Tales from the Attic
I am a manly man. How do I know this? I kill bugs. I mow the grass. I am completely in charge of the exterior of my home. If a snake is in the back yard, it is my domain to convict the snake of being a snake and administer swift justice.
These are all common traits of a manly man.
In addition, I am the court of last resort for both my wife and children. My children appeal the seemingly arbitrary decisions of my wife to me. My wife appeals to me to let her sell the children to wandering minstrels. As Uncle Ben said in Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. I wield this power cautiously taking my cues from Jor-El from "Smallville" and Jean-Luc Piccard. Yes, I know it would be more impressive to list Thomas Hobbes and Confucius but I am what I am.
Let me digress a bit. When did Uncle Ben have the time to create his delicious rice and who inherited the fortune when Peter set out to be a wall crawling superhero? I'm curious. While we're digressing, I was out at a neighborhood picnic over the weekend and turned around to grab a pen to sign in one of my neighbors and get her a gift bag. One would think that would be a pretty harmless activity, but I ended up cutting the bejeebers out of my finger. I sought no medical attention for the cut and now it looks a bit red. Is it infected? What should I look out for? Could there be fiberglass in there? But Otter, why would there be fiberglass?? Funny you should ask.
Ok, so I have dominion over the exterior of the home and Mrs. Otter holds sway over the interior. We're a veritable Heat Miser and Snow Miser with our territorial boundaries. And yet, there is the attic.
To whom does the attic belong? It is a conundrum. I maintain that it is inside the house. On this point, there can be no disagreement. (When saying the previous line, channel Kevin Bacon's smug marine lawyer performance from 'A Few Good Men' for greater effect. Got it? Great.) Nevertheless, Mrs. Otter would argue (I suppose, I really never asked her but I'll make it up anyway) that since the attic is only accessible by ladder, it is a manly area.
And so, the attic goes unclaimed. Unloved. Unattended.
Until yesterday that is.
For an unacceptable period of time my air conditioning was an epic FAIL as far as keeping my daughters' room cool. For example:
Rest of house: 72
Girls' room: 80
How do I know this? I placed the outdoor probe of our indoor outdoor thermometer in the girls' room to keep track of how hot it was in there for my poor babies. Well, the difference was so pronounced that the thermometer kept predicting that thunderstorms were on the way.
I had two companies out to service the A/C unit. After fleecing me for services not covered by my service contract (deep duct massage, hot rock condenser therapy, Swedish freon blast) they performed recharging and cleaning and tons of other things that would certainly fix the problem.
"Yep. She's blowin' cold air now!" they would proudly pronounce.
Two things about that:
1) Why is my HVAC unit a she? Is this a ship at sea? Just curious.
2) I know damn well it's blowing cold air. It was blowing cold air when you got here. I can hang meat in the basement. It's the girl's room that's the problem.
Well, I got some well meaning ideas. You see, it's the positive pressure that builds up in the room because the door is closed for naps. If I'd just cut a nice hole in my perfectly good door and put in a grate, then the air would surely circulate better. Ok. That's an idea.
Nope. It's not the pressure. It's the insulation on those windows. you see, the girl's room has two windows which both face Southeast. You need to replace those windows or at least do a better job insulating them. That will cool it off.
No, no, no. It's the sunlight. Put up blackout shades. Keep the room completely dark all day. That will do it.
I contemplated this. I put up shades so dark that a family of bats moved in. Still, it was slightly cooler than a George Foreman grill in there.
Yesterday my wife informed me that my two year old would not nap because she was clearly too hot. With no end in sight, I mentally snapped. Surely we're not meant to live like sweating savages in 2010. I mean, God bless people who live in bedouin tribes and sleep on the sands of the Kalahari, but I live in the good ol' USA. For goodness sakes, I'm going up into the attic.
I know. This seems like a drastic step. But my primal instincts kicked in. What would I find in the attic? Bees? Aliens? Christmas decorations from previous owners of this home? Who knew, but I was going up there.
That is, if I could figure out how.
This wasn't exactly planned out. In fact I was in the middle of changing out of my work attire when I finally decided to go up there. So aside from the other things I'm about to convey to you, imagine me wearing a green t-shirt, grey boxer briefs with no pants and brown dress socks I'd yet to remove. I should probably change into jeans and throw on some work boots and proper socks since there will be fiberglass insulation up there. But that would only take up a lot of needless time. Instead, I will stop and put my dress shoes back on, sans the pants (cause it's hot after all).
Yep. This is how manly men dress to get things done.
Next issue...actually getting up there.
You see, since we've moved into this home, I have truly never been into the attic. And I do not have an indoor ladder except a two step thingy that you use to dust the top of the fridge. At least, I suppose you could use it for that. You'd have to ask my wife.
But dammit, I was gonna go up into the attic, so I took the little step stool and set it up in the bathroom on the third floor and went to open the panel in the ceiling.
It was then that I figured out that I could not reach the panel.
Now most people would have stopped there and borrowed a ladder. But I am not most people. Instead, I grabbed one of my wife's folding tables from scrap booking. As I easily hauled it up to the bathroom, she asked me where I was going. "None of your concern, woman.", I said in my mind. Out loud I said, "To the bathroom."
"You're not going to try to stand on that, are you?"
"It will only hold 20 pounds."
"Yeah? How do you know that?"
"Because on the bottom it says 'Maximum load: 20 lbs'"
"Where? I can't see that."
"Well, maybe it was on the box."
"I bet it would hold at LEAST 50 lbs."
Ok...the hilarious part is that we're debating whether the table will hold a max of 20 or 50 pounds before collapsing. As if that has any bearing at all to whether or not it will hold a 200lb man.
"Fine" I say. I am angry at her for pointing out the flimsiness of the table. If not for her, I would surely be in the attic right now, doing manly things and fixing problems.
I venture into the basement again and come back with an old table my father gave me. It's a sturdy one. I know they used to use it for bingo at the church hall or something like that. Will it hold me? We're gonna find out. I place the table in the bathroom. The table takes up nearly the entire floor space. I climb the table using the shower curtain rod as leverage.
(Note to self: Don't forget to stop at Lowes for a new shower curtain rod)
I find that the table is still not tall enough for me to climb into the attic. No problem. I will put the step stool on top of the table. At this time my wife tells me she cannot watch anymore because she is afraid for my safety. I chastise her and tell her she cannot leave the floor because if I fall, I need someone to call 911 and describe what happened. It does occur to me that if you are engaging in an activity where you feel the need to position someone to call 911, you might want to re-think doing that activity. Yet, I move onward. And upward.
I open the attic hatch. I feel like John Locke on an episode of "LOST".
I poke my head up into the attic. It looks...like an attic. I expect it to be really hot, but it's not so bad. Not so surprising considering that the duct for the girls' room is completely disconnected at the main distribution point. My attic is practically a winter wonderland. I am enraged that I have not figured this out sooner. I am elated that I know what the problem is and I don't have to cut a hole in a door or buy new windows or relieve positive pressure. I am curious as to how in the hell I am going to get the extra three feet I need to reach the point where the duct is disconnected.
I beckon to my wife for three things: duct tape, scissors and something to give me 2-3 more feet of height. She brings me the first two but comes up empty on the third.
I hop down off of my perch. (Ok, it took me about 10 minutes to get out of the bathroom. After putting up the table I basically blocked myself into the room. I couldn't crawl under it because the legs blocked me. But I'd be damned if I was gonna break down the table to get out. I'd sooner tunnel through the walls. Eventually I did a sort of pretzel move where I was, at one point, doing sort of a spin move with one leg hanging off the table and the other foot in the sink.)
After hopping down, I looked and looked for things to stand on. Phone books? Too unstable. Plus, who actually has them anymore? That's definitely a downside to the internet. You can't stand on it.
Eventually I find my stainless steel waste basket with a nice flat lid. Thin, about 30 inches tall. I take it to my step stool. It fits like a glove.
I now ascend back into the attic. I'm standing on a folding table, an aluminum step stool and a waste paper basket while carrying scissors, a flashlight and duct tape. What could possibly go wrong. I assure my wife that I'm perfectly safe since if the table gives way I can just grab a hold of one of the joists in the attic and hang there until help arrives.
Yeah. I'm sure I'd do that and not at all fall to my death impaling myself on the scissors.
I ask my wife, "Have the Darwin Awards come out for this year yet?"
We both laugh.
Thirty minutes later there is cool air flowing to the girls room. I am having a "Silkwood" shower trying to remove the fiberglass from my skin. I couldn't have felt more manly if I had just fought off a black bear, landed a 500lb marlin or driven lost for several hours declining to stop and ask for directions.
It was a good day.