Monday, May 27, 2013

Stepladder to heaven

Right up until I fell off the stepladder, I felt like things were going pretty well.

The previous few days had built up my confidence, with our bedroom torn asunder exactly as we’d planned.  Our furniture sat stacked in the hallway with a thin aisle running down the middle, just like a hoarder’s house, except with a few less balled-up burger wrappers festooning the proceedings.

We were undoing the damage done by our house’s previous owners, the ones who decided that there’s no such thing as too much yellow floral wallpaper, especially if that wallpaper features berry clusters with little birds flying around.  Three years ago, when scraping all the wallpaper off our bedroom walls, sending it back from whence it came, I’d damaged the drywall underneath, leaving thousands of pock marks and small tears.

“You won’t be able to see those when I’m done,” I assured my wife Kara before applying two coats of primer and three coats of paint, each serving to further magnify the damage.

To make it worse, we’d chosen to paint the room beige (well, “dune white,” but beige) for some reason, and it already had a tan ceiling.  By the time I finished, our bedroom looked like the inside of a cardboard box that a cat had fought its way out of.

After a few years, we finally decided that the time had come to fix it.  Plus, our youngest son Zack was finally sleeping through the night, so I needed something else to ruin my life.

“I hear wallpaper’s making a comeback,” Kara said.

“No way, never,” I replied. 

Wallpaper’s not something to joke about.  If you want to change a painted room, you can do it in two days.  If the room is wallpapered, after two days, you’ll still be in the initial phases of steaming, scraping, picking, scratching and crying.  Plus, all those tools you’ll need to acquire: buckets of paste, scissors, a trowel, a trident, cloven hooves, etc. 

“You need to skim coat the walls,” our friend Kiera said.  She’s helped several people fix up their fixer-uppers, and has developed the unfortunate reputation of being really good at drywall repair. 

“Sweet!  How do I get started?” I asked.

“Some people say it’s easier to rip the drywall down and start over,” she replied, which helped to give me some perspective on the tribulations ahead.   

Kiera came over to help us get started.  When it comes to levels of friendship, they go like this, in ascending order: Friends who lend you tools, friends who help you move, friends who take a bullet for you, friends who skim coat your walls.

“I can’t believe that this is how it’s done,” I said as we slathered white joint compound across the walls with putty knives.  It was like spreading peanut butter onto bread, except the bread was the size of our bedroom, and the knife didn’t get any bigger.

“Do you want me to tell everyone how bad you are at this, so they’ll stop asking you to help?” I offered to Kiera.  Her wall looked flat and perfect.  Mine looked like the inside of a Thomas’ English Muffin.         

The next day, I began sanding down the dried joint compound, which brought me two steps from the top of our six-foot stepladder.  I lightly leaned against the wall with my shoulder, which applied enough sideways force to my feet to send the stepladder shooting off to the side.  This wasn’t a wobble.  It was a capsize.

My life flashed before my eyes, and the months I spent playing Warcraft weren’t nearly as interesting as they seemed at the time.

The stepladder crashed to the ground.  Our older son Evan cried from his bed at the noise.  Kara ran upstairs to see what just happened.  She found me standing beside the ladder, shaking my head.

“Pretty sure I’m supposed to be dead right now,” I said. 

Life is too short for wallpaper.  And sometimes, because of it.
You can patch over Mike Todd at


  1. HiLARious and just what I needed tonight - I read it to Jaime and was laughing out loud. The " inside of a cardboard box that a cat had fought its way out of" and "Thomas’ English Muffin" lines were my favorites...

    You guys are so virtuous. We just painted over that sh*t, birds and flowers and all...

    1. Wait, wait, wait. You can just paint over it? DUDE. I wish we'd had this conversation one bent stepladder ago.

      And also, thank you!