Sunday, December 04, 2005


In Which I Finally Crack...

I should have seen it coming.

I began my Saturday morning as I do any morning in which I have a construction project planned: I put on the Weather Channel.

My Dad is a devout minister of the Church of the Weather Channel. Not only does he have it on in the background of his life pretty much all the time, he has also evidenced stigmata (physical signs--specifically a twingy arthritic shoulder and a bum knee--have both accurately predicted the coming of bad weather).

There is even evidence to suggest he has performed miracles. Bear witness: He is as clueless about the function and operation of a home computer as Shamu the Whale is about operating a manual transmission. Yet, when my brother brought a PC home, by God the first time Dad laid his callused hands upon the keyboard, he figured out how to download and install the little app that constantly updates your local weather on-screen. He has yet to figure out how to do anything else, such as read emails or view images of his grandchildren, but by God he can get current barometric readings and the 5-day forecast.

Of course, living in New Hampshire as he does and spending so much of his time outdoors at job sites, it's only natural for him to be an ultra-orthodox Weatherite.

Not me, though. I am like those people whose relation to church is more or less the same as their relation to cranberry sauce at the Thanksgiving buffet: you don't really partake of it, but somehow you're compelled to have it on the table anyway.

And on this occasion, it was the day to put in my new basement window and I thought getting a forecast would be a wise measure. The weather in our area was calling for snow changing to light rain by noon. Not the best conditions for installing a window, but things aren't getting warmer and no way was I going to wait til spring to put this in. You know how my life is, you know I have two kids. Oh, forget the kids; you know ME: What are the odds of a 5-by-3 window remaining intact for three months just sitting around in my garage?


So I sipped my coffee and waited for the little wisps of snow outside to change to rain.

Here's what "snow changing to light rain by noon" looked like in my neck of the woods.


But I was determined. The window had been in the garage so that it could be roughly the same temperature as the outdoors--didn't want to go taking a window from a warm house to the middle of a snow squall. The temperature shift might crack the window (I know, I know, it's dual-pane tempered glass, but I've seen enough Laurel and Hardy and Three Stooges shorts to know that fate insists that windows and mirrors must break while being installed and I wasn't taking any chances).

As you can see from the image above, I had it laid balanced upon a large, cushioned piece of plywood upon a wagon, which Her Lovely Self and I slowly pushed through the snow to the basement window.

This is the part where long-time readers wait for the usual Magazine Man punchline, the moment where it all goes to hell, handbasket-style. The special window I order turns out not to fit. Or the moment Her Lovely Self leaves me, the window somehow topples over on me, trapping me frozen and squirming in three inches of snow-changing-to-light-rain. Or, most predictable of all, in the midst of hammering the finish nails through the frame, the hammer slips out of my hand and goes winging through one of the brand-new panes of glass.

Well, none of it happened. So there.

The rest of the installation process was an exercise in anti-climax. Despite the slippery conditions, HLS and I lifted the window off the wagon and it slid into the opening with the perfection of a puzzle piece. I had to tap in only two shims to make the thing level, then bent the flashing down over the top of the brick mold, put my nails in all the right places and bang, new window.

Light filled the basement once again as I inspected things from the inside. I would have to insulate and caulk around the frame, of course, but with the light rain continuing to be white and fluffy and now accumulating on the ground, I thought it better to wait til things warmed up--and the Weather Channel said it would be warmer on Sunday. So, I simply contented myself with checking to make sure the windows themselves were plumb level, then installed the hardware, cranked each window open and closed to make sure the mechanisms worked and that was that.

So, can anyone out there tell me why, when I awoke this morning and went to check my window I discovered THIS ENORMOUS FUCKING Y-SHAPED CRACK IN ONE OF THE INSIDE PANES?


The noise that came out of my mouth then was a high-pitched "Awk!" A strangled cry of disbelief and frustration and effort gone to waste. I remember as a kid when my mom had a summer-long hair across her ass about getting me and my brother to clean our rooms and make our beds. Especially make our beds. It was a pain because the beds were flush against the wall on one side and it was hard to tuck the sheets and the blanket down smooth between the wall and the bed. It was hard work for a 6 year-old, is what I'm saying. And while my mom never bounced a quarter on the bed, if she thought it was too wrinkled, she would rip everything--pillows, blankets, sheets, mattress pad, all of it--onto the floor and make us start again. The sound that came out of my mouth when she did that was the sound coming out of my mouth now.

It's not often I call my Dad on a Sunday morning, devout, church-going Weatherite that he is, but he was willing to pull himself away from the TV to walk through my problem with me. It was like being on some kind of blue-collar tech support line.

"You square up the window fore you opened it?" he asked. "If the frame weren't square, opening and closing the window would push pressure on the glass and crack it."

"I checked all four sides of both windows and the window frame itself. Everything was square and plumb."

"You shim it?"

"Just on the one side like we talked about. Tapped em in very lightly. That was on the other side of the frame anyway. That's what squared it up."

"Ayuh. Thought as much. Anyway, if it weren't square, both panes in the window woulda cracked, not just the one."

"Should I have waited for it to get warmer?"

"Temperature shouldn't a mattered. That's goddamn tempered glass. Not much point in having a window if you can't open and close it year round without getting a crack bigger'n the one on your Aunt Marjorie's ass."


"Well, hell, I think you and I both know the answer. Faulty parts. Glass is glass. Probably had a flaw in it and it just split over night. Try getting the building supply store to own up to it, though."

Anyone else's dad would have intended that last remark as a cynical one and laughed then. But not my dad. He knows me too well. And he knows I'm going to get my cracked glass replaced. For free. I'm calling the store when they open at 5:30 Monday morning. At the crack of dawn you might say.

Meanwhile, Her Lovely Self acted less like a tech support person and more like the district attorney for the home improvement industry.

"You're sure you did everything the way you supposed to?"

"Honey, you were there. The window fit right in the space like a square peg in a...square hole."

"And where were you when it actually cracked?"

"Uh, with you. In bed. Asleep. Honey, it cracked in the middle of the night."

"I know but afterwards, in the morning, are you sure you didn't...?"


"Well, bump it with a hammer or something?"

"Right. Because I always carry a hammer around first thing in the morning. Hammer and a cup of coffee, that's my start to the day."

"Well, they'll never believe you when you call and tell them."

The rest of the conversation degenerated into similar sentiments of utter negativity. She just couldn't get it out of her head that I might have done something to break it. Which kind of annoyed me, to be honest. At least until I realized something: If she blamed this on my manual incompetence, this just might get me off the hook on building that greenhouse.

No such luck. A few hours ago, while lamenting again about our brand-new broken window, she sighed and said, "Well, I just hope you can get the window fixed in time for Christmas. Because I wanted to put that greenhouse right in front of it."

I swear, I can't win.

Let me amend that: I can't win at home. But as God and the Weather Channel are my judges, I WILL have satisfaction on that broken window. I do this not just for myself, but on behalf of bloggers everywhere who are beset by unjust instances of cracked glass. I shall smite my local home improvement store with my righteous might.

Of course, if they seem decent about it, I may just try some serious ass-smoochery first. I mean, the window overall is fine. I just want a new pane of glass.

Yeah, think we'll move righteous smiting to Plan B.

More as it happens.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Wow...the first comment. I'm feeling rather ahead of things today.

Anyhow, I think you're on the right track with the ass-kissing before customer service nightmare approach. It's nice when justice is served without turning that smile upside down...but hell, it's also rather nice when it's served at all. Good luck.
You know, MM, I would go the booty-kissing route, but if that gets you nowhere, you could always mention the name of your magazine to the store manager in that would get results. Just IN PASSING, mind you...
I swear, if you ever write a book about your dad, I'd buy it. I think he's way cooler than Santa.

Meanwhile, my money's on you getting the glass replaced for free, as per Plan B.
its a god given pain in the ass.

And I did not curse.

the lord above felt that you needed a broken glass so there ... hey ... a broken window.

go smite the home improvement guys ... they work for THE MAN.
I'm sitting here reading this and wondering to myself, are you composing these posts as these events happen?

Good luck with getting a new window. I hope you don't have to go by way of plan B. It would be nice to hear a happy ending with no screaming and threatening involved.
That is so strange! I woke up Sunday morning to find my living room window cracked from corner to corner. The window has not been replaced and was not opened this week, it has been with the house as long as I have. There must be something in the cosmos that is causing glass to crack all over the world. Creepy.
Your dad is one of my favorite "characters" in your stories, second only to Blaze, because the time you told the tale of the oppossum from his point of view was priceless. Anyway, I think there must be some link between handy-men and the Weather Channel. My husband has the weather channel on 24/7 on at least one of our t.v.'s at all times. I suppose I could credit it to the fact that his job requires him to know what the weather will be doing, but since we live in south Texas and the weather NEVER varies here, it seems kind of pointless to me.
Be nice to the Home Improvement first...if they give you crap, let em have it. Good Luck.
Doesn't it royally suck when you do everything RIGHT and stuff still goes wrong? That's quite possibly the most obnoxious feeling in the world.
Hmm. It looks like there's something of a hole in the middle of your 'Y' crack. Any kids in your area with bb guns?

And while I have faith in your ability to build HLS's indoor greenhouse, if you, erm, run out of time before the holidays, you can buy them. We have one nearly identical to her schematic - they call them flora carts where I come from.

Happy Holidays!
Ericka--When HLS saw the little chip out, she said almost the same exact thing. But considering it was a double-pane window and the outside pane is completely intact, that kid would have to be one helluva shot. ;-) So, alas, the Magic BB Theory doesn't hold up.

Either that, or I have some BB-gun toting maniac hiding somewhere in my basement. Oh God...
This is the police. Get out now. The BB telephone call came from inside the house...
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