A Tale of Four Weeks and Two Garage Doors

This story is a two-cup-of-coffee-in-a-soft-chair story. It takes a while to tell. It can also be titled, “They Shoot Garage Doors, Don’t They?”

When I originally wrote this post on Wednesday, I was attempting some satire after the style of Pat McManus. Maybe I did it, but likely not. This is a rewritten version (Friday) because in the meantime God taught me a couple of lessons, and the first try just… didn’t… work.

Long ago, the editors who assembled the first Bible needed to decide what writings to keep and which to leave out. I’m sure that when they read stuff about God cursing man with ‘the desire to have interesting details on and about his dwellings and then have to toil in their upkeep,‘ that whole bit just went out because it didn’t seem to fit well with the rest of the text about heavy labors over the soil coming to naught.

So back in June or so, my conscience started bothering me about the need to repaint the garage doors. It takes a while for less-than-fun jobs like this to move near the top of my priority stack (they seldom hit top priority), it was about the middle of August before I began to act.

Now, I’m not really the worst painter in the world, but my motivation level varies wildly depending on the job. And those garage doors are one of the worst jobs in the entire house. So they score about a 0.2 on my 1-to-100-scaled motivation meter.

Here’s where that early Biblical curse comes in. When we built the house, we got them at a bargain; probably because people with more sense than us at the garage door company looked at the panels and said, “Whoa, those things are going to be MONSTERS to paint!! I don’t want ANYTHING to do with THOSE!!”

So the first thing I do is try to avoid the job altogether. I check the Old Farmer’s Almanac to see if we were going to get a hard winter. Maybe I can put it off a year again. But no.

Take a word of advice, and this should be good because it comes from hindsight: NEVER look at how long it’s going to take you to do something that has to be done, nor should you EVER look at how hard it’s going to be. Just thank God that you’ve got the work to do, because he obviously figures you’re up to it; pray for the patience to do the job (which I forgot to do) and pray for the strength to do the job (which I at least remembered to do).

My mistake was to look at the extent of the job, instead of to God for help: Each door is made up of fifteen panels each, five segments, each made up of three panels. Panel #15 looks exactly like Panel #1 … and Panel #6 … and Panel #11… And stupidly, I started to look at how long it was taking, because I got all involved in all the scraping and sanding that each door took to prep it. And I took my eyes off what God was doing.

I told you that I forgot to pray for patience! And here God was ready to give it to me, had I only got my head out of my as..cending to the job and thought to ask for it.

I knew I needed the rest of my gallon of Miller Spar Enamel (2510 White). This stuff is hyper-expensive, so a dozen years ago when I had to repaint the doors the first time, I had asked what was the best stuff for the job. After I picked myself up off the floor at Miller Paint at the price, I bought a full gallon of it to get some discount; and then stored what I didn’t use. It is finally found and dusted off after an extensive archeological expedition in the garage.

My garage is far too close in resemblance to Warehouse 13; maybe that explains why I like the show so much. But the paint is rediscovered and brought back to the light of day. Being enamel-based, this stuff is freeze-proof; so it lasts in the can as long as it’s not exposed to the air for too long. At least I remembered to thank God that I found it, and still had some left!

Somewhere in the middle of the job, the theme for “This Old House” begins to play in my head, signaling an ominous future in the same way that banjos did with Deliverance. By choosing to listen to that, I almost missed the minor miracle in the middle of the job:

My wife had been gone that particular day and I was working like a madman, trying to impress her by all the work I’ve gotten done. About four panels into the painting, it starts to rain. And not by just a little. It’s one of those summer thunderstorms that starts small, then it… just…. works…. up… to… just dumping rain.

So I lower my brush and say, “Okay Lord, I give this to you. You’re in charge. If you get the door wet, I can’t paint it. Whatever you want, here. Look, I’ll keep going unless the door gets wet. But hey, this is all up to you. The weather obeys your command, since you command all matter and force in the Universe. I’m just the servant, here.”

I have to admit that I prayed with the heart I had to pray with… Part of my heart wanted God to get the door wet so I could quit and go inside, but instead I prayed with that part that wanted to get the job done.

And what do you know, I can see that the rain is coming from such an angle, that even though there’s not quite enough space for me to stand, my paint can sits, dry, next to the door, so I keep working.

Later in the afternoon, I finish up, and the door is a true work of art. No drips, sags, or runs. Lots of re-brushing work ensures all that. I step back to admire my work, and manage to remember to thank the Lord that the first door is done. The other one is awaiting more work.

I go in and get cleaned up. Meanwhile my wife comes home, and, bursting with pride at all my hard work and subsequent artwork, I ask her how the right side garage door looks. This thing has been a real toil to get done. Because of that, I’m expecting tears of joy, hugs and kisses in return. I am imagining a happy evening of relaxing ahead.

Women seldom have any idea as to how much their opinion means to us. Vulnerable, we trust that our fragile egos will be handled gently. But sometimes, it doesn’t go that well. Either that, or we just sometimes put too much pride in some things. And here I am, standing here proudly, expecting something totally different.

She answers, “Terrible!!” All that work I did, all that toil in hot sun and pouring rain, and … ‘terrible’ is what she calls it. My fragile ego is smashed like a Ford Fairmont in a junkyard car crusher. Tighter and tighter the crusher squeezes, removing any resemblance to the original, removing any personality, metal and glass complaining, bolts shearing and screeching in agony, metal folding relentlessly in upon metal, unstoppable forces leaving only the broken, smashed, and compacted core of its existence, never again to resemble the form it once was…

Incredulous, I ask her to show me what’s so awful about the job. As we’re walking out, I say, “Now you were looking at the right side, right? The side I worked so hard on, right?”

We round the corner, and she says, “Oh. Well, THIS door looks pretty good.” And my smashed ego begins to resume some of its original shape. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I hear Ron Popeil say, “But WAIT! There’s MORE…!”

And then in that innocent way of hers, she says, “But…. Look here and here…” and she points to spots where the bare wood is still a little visible beneath a perfectly-applied layer of Miller Spar Enamel (2510 White). My heart sinks to my ankles. It’s gonna need another full coat.

I repaint that door, then can finally move on to the left door. After a couple more weekends spent sanding, and finally two full coats of Miller Spar Enamel (2510 White), it looks great. Doesn’t matter any more that I had to go get more of that expensive paint. More importantly, she says it looks beautiful.

DONE!!! GREAT!!!

Then she stands back with me in the driveway to behold both doors in their four-weekends-of-hard-work-glory, she says in that innocent way of hers, “Will it always be that much whiter than the right side door?”

I step back, and look. The left door (new cans of paint) is a brilliant white, and in comparison, the right side door (original formula) is cream-colored. I remember how the right side went on as a very different color… But was it really that different…?

“No, no, no…” I say, “It’ll cure to the same shade as the right side.”

I hope. The stuff takes about three weeks to fully cure and harden, and by that time the rainy season will be here for sure. So that’ll get me to next spring, at least; and by that time, I’ll forget how much work (four weekends) went into the doors.

And maybe by that time I’ll have learned and understood the lessons that God was teaching me here.

Meanwhile, if you visit, it’s an optical illusion: the doors are actually the same color. Really. It’s just the way the light hits them.

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