted me a couple of catalog items for my approval – which I sent back to him, because he was looking at a couple of enormous 52-inch bladed monsters. You should remember how small our kitchen is; that would be just too much. Fortunately, he had a frame of reference to work with in the form of the fan we currently have (which is practically the last thing left in that room at this point), and promptly came back with similar options in a more reasonable 42-inch size.

I want to point out that I’m proud of him for having the team measure our current fan in order to understand the size he needed to be look at. You know how much he’d rather not talk to strangers, even helpful ones. But if he’s going to advocate for what he wants, he needs to learn to speak up for himself, and I think this is a step in the right direction. I’m going to be proud to have that ceiling fan – disco lighting and all – if only for the fact that it represents him standing up for what he wants to see there.

And I would like to hope you’d proud of him too. Probably more so, since that’s your stubbornness he’s exhibiting, isn’t it?

Until next time, honey, keep an eye out for us, and wish us luck. We’re going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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