Mindless Tasks 2.0

Can of paint with drips on outside

Painting. Not so mindless.

It turns out, not all mindless tasks are useful. Some are just annoying. I will never again question why someone charges and arm and a leg for a painting project.

As part of enclosing a small porch, it’s up to us to paint the materials—four panels with interchangeable screens and window inserts. It’s not only a lot of work, it’s now cold outside! Thirty-two degrees the last two mornings. The garage is barely warm enough to paint so I moved most of the pieces into the basement, except the door, which is huge and I don’t feel like wrangling that down the bulkhead steps.

My ADD makes it really hard to complete one task before moving on to the next. This has been a lesson in discipline, to the point I’ve had to create notes for each piece to keep track of where I am in the process.

First you sand. Then you clean off the dust. Then you prime. Then you sand again and clean that off. Next is a coat of latex. More sanding—or maybe not. I thought for sure I needed to sand between each coat, but couldn’t find any instructions for that. So I skipped it and went right to the finish coat.

The glass and screen inserts have these deep grooves down the side and the glass needs to be taped (I tried freehanding a line of paint down the edge of the glass. It was pretty much a disaster. Oh, and obviously you can’t paint both sides at the same time, so allow for a day for each side. And then remember the bottom edge that you can’t do because the panel is sitting on that.

This has involved several trips to the hardware store because I’ve completely underestimated the amount and kinds of materials needed. Except for paint. For some reason I always buy way too much paint.

What lessons can I take from all this?

  1. Good tradespeople are worth their weight in gold. We hired someone to paint a few rooms in the new house and gawped at the price, but were so thankful when it was done, and done well.
  2. Arthritis sucks. I’ve developed it in my left hand. From gardening more than the painting, but the nighttime aches follow any daytime activities (when it doesn’t hurt. Go figure.). I’ve had it in my right thumb for years now and have learned to live with the ache, but a whole hand? Sucks big time.
  3. When a quote came in for another project and the builder suggested painting it ourselves to save money, I knew to respond: “Hell no!”
  4. Somewhat unrelated but really of crisis proportions is the lack of young people going into the trades. We’re also getting some HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) work done and the 22-year-old man doing most of the work is the youngest at the company and they are short-handed. Most of the tradespeople we see look like they are long past retirement age (one guy came out of retirement to work a few days a week because he was bored and the company needed the help).

As a result of #4, I find it impossible to get three quotes for jobs, like you should. I’m lucky if one in three will return my call.

When did trade school become anathema to young people? When college became the only mantra and with it skyrocketing student loan debt? At $1.5 trillion, it’s running second only to mortgage debt.

That can’t be good. Not for young people, and not for our neglected infrastructure.

I’m writing this just a week before the November 6 midterm elections. Depending on what happens, I might never write again. Or I’ll have plenty to say. We’ll see. It’ll certainly mark the end of mindless things.

In the meantime, enjoy today, wherever you are!

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