Monday, December 20, 2010

New (Old) Car

I'm still playing blog catch up. For anyone following my wife's blog, you'll already know a lot of this. Consider this a first person viewpoint.

I took the Monday after Thanksgiving off for a little extra rest and relaxation. I'd been doing little with the house for most of November. Work had been particularly stressful with a large project culminating on November 13th. I needed the downtime. The Tuesday morning after Thanksgiving was supposed to be back to life as usual. On my way to work though, life decided to try and destroy some of the R & R I had been trying to store up.

It was raining that morning and as I was coming to a busy intersection, the light turned yellow. I could have stopped, if I would have slammed on the brakes. I chose not to, as I was sure that I could clear the intersection before the light turned red. At the same time a woman started turning left. As she drifted towards my lane, it wasn't clear if she was in fact going to complete her turn, or if she was simply creeping forward, waiting for the intersection to clear. Considering that I was going 45 mph, I didn't have a lot of time to decide if I should take the chance that she was only creeping and I should keep going straight, or if I should swerve to avoid her. Just in case, I opted to swerve.

Wet pavement, speed and probably tires that were overdue to get changed all meant that my swerve turned into a skid, and before long, I was pointed the wrong way, trying to thread my way over a sidewalk and between two metal poles on the side of the road. One pole held a solar array, and the other was a traffic management arm, similar to the kind found at railroad crossings.

In my recollection, the whole event took place in three or four iterations of the same swear word. I swerved off the road, clipped the larger of the two poles, sailed over the cat tails in the ditch and thudded into the mud on the other side of the ditch. I took stock of myself, called my wife, work and the police. It was pretty clear that the car (a 2000 Ford Taurus) was probably going to be total loss. I was fine and so was everything else in the car. The metal pole was lying on the side of the road, also a total loss.

My favorite part of the whole experience was when Officer F arrived at the scene. I was in the ditch, on one side of a six foot wide pond of marshy water; he was on the other. After he asked if I was fine, we stared at each other for a few seconds, both looked at the water, then looked up at each other again. Each of us knew what the other was thinking. Then he spoke.

"One of us is getting wet, and I don't have to tell you who it's going to be."

"Well, since I don't fancy spending the rest of the day on this side, I guess I'll come around."

It was just the sort of light-hearted comment I needed to hear at that point. I'd just been in an accident, and I was worrying about getting my dress shoes wet and muddy. That's not so bad. Eventually, I found high ground and the shoes survived intact.

The lady who turned left stopped and gave a statement to police when they arrived. I wasn't there when she gave it to them, which was probably a good thing. "I was waiting to turn left and all of a sudden he just lost control and went in the ditch. I guess it's just slippery." Right. And as I told the officer, "I don't make a habit of making sudden swerves, unless I think someone is going to hit me."

Because the two vehicles didn't collide, the other driver was not at fault. Unfortunately, because our car was so old, we had dropped collision on it within the last year. Insurance would cover the cost of the traffic management arm, but we were on the hook for the car. Assuming no one would have been hurt, I would have been better off hitting her. Then she would have been at fault for failing to yield on a left turn, and our car would have been paid for.

The result of this was a few weeks of stress while we tried to live the life of a two car family (School, dance classes, work, grocery shopping, etc) with only one car. And then of course the joy of finding another car, which is not something my wife and I enjoy or excel at. We did find something, a 2006 Hyundai Sonata, which is really just a car - something to get us from point a to point b. And now plans for some of next year's house projects will need to be re-examined. Depending on a few factors, they may have to wait another year.

At the risk of jinxing myself, I have a week off over Christmas. And this time I'm hoping for some rest and relaxation that ends well.

Friday, December 17, 2010

New (Old) Front Door

Some time ago I found a business that would strip paint and refinish woodwork here in our local community. I started by giving them small jobs; mainly stripping the trim in the dining room, so that I could refinish it and reinstall it. Excluding one batch of picture rail, they did a very good job. Strangely, I kept running into the owner outside of the business. First in a local Woodcraft shop, and then again at a local book sale put on by my company, for company employees only. It turns out that Dave used to work for the same company I currently work for.

As I got to know Dave, I found him to be a genuinely good person and one that I felt I could trust. Like most business owners, if I could get him to do the work, the result would be great. Its when the work is handed off that there is a risk of poor workmanship. So even though I was extremely nervous doing so, I approached Dave about refinishing our front door.

Our front door is the original wooden door. It's 2 1/4" thick and would probably cost several thousand dollars to replace, if I could even find someone to manufacture it. Replacing the whole front door enclosure (door, sidelights, frame, etc) to match the style of the house with a modern door, made of modern materials would probably cost between $5,000 and $10,000. If Dave screwed this up, it was going to be very expensive to fix, and that was definitely not in the budget.

The front door was in very bad shape, with cracked, gray, weathered wood across it's face. The trim on the door had lost all "crispness". Looking closer, Dave noted that the door was not, full, solid planks of oak, but was actually made up of a core of several smaller pieces of wood glued together (possibly pine). Over the top of this, there was a 1/4 inch veneer of quarter-sawn oak. This is actually a good thing. As the smaller pieces of wood expand and contract with the weather, they have a tendency to cancel each other out and the door doesn't swell or shrink as much as a solid wood door. Dave suggested removing the veneer, adding a new veneer and then finishing that.

Dave took the door away one day and we replaced it with the crack house door slab for what felt like forever (in actuality, I think it was about six weeks). During that time, Dave removed the glass and the wood trim. He pulled off as much of the veneer as possible. Planed the door to remove what remained and then glued on new veneer. He also had to fabricate new trim, as the old trim was too rotten to retain. Then when it was time to finish the door, he applied two coats of UV protectant, three applications of stain (to match the existing color on the inside of the door), two coats of sealant and five coats of polyurethane. And then reinstalled the trim and the glass.

How did it turn out? The door looks new again. There are two minor flaws on the door, which I won't point out. One is easily fixed next spring, and the other we're just stuck with. In the end, it's a fantastic improvement for the front entry. Unfortunately, it means I'll have to sand and strip the sidelights next summer. They look terrible next to the front door now. And then every few years we'll need to lightly sand the polyurethane and apply another coat. It's the price we pay for having a real wood door.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Platitude 2

I find humility an easy virtue to practice. Learning it is difficult beyond all measure.

Wordless Wednesday - Xmas Bows

(Photo cross-posted to Musings & Mutterings.)