Monday, September 2, 2013

Various menaces to manhood

File this one under the "marital tensions" heading.

Aimee has determined that the bathroom in the new extension should be a considerable improvement in both style and functionality over our old one. This is fine by me as far as it goes. The old bathroom is so pokey that I tend to take my clothes off in the hallway before taking a shower -- because in the hallway I can take my clothes off without hitting walls, ceilings or other fixtures with my flailing arms and legs.

The difficulty with the new bathroom is less in the concept, more in the execution. Although RAF engine bashers were often called, disparagingly, "plumbers," my plumbing skills are still in the development stage. The plumbing in the Bale House was so bad, a leak once ruined a whole bookshelf full of Aimee's precious books, mostly college textbooks and notebooks from her undergraduate and master's degrees.

That event is high on the long marital list of Things That Have Not Been Forgiven.

So it was with some trepidation that I stood on the sidelines while Aimee used masking tape to set out shapes on the new bathroom floor for all the bathroom furniture, and then went on to lay out what for me seemed like a very complex design for a custom tiled shower stall. 

After all, you can just get a plastic shower stall that does the same thing for a third of the price in a flat pack, right?

But ours is not to reason why.

She even made a sketch. That's never happened before in nearly ten years of marriage. In every other instance where we've built something together, I've made a sketch and she has gotten frustrated with me for making her pore over said sketch. 

She says that it's hard for her to understand how the final design will look from the sketch.

I do this sketchwork deliberately, of course, because after long and hard experience I've learned that you need to sketch out designs before you build them so you can see how all the parts fit together. But Aimee, like many women, apparently, has a hard time with dimensions and coordination of objects at this imaginary level. My efforts to figure out how things go together are not always appreciated.

So, as a result of all this marital history, I was very interested in a theoretical sort of way as to how this sketch and associated shower design would work out in reality. Would the sketched design actually function, or would there be that kind of built in-contradiction, where, say, the outside of a sketched wall's dimension is three inches longer than the inside?

I also worried about my own ability to carry out the design to a finished shower stall. Although Aimee has promised that she will do the tiling, the substrate that the tile will stick to has to be shaped more or less perfectly so everything will drain well and thoroughly reinforced to prevent cracking, while the plumbing must also be perfect since it will disappear behind a tiled wall, presumably never to be seen again in my lifetime.

With all this in mind, we managed to find time Tuesday for a midweek joint trip to the hardware store, another fairly rare eventuality. I prepped for this visitation by poring over online videos and downloaded instructions for fabricating custom tiled shower stalls.

At the hardware store we checked off my list of requirements and double-checked it. Back home, once the long holiday weekend came about, I started to frame in the shower stall area.

Almost immediately we discovered some difficulties with the sketch. The main problem was with the dimensions of a tiled seat Aimee wanted framed into the shower stall, essentially a ledge on one side of the design. That seat's dimensions couldn't be reconciled with those of the rest of the stall. Either a) the outside dimension of the stall was either three-and-a-half inches shorter than it needed to be to accommodate the seat, or b) the seat would make the inside shower three-and-a-half inches smaller than planned, too pokey by far, while the planned glass shower door would no longer fit "right out of the box." 

There were no logical alternatives that I could see.

OK, then. Now what? I called Aimee in to my work area for a difficult marital conference. 

The upshot, of course, was that it ended up somehow being my fault. And thinking about it, I'm not sure why I expected otherwise. Indeed, my dad warned me about such things when I was a whippersnapper. Even so, we did get a rough kind of progress. Now that we had provided quite satisfying scientific evidence for Doctor Ayala's theory, the seat idea was abandoned, making the remainder of the job a good deal more simple.

Because all our plumbing will need to be inspected before it is covered up, I roughed in some pipes for the other utilities, those for the laundry machine, the toilet flush, and some stubs that will eventually lead to the vanity. All began in the same corner where, nearly a month ago now, I'd already roughed in the on-demand hot water heater.

Then I fitted the internal parts of the shower fixture.

Finally, and it took a lot longer to do than it does to write about it, I framed in the shower to the new, properly field-tested dimensions, and then used mortar to build up a slope from the outside of the square to the drain hole in the center.

All this took most of Saturday and all of Sunday, and required a total of three trips to the hardware store with a fourth planned for today or later in the work week. I hope to finish the rough work today as far as I can before a plumbing inspection is required. I'm including the sewer and drains in my schedule of work because I don't want to keep asking the inspector back again and again.

While all this was happening, Aimee was studying up on territorial aggression in dogs.


This, because our otherwise well-behaved English Shepherd dog Ernie, pictured looking suitably sheepish, bites anyone who comes up to the house. 

This is, as far as I'm concerned, an admirable trait. Presumably Ernie would bite any thief or home invader with equal alacrity and magnanimity as he employs for potential friends, house-sitters and hapless neighbors looking to purchase eggs. I'm looking forward to the day when someone tries to steal from us or tries to invade our home. Bring it on!

But Aimee seems worried. Ernie, so far, has racked up quite a scorecard. He's bitten one house-sitter, one visiting friend, and one egg-buyer. Only one of these events required first aid, although there was the small additional expense of a new pair of pants. 

The biting of the house-sitter and the friend were far more upsetting to us than the egg-buyer, a stranger who was silly enough to climb over a fence that was otherwise between him and the dogs, who to their credit gave him fair warning, barking madly on the other side. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

If I were him, I'd have stayed on the other side of the fence, but he was, apparently, braver and/or more foolish than that.

Or, more charitably, he really, really wanted those eggs. 

And they are quite nice for Sunday breakfast.

I'm not sure that Aimee's research will help Ernie with his toothy difficulty. More than likely, once a biter, always a biter. And, biting aside, we like him far too much to get rid of him. He's the first shepherd dog we've had that really can herd sheep. I expect too that if a coyote or bad neighbor dog went after our sheep, Ernie would give him what-for. He's just going to have to stay on the porch whenever we have guests, while we might need to put up a "beware of the dog" sign to discourage fence-climbing egg buyers.

I hope those eggs were worth it.

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