Sunday, March 15 2020

drag racing, windshield wipers, and alex's painting tips



Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Hope you’re still having a relaxing, family-centered weekend amidst the end of the world. Rodney and I let Marissa sleep in a bit, finishing up some yogurt, bananas, and toast at the breakfast table. In about an hour from now once everyone is ready for the day, we’ll crash on the couch for remote church and coffee. It’s a nice morning.

Despite the pandemic, we’re still hustling on the Recker family project board. We had a tough time bouncing back after moving back into our house. Whether we underestimated the amount of work it would take to move everything back, or overestimated how much energy we’d have after living in an AirBnB for a week, we didn’t get anything done.

Working off the theory that our family’s focus was split between too many objectives - unpacking our stuff from the basement, cleaning our old fish tank, preparing Miles’ room, and renovating the basement to become Marissa’s art studio - we decided to focus on one thing this week. Today, we have only one card remaining in the “WIP” column, all the others stacked neatly in the “DONE” column. It’s been a good week, project wise.

Yesterday, I took a project card for swapping out our windshield wipers. This card has been bouncing around in our miscellaneous deck for a while, and proved to be more difficult than I expected. Marissa grabbed the unopened replacement wipers from the basement. I brushed the dust off and ripped open the plastic, unfurling the instructions onto the dining room table.

“Look at this thing,” I griped. “It looks like the instructions for assembling a freakin’ space ship.” I growled, scanning over the tiny paneled instructions. “I’ll just wing it,” I said, wadding up the instructions and heading outside.

After wrestling with the wipers in the driveway for ten minutes, I snapped the new pair over my knee and flung them into the garbage can. This was partly because I was pretty sure they were the wrong size for our car, but also because I was frustrated. “I’ll swing by Auto Zone while getting groceries, and I’m not leaving until these are fixed,” I said to Marissa while grabbing my keys.

My first stop was Home Depot. Later that evening, Marissa and I would set out to paint a section of the basement ceiling, and we needed more rollers. I dumped the paint rollers onto the checkout counter, and took a step back to quietly sip on coffee.

“Are you a professional painter?” asked the employee. As my mouth was filled with coffee, I only had time to shake my head no.

“Well you are now!” he laughed. I sheepishly smiled. That didn’t make sense, I thought. Why couldn’t he just say something normal to me, like ‘How is your day going?’. Marissa often complains about the invasive and nosy small talk she receives from the employees at Home Depot, and I’m starting to think she’s onto something. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now - it’s never OK to comment on what I’m buying unless I invite you into it. If I was buying a pack of briefs, would he have asked me if I was a professional underwear model?

I pulled out of Home Depot, then made my way further down the road to the Auto Zone. The Auto Zone on East Wash is one of the sketchier repair shops. I could have gone elsewhere, but Marissa and I have had a working theory that the Auto Zone hosts drag racing at night, and I wanted to do some field research.

“It definitely doesn’t feel like an Auto Zone, right?” laughed Marissa later that night. “There’s always random people walking into the back room.”

“Yeah,” I laughed. “And there are signs all over the parking lot about loitering. I think we’re onto something.”

I walked into the store and found the windshield wipers. “So it’s not as straightforward as I thought,” I said to Marissa with the phone to my ear. “You should see this, there’s like a phone book here where you have to cross check the make, model, and year of your car with the right brand and part number.

First, I found the rear wipers. “CRV… 2008… DURALAST… R26,” I muttered aloud. I found the part, then ripped it out of the plastic to compare it with the one I ripped from the back of our car. It was a dead ringer. Feeling more confident, I followed the same process for finding the remaining two wipers.

Moments later, I threw everything onto the parking lot pavement and got to work. The rear wiper snapped into place and swung smoothly against the back window. So far so good. The front two wipers also snapped into place, but the driver side wiper was raised off the windshield by a half inch. It failed the wipe test, missing the entire windshield. I reluctantly stuffed it back into the box walked back inside to exchange it for another.

“Yeah,” droned the employee. “Sometimes you just gotta try a different brand. They’re like… designed differently or something. I bet this will work,” he said handing me the new set.

I hate cars, I thought as I flashed a quick smile and headed back out into the parking lot. The second replacement wiper worked, and I happily peeled out of the Auto Zone parking lot.

My last stop before returning home was the grocery store. Hy-Vee was already looking and feeling a lot more normal. While toilet paper and hand sanitizer is still completely bought out, most of the food had been replaced. I picked up some chicken, celery, carrots, onions, and chicken broth.

Back at home, I started preparing chicken noodle soup while Marissa and Rodney slept. I wrestled with the half frozen chicken thighs. Using my knife to peel the tiny pieces of flesh off the bone, I felt like some kind of frontiersmen cleaning a rabbit carcass for the fire. But as it was all getting dumped into a soup pot anyway, I wasn’t too concerned about the little ice chunks in the meat.

We ate dinner, and after putting Rodney to bed, Marissa and I headed downstairs into the basement. She handed me a paint roller.

“Just want to set clear expectations,” I opened. “I’m very bad at painting. The level of quality you can expect from me is probably the same you’d expect for… painting a sign for a high school pep rally.”

The weird analogy made Marissa smile. “That’s perfect. It’s just the ceiling, you can literally just throw it up there if you want,” she replied.

The longer we painted, the sillier things got. I started vocalizing a pretend Alex’s Painting Tips program. Here are some worthy sound bytes.

Welcome to Alex’s painting tips, here’s a tip! It doesn’t matter how often you switch arms, sooner or later your whole body will burn.

Welcome to Alex’s painting tips, here’s a free tip about avoiding big paint drops from the ceiling. You cannot avoid them, but at least they won’t drip forever!

That one came out of me when a fat drop of white paint hit me in the face, just missing my eye.

Welcome to Alex’s painting tips - how do you avoid spider webs? You can’t, just grab your favorite spider brush and roll through them and hope for the best. It’s their basement too, you know!

Later in the evening, as I was struggling to prop up my shaky arm to reach the far end of the ceiling, something compelled me to start singing Deliver Us from the Prince of Egypt sound track. Marissa laughed and then together, we broke into song. “I bet the two of us could sing that whole movie,” I laughed.

“I guess that’s going to be my movie pick tonight,” said Marissa.

The basement ceiling looked pretty good. Marissa was following behind me with a smaller brush to get the spots I missed. “I’m actually kind of impressed, this looks really good,” I said before heading upstairs. We watched Prince of Egypt on the couch with drinks and snacks before turning in for the night.

Thanks for stopping by this Sunday. Hope you have a great rest of the weekend.