Capable people, doing things capably

So, we’re doing some painting. And when I say “we’re doing some painting,” what I mean is that “we have hired somebody who actually knows how to paint” to take our main floor from its original “peanut butter and jam” palette — well intentioned, but ultimately not sustainable — to a much more refined mix of grey and cream.

This is a big step for me, but, really, it’s about time. Those of you who are regular readers of this blog are likely well aware of my prowess as a painter of walls. For those of you who have yet to be initiated, a recap:

The person we hired to correct these errors also happens, conveniently, to be our next-door neighbour, Holly. From September to April, she’s a mild-mannered, mature university student, but in the summer she returns to her roots as a painter for a select few clients. Last week, we were lucky to make the cut, I had the pleasure of watching somebody who’s really good at something do that thing. I love watching capable people do capable things, capably. It’s just so soothing.

“I could watch you paint edges all day,” I sighed to Holly as she outlined — without tape! — the edge of a grey wall, nary a spot of colour marring the cream ceiling. And then I worried that maybe she thought I was creepy, and I tiptoed back to my office to do my job. Because I do my job well and I’m learning to let other people — like, say, painters, or roofers — do theirs.

It was also great to have Holly around because it meant that we could compare notes about kids. She’s the mother of a sweet 14-year-old boy, and Rachel and I like to look to her as a bellwether of things ahead, while she likes to reminisce about life with little ones. Initially, she was hesitant to take the job because she wanted to spend the last couple of weeks before school started again with her son — but then she realized that she would be able to get plenty of painting done in the mornings before he woke up at noon or so. “He’s going to have to get up for school at 6:30 in the morning,” she kept fretting. “I don’t know how he’s going to do it.” “He’ll do it,” I said. “It’ll be just fine.” But in my mind I knew that when my own teenage sons sleep until noon I will fret about it all the same.

Holly, alas, cannot paint our radiators for us, and so that job falls to me — the other option being to pay $1,000 to have an auto-body shop sandblast and paint them. “Really?” I asked the lady at the auto-body shop on the phone. “A thousand dollars?”

“Yes, dear,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a radiator or a Lamborghini — it’s still a paint job.”

Truthfully, I’m kind of excited to paint the radiators, mostly because it means that I get to use a power washer, which just seems like the most satisfying tool one could wield. My other astonishingly capable neighbour (we’re surrounded), Greg, of my self-styled vast tool lending library and infinite patience, has set me up with his washer, and now I am going to go blast several decades worth of dust from the cast-iron beasts before going at them with some spray paint. I doubt they’ll look like Lamborghinis when I’m done with them, but I hope that they’ll be presentable. Wish me luck.