Monday, July 28, 2008

Mary Johnson

Our first experience with the previous owner of our house's do-it-yourself tendencies came within two weeks of moving in. At the closing, she said that as a single woman, she always felt safer coming home and parking in her garage if she didn't have to get out of her car to lift the garage door. She bragged that she had installed a garage door opener as a safety measure in her new home. So, one fateful day, coming home late at night, I pushed the button on the much-lauded garage door opener and watched as the garage door was pulled apart by the mechanism that was supposed to lift it. You see, in the old days garage doors were heavy, and they were designed to be lifted from below by the driver of the car. They were not designed to be pulled from above by an automatic opener. It was predictable that the door would fail. Predictable, that is, to everyone except for Mary Johnson.

"Mary Johnson" quickly became a cuss word around our house. When we operated a hole-saw on the door frame of the downstairs apartment door in order to install a deadbolt, and found that it spun helplessly when it hit the folded pages of a magazine that had been used to shim the door in place, we shook our heads and muttered, "Mary Johnson". Then the kitchen sink clogged - because it had been installed to drain uphill - which cost us hundreds of dollars to fix. My sun room painting project turned into an ordeal when I discovered that not only had the wallpaper been painted over, but the bottom 2 feet of the wall had also been plastered on top of the wallpaper. Good one, Mary Johnson. Thanks to you, I had to install wainscoting.

To be fair, the house is nearly 100 years old, so Mary Johnson may not have been the owner for all of the gimcrack do-it-yourself fix-it jobs that have ever been done to it. Life isn't fair, though, so in our minds she always gets the blame. When an outlet sent off sparks in the attic, and I opened it up to find an octopus of wires behind the faceplate, I could only curse poor "Mary Johnson", especially when I discovered that trying to simplify the wiring in that overloaded outlet affected the lights in the living room.

And so this morning, when I had a roofer over to give me an estimate for some leaks, I was quick to point out that the previous owner didn't know jack about flashing. His inspection revealed that not only did poor Mary Johnson know nothing about flashing techniques, her shingling skills were poor, too. I'm shocked. How could a woman who shims with a magazine not know how to shingle a roof? And with all her fix-it skillz didn't she ever hire anyone to do anything around the house?

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