Plywood Window Shades

As spring began to make its presence known temperatures became more bearable and an unexpected side effect arose. Now it was too hot. The sun was streaming in through my untinted windows and warming the little tiny house like an oven. The air conditioner unit was struggling to keep up with the relentless trajectory of the sun. It was running constantly and it was not “78” degrees, as i had set it, when i returned home. It hit “78” around 9 pm when the sun had gone down and the a/c unit could finally have some peace. My sister was making me curtains for the tiny house but she was also preparing for a great change and a new chapter in her life. She had a lot on her plate at the time and i knew it would be a while before she got around to making them. So i decided i needed a place holder until they arrived. I needed a temporary fix to take some stress off my seemingly fragile ac/heating unit. I stood up on a chair with my tape measure and wrote down the dimensions of each window. Then i subtracted a centimeter from each. I wrote my newly calculated measurements on a sticky note and put it in my pocket. After work the next day i stopped into home depot while i was in town and paid the “jigsaw” beast a visit. I wanted to buy enough plywood to cut 4 pieces for my 4 specifically dimensioned windows. Two were to be long skinny rectangles, one a small rectangle, and one a perfect square. Now, i’d spent enough time in home depot to get to know the regular crew there. I knew all the staff and their stories. I’m going to rename them for the purpose of telling this story to protect their privacy but here it goes: Sally is about the most butch woman you will ever meet in life. There’s not a feminine thing about her and her parents bestowed her with the most feminine name a soul could have. She knows where every single thing that store has sold in the past ten years is located, how many of them they have in stock, and how much it costs. If you have a half baked idea and you don’t know which materials you would even use to bring that idea to fruition, she is your girl. She is the one you want and the other employees will frequently tell you so, “oh i don’t have a clue. You need to ask Sally, she’d know.” Sally has helped me with 75 percent of my total home depot projects, each one a half-baked but promising idea and each time with a bemused look on her face as she directed me to the materials i needed to bring my project to life. The problem: Sally does not run the jigsaw beast in the lumber section. For that you need a lumber guy. They are never just hanging around the lumber section when you need them. They are always lost in the vortex of timbuktu. However, Terrance will gladly help you find one of them. He’s from new york. He has a thick new york accent. He wears his sleeves rolled up under his orange apron. He roams the aisles with purpose and he’s always calling, “ma’am, you need anything?” to anyone with a stationary basket. He’s always eager to help but he’s new to the store and he has no idea where anything is, except for the people. I’ve learned not to ask him where things are because we’ll be on a wild goose chase all night, but if you ask him where a lumber guy is he’ll just cup his hands to his mouth and shout in an undisguised new york accent, “hey jimmy! Where you at man?! I got a customer that needs ya!” Wherever they are in the store, the lumber guys can hear Terrance calling. Elizabeth and her daughter Martha run the paint department. Martha knows everything there is to know about glue. She rescues vintage books in need of repair and doctors them back to health. She spends hundreds of dollars on her hobby and it is basically her addiciton but she knows the chemical makeup of each paper glue they stock and she can tell you which ones are safe to use on books, which ones will change the color of the pages, and which ones will fade the ink. Elizabeth is very proud of her daughter’s expertise but also will wrestle you to the ground before she will allow you to tell Martha of an estate sale that includes books. Elizabeth is mostly the peace keeper between departments. Whenever one person is not getting along with another they each tell Elizabeth how horrible the other one is being and Elizabeth negotiates a cease fire. The two main guys i deal with in the lumber department are Evan and Graham. Evan has his hair slicked back. He smells heavily of cologn. He’s always wearing perfectly tailored clothes and expensive barely-worn work boots. He’s very popular with the ladies, of all ages. He seems to do well with the men as well as they find his confidence and swagger admirable and often tell him so. Everybody thinks Evan will go very far in life with his boyish charm, his suave looks, and his infinite wealth of cocky self-importance. Graham is a quiet man, around the same age as Evan. He mostly looks at the ground or the jigsaw machine. He mutters to himself sometimes when he’s calculating measurements. He wears old sweater vests and worn jeans. He has a beard and glasses. He is not the vibrant people-person Evan prides himself on being. To be clear, i hate Evan. He’s that guy that everybody has in their work-place team that thinks he’s beyond awesome and is just sorry that anyone ever has to deal with anyone but him. He thinks he’s God’s gift to mankind, and of course, me. On this particular day, Terrance found Graham first, much to my relief. Graham assured me he could help me cut the plywood i wanted into the sizes i needed on the jigsaw machine. Evan swooped in, cutting in between myself and Graham asking, “is this man here getting you taken care of or would you like me to help you?” It was an innocent enough question but everything the man said was dripping with slime. He was just not a good, kind soul. He fed off of the disappointment of others and he didn’t rest until people like jimmy or graham knew he was better at everything than they were. I told him i was being helped and i was fine. Graham said he was pretty sure i could get all the pieces i needed out of two sheets of plywood. I said, “Really?” It didn’t seem probable since i needed differently sized smaller ones. I figured it would take 3 pieces. Graham spent forever and a day measuring and remeasuring the pieces until i’d lost track of which one we were cutting. When it was all said and done i thanked him and took my plywood to the register. I paid and carted my wood out to the parking lot. However, when i was loading the wood into the trunk i noticed that both little pieces were rectangular. I needed one piece to be a perfect square, as that was the shape of the window. I turned around and headed back into the store. Evan was waiting for me at the door. “What’s a matter. Unsatisfied with the purchase? Can i help?” He seemed super eager to be of assistance, and i did need assistance, but i knew if i told Evan Graham had measured wrong the poor man would never hear the end of it. It was best to find Graham. I told him i just needed to ask Graham a question. Evan said, “Graham’s with a customer right now. Can i help you?” At this point the cashier saw me with my piece of wood and began yelling, “Ma’am, ma’am, you can’t come back in here with that without a sticker. Ma’am! People will think you need to pay for it again. You have to go to the other side of the store at the customer service desk and get a sticker. Ma’am…”. Now i was getting pissed. This had seemed like such a straight forward venture and somehow an hour of my life had already gone by. Now there was a lady yelling at me about a sticker. Evan seemed willing to help so i let him, “Both smaller pieces are a rectangle but i need one of the smaller pieces to be a square…these dimensions on this sticky note…they’re for my windows.” Evan smirked, “so, let me get this straight. You wrote down the exact dimensions for him and he still messed it up? Unbelievable.” He motioned for Elizabeth to come over, “hey Elizabeth. You’re not going to believe this. This young lady gave him the exact dimensions to cut the wood on the jigsaw machine and jr here still messed it up.” Graham could hear him now. The whole store could hear him. He was delighted to have something to make a fuss about. Graham left his customer and walked over to where i stood, ears turning red and jaw set. He asked what the problem was. I told him about the square piece. Evan volunteered the information, “Dude, how did you think that was going to fit in two sheets of plywood? Anyone with real know-how would have told her she needed at least 3 sheets.” Elizabeth stepped in, pulling Evan by the arm, “okay, okay, it looks like Graham has got this. Why don’t you go help Terrance. See if he needs a spotter with the fork lift.” Evan said one last thing as he walked off to find Terrance, “you should have let me help you. I would have made sure you were taken care of.” I left out some things, like the half hour Evan spent making fun of Graham’s safety goggles and how they didn’t match his worn-out clothes. He was just a slimy guy and in that moment i felt sorry for Graham that i had said anything about the improperly cut wood because i’d worked with “that guy” at just about every job i’d ever had. There’s always one. And i shouldn’t have given him any ammo to run with. Graham silently recut my piece of wood, paid for the whole new sheet of plywood out of his own pocket, and let me keep the scraps left over. He made sure the cashier gave me a sticker so i could walk out with both pieces and told me with a pinched and serious face that he was sorry about the mix up and hoped i had a good day. I left feeling helpless to change the outcome of the social scene at home depot. I should have told Evan off when he was making fun of Graham’s clothes. He was such a jerk. I thought about all the times i’d gone home and drowned my sorrows in cheap white wine and vegan peanut butter chocolate ice cream following a social bullying from my version of “evan” in a work-place. I said a little prayer to God to take him down a notch but i was pretty sure that was not what prayer was for nor how it was supposed to work. When i got my plywood home i put each one in its place in the windows. They fit perfectly lying on the window sill and leaned against the windows. They lowered the temperature by ten degrees in the tiny house when i tried them out the next day. It made the tiny house look like it was inhabited by squatters and boarded up by bankrupt people but it was very effective. I had sprung for the thick plywood for just this purpose. The plywood pieces stayed up in the windows all through spring and half of summer. It would be a long time before the curtains arrived and i was glad for my temporary plan B.

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