Thursday, October 20, 2011

Murphy's Law...

I know I have explained why I have (lovingly, I swear!) named my mountain cabin "Murphy's Cabin" -- but perhaps it is time to give a refresher on the name. After all, the cabin itself just did for me!

Murphy's Law (see here) is a famous saying that has existed in one form or another since the late 1800s. Its most famous version, which can be pinpointed to 1952, is: "Anything that can go wrong, will." 

Obviously it is not exactly a good situation to be in, if one hears someone say that adage. Or at least one would think not.

Yet I do swear (up, down, sidewise) that I do call my cabin this in a very loving way. Somehow, my experiences here have been for the best. Despite the fact that everything that could possible go wrong at the cabin, has, and continues to do so.

But that is the thing: not being too big to fail -- as after all, I have failed repeatedly in the past year --  has taught me quite a bit about myself. So the failures of the cabin, the failures of myself, have been a great opportunity. It has been an opportunity to learn more about what I am capable of, about what I can learn (and what I cannot), about how one truly lives life, and does not just float through it. For there is no possible way to float through life when one lives in a remote mountain cabin.

Unfortunately. Because I gotta admit, the idea of living on easy street, and having some one feed me bonbons and ice cream while waving a pond frond (or whatever the hell they were) for a breeze sounds pretty damn good.  Ah... Good times.

But I digress. As usual.

What I am actually talking about is not the good times, not easy street, but instead how to respond to the difficult times. This is not some profound piece about the bad economic times our nation and the world are facing right now, nor even some smaller profound piece about dealing with one's personal crisis during this recession. No, this is simply about Murphy's Law.

From day one, the cabin has been a text book case of Murphy's Law. Frankly, I think if you picked up a dictionary, you would see a picture of the cabin next to this entry. As has been detailed previously, even an abbreviated list is long:
septic tank, well system, snow,  filtering system, furnace, storage tents, roof, snow, deck, hot tub, bathroom toilet vent, snow, trees, wildfire, and did I mention the snow?
Basically, I had thought that by the time summer ended this year, and my first year of ownership had drawn to a close, that I had replaced virtually everything at the cabin that could possibly be replaced.

But that is the thing about Murphy's Law -- it does not magically end or not apply. As it very clearly points out, there is lots and lots and lots (and lots!) that can go wrong.

So um.... you would think I would have figured that out by now. I am the one who nicknamed the cabin "Murphy" after all. And I swear I am not all hat and no cattle. I swear.

Really. It is not just a hat rack. Really.

And yet.

And yet this fall I was starting to get comfortable. Starting to think I had a handle on the cabin -- and especially on the expenses going forward.

And there was the problem. Never ever assume anything. As they say, when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me. One should never do that. Just as one should never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.  


Or something like that.


So here I was, getting a bit smug about how set I was, how ready I was for winter. And then I go downstairs to the unfinished basement to do my bi-monthly filter work (either changing or washing the filters in the complicated filtering system), and I found liquid dropping on my head. 


My first thought is, what the hell is leaking in the living room? I don't have plumbing there -- what the hell did the dogs spill.

(Umm, yeah, that thing about not just being a hat rack? Ummmmm.)



Oh, and did I mention I have no tools? That's an entirely different long story right now, but suffice it to say the only -- and I mean only tools I have right now are in cute little pink tool set I got for free when I did a magazine subscription around 10 years ago now.


Yes, I did say pink. 


So I look at these two drips falling from the floor beam above my head and think, crap. And then say it a few more times for good measure -- because if something is going wrong, one cannot say crap enough times.


In fact, let me amend that by telling you a little story. I grew up with a mother whose absolute favorite word was "Shit". Truly. 

To the extent that in our guest half bath on the main floor -- the one that Senators, Congressmen, Supreme Court Judges and Ambassadors used when attending dinner parties at my house used -- had a lovely poster of a huge locomotive having gone off a destroyed bridge and hanging into the abyss, with a one word description: "SHIT!"

To the extent that when I attended a very small dinner party at the White House as my mother's guest (my father was out of town) she used it in conversation there. Oh, it gets better. This is when George W. Bush was president, and shortly after he had gotten in trouble by having a microphone catching him saying "shit". This is when my mother was already seriously ill with cancer, so looked radiant, but thin and with a bright scarf covering her bald head. We were being introduced to the President and his wife, with the outgoing Catholic Archbishop of the Diocese of Washington and the incoming Archbishop next to them, and my mother grasped the President's hand and said: "You know, I thought it was an excellent choice of words. Sometimes the situation does not call for anything else." The President looked startled and laughed, and said, "Well my mother certainly did not approve." And my mother replied, "Well, this mother certainly did!"


So yes, I have been brought up in a firm tradition of expressing one's self. Loudly if possible, but appropriately. As there are "rules" for swearing -- but that is another blog post.


Back to the leaks: I couldn't manage to tear down the plywood nailed up to the beams, but was able to shove the insulation around enough to discover that my heating system had a leak or two. The cabin has radiant in-floor heating -- this means lots of tubes snaking around the floors carrying a heated liquid that is a mixture of water and gylcol. And one of those tubes was clearly punctured, and dripping this water-gylcol mixture all over my head.


Shit.


This is when you have several choices:
a) Cry
b) Pour a drink
c) Call for help
d) Proceed with what you were doing
e) All of the above


The correct answer is (e) of course. But not necessarily in that order.  In fact, for me it was: a, c, d, c, a, b.  If you can follow that!


My regular plumber was unfortunately MIA. My general contractor from my other renovation was not. Thankfully, once again he proved to be the White Knight -- not only recommending an excellent plumber, but also calling the plumber himself to let him know the issue and to expect my call.


So perhaps I should point out that "A" with a Capital for buying a remote place? Find a few really really good workers who you can not only trust to do great work, but can call in emergencies. I have been blessed with a few, and especially with this aforementioned GC, who is my hero from SO many occasions... 


And, most importantly, his help meant that yes, "b" could finally take place. Which is why a White Knight is so important.... they enable your drinking. 

Of course, the plumber could not come till Monday. And of course, when I finally heard from him Sunday morning he asked the most obvious of simple questions: did you put buckets under the leaks to recapture all the gylcol leaking out?

Really. I swear it is more than a hat rack. Really. 


<sigh>


Then Monday happened. If there were a sound track to my life -- and I really really wish there were one, as foreboding music could really help me avoid a few of these problems and mistakes, I'm sure of it -- this would be where the foreboding music would start. The slow, drum-beating kind. 

As, of course!, I woke up Monday to snow. And not just any snow, but 2 inches on the ground by the time I got out of bed, and then double-digit winds making visibility virtually nonexistent. Great. Not only do I not -- repeat NOT ... any one up there listening? -- want winter yet, but how the hell is the plumber going to make it down my steep drive in this storm?


Lucky for me, mountain folk are used to this sort of thing -- and he simply parked at the top of my drive, and walked down. I then served as go-fer and ferry driver, ensuring he could get back and forth to his truck, and therefore his tools and supplies, as needed throughout the process.


I won't bore you with the details -- and once I can download the photographs from my camera, I will enlighten you with the pictorial details -- but suffice it to say that the task was of course not easy, and in fact one of the more difficult ones the plumber said he had dealt with. I ended up having to move all the furniture in the living room above around, pulling up sections of carpet, and tearing out tack strips and the damn nails responsible. 


Thank you to those who installed the carpet and used nails that pierced the sub-floor and were able to hit the flooring tubes. Because yeah, why bother thinking that through if there's radiant in-floor heating....


~ sigh ~

But, three hours and several hundred dollars
later, I had a repaired heating tube. 


The lessons I learned?

Never ever EVER bet against a Sicilian when death is on the line, my mother was right: say Shit often and always, and always ensure your bourbon bottle is full.

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