A Pain in the Neck

By Ernie Witham   |   January 28, 2021

For five nights, my wife and I slept in the guestroom, while relatives slept in our room. “This bed is too hard. My back is killing me,” Pat said. “How are you holding up?”

I could have said: “Fine. You probably just slept wrong.” Instead I said: “My neck’s a bit sore.”

Ernie at home with his eight-footer covering his walls with several gallons of JoJoba green

Two days later we dragged the king-sized mattress, base, and frame to the curb. The room looked really empty now and the skylight was in need of paint. I could never get to it before because the bed was in the way. I got out my 30-year-old, cheapest-one-I-could-find-at-the-time, wobbly wooden stepladder. It was too short. 

“Gonna need an eight-footer,” I said in my deepest DIY voice and headed off to the closest hardware store. 

“Through the double doors,” they told me. I ended up in the garden section. I asked another person. “Through the double doors,” they told me. I ended up in an alcove. I asked another person. “Through the…” Right. I ended up in the warehouse finally finding a few ladders off in a corner. There were no salespeople. And no prices. I located a small chart on the wall. The fiberglass ladder I wanted was $149. Too much. I found an aluminum one for $99. I took it to the front of the store, carefully maneuvering through the narrow aisles. “’Scuse me. Pardon me. Sorry.” At the register the cashier said. “That will be $149.”

 “The chart said $99.” Ten minutes later, a manager arrived, looked at the cash register and said: “Yup, it’s $149.” “The cart said $99,” I repeated. “You must have read it wrong,” she said cheerily. “You should have asked for help.” 

I left the ladder at the register and drove to Home Depot. As I walked in I spotted a guy in a checkout line with exactly the fiberglass ladder I wanted. It rang up for $99. Ha! Lucky I didn’t buy that other one. I went to the ladder section. It was empty. That guy bought the last eight-foot fiberglass ladder in the store. If I had gone there first, it would have been mine. “Arrgggh!”

At home I checked online. Home Depot would ship one to me for free. Yay! In three weeks. Boo! Turns out they had a few in Oxnard and I ordered one for curbside pickup. I measured the inside of my CRV. Eight feet and a couple of inches from front to rear window. 

“I’m here for curbside pickup,” I told a guy in front of the store. “Through the double doors,” he said. Inside the sign read: pickups and returns. I got behind a guy returning a dripping water heater. Things could be worse, I guess. Couple hours later, I wrestled the ladder into the room and was inside the skylight, paint running down my arm, but I had done it!

“Wow,” Pat said. “The ceiling looks really bad now that the skylight is so white.”

We headed back to Home Depot for more paint, brushes, rollers, trays. It took several coats to cover, but by the next evening I was through, holding my lower back, trying to figure where I was going to store my new eight-foot stepladder. I looked around. “I know what you’re thinking,” Pat said. “We should do the walls, too. How about a nice green?”

The guy at Home Depot said: “Welcome back.” We bought several gallons of JoJoba green, more rollers, and a new tray. When I got home, I sighed. In the 20 years or so since the last paint job, we had filled the wall with all kinds of objects. It took several hours to get them all down.

“Wow, that’s a lot of holes, huh?” Pat said. “Did we buy spackle?”

“Hey Pat and Ernie,” the paint department guys said in unison. “Great day for home projects right?”

Three days and a bottle of Ibuprofen later, the job was done. “Perfect timing,” Pat said. “The new twin beds just arrived.” The four boxes were huge and flat. “Some assembly required,” it said on the outside. As I dragged the last box in, Pat said: “Hmm, I think we need all new art for the new walls and beds, don’t you?”

“Up to you,” I told her. “I’m never sleeping in this room again.”


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