Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chalet Shenanigans - Chapter 12

Where We Attempt To Not Burn Down the House

Mr. Big and I made a mad dash to finish up a few renovation projects at the chalet before the kids arrived for Spring Break so that the house didn’t appear to be quite as much of a wreck as it actually is.

As per usual, most of the projects ended up about 90% complete, but at least the kids got the general idea.  I found myself saying over and over again, “Well, NEXT time you come, this will have x.y.z…” or, “When you come back for Christmas, THIS will be/not be here,” or “Try and picture x.y.z…”.  Work in progress, people, work in progress.  At least they all had clean towels and no one had to sleep on the floor.

One of the things we really pushed for before they came was installing the new fireplace.  You can’t expect someone to come for a ski holiday and not have a fire.  This was a huge undertaking.  The chalet came with a perfectly good, working, functioning fireplace, which I, of course, hated, and began to sledgehammer almost immediately upon arrival.

Most Swiss husbands come home from a long, hard day at the bank and ask their well-manicured Swiss wives, “Gleebenarbeiten Gleibenachstellerung Glaubenausfahrtich?”, which in Swiss-German means, “Hi, Hausfrau.  Did you have a lovely day with the ladies grazing through the Zurich stores?”  To which Frau will respond, “Ja, Ueli, Gebensterichtnicht und Drubenzeibenglaubengloben”, which translates to “It was fabulous.  I picked up a new Bally bag and a snappy pair of alligator pumps.”****

My poor fella comes home on Friday from a hard week in Vienna or Birmingham or wherever and, literally whimpering in fright in anticipation of my answer, whispers, “Hi, honey.  Did you destroy or throw away anything this week?” to which I reply, “Well, actually, I did go to the dump once or twice and, um, the fireplace is gone and, uh, I threw away all the lighting on the second floor and installed new ones.”  It is usually at this point that Mr. Big’s hoarding gene starts to twitch and he runs out to “his” garage to see what I’ve thrown away that I consider junk but that he considers “treasure”.


He gets over it by Sunday.  Stop worrying.  If I didn’t make my weekly, clandestine trips to the dump, our new French neighbors would start to think the cast and crew from Deliverance had moved in next door.  As a matter of fact, it’s one of my favorite things to say to Mr. Big.  He knows when he hears the magic sentence, “Dude.  It looks like rednecks live here,”  that he has about 85 seconds to save anything that might remotely be considered “salvage” because I am already loading up the back of the truck for a dump trip.

Anyway, back to the fireplace.  So, I dismantled everything that I could lift by myself, that is to say, everything but the actual flue, fire box and a couple of pieces of 300-lb. concrete.  Then, I just left the rest for Mr. Big.  This is how I operate.  I get rid of the thing that’s bothering me, to the best of my ability, and then he has ZERO choice but to finish the project because his Obsessive Compulsive Disorder will not allow it.  Well, apparently this whole fireplace thing was just a massive task that I massively underestimated.  The demolition continued up through the next floor into one of the bedrooms and then up into the rafters and, finally, out onto the roof.  This project overwhelmed me and I am not easily daunted.

Fast forward five months later and the new fireplace arrived just three days before the kids.  Now, the new fireplace design calls for it to be suspended from the ceiling.  And, it rotates 360 degrees.  It’s freakin’ cool, I tell you.  Let’s not even go into how many metal drill bits and metal saw blades Mr. Big consumed in the installation.  Let’s not even talk about how I finally suggested we get the jack from out of the back of the Defender to hold up this monster while we screwed it into the ceiling.  (The jack idea was mine and only mine after I discovered that Mr. Big thought it would be keen if I GOT ON ALL FOURS AND HELD UP THE STUPID FIREPLACE ON MY BACK while he screwed it into the ceiling.)

Form a mental image, please, of some 2 x 4’s spread across a gaping pit in the living room floor, upon which a tire jack is precariously balanced and extended.  Now place on top of the jack a thousand pound iron fireplace with a 6-foot flue coming out of the top that must be matched up oh-so-precisely with some pre-drilled holes in the ceiling.  Then picture a frantic Mr. Big and Trailing Spouse hanging off both sides of one ladder madly screwing in two dozen bolts before the whole thing falls like a house of cards and crashes into the basement.

That was such a fun day.

Once the cursed thing was hanging where it was supposed to, it became a simple matter then of Mr. Big just clicking the pieces of the chimney flue back together on up through the bedroom upstairs, up into the rafters and then connecting the flue to the part that sticks out of the roof.  Well, that was the plan anyway, but as so often happens in the Land of Mr. Big, something went awry.  The poor man was short about 3 feet of tubing due to, ahem, a miscalculation that his engineering-self will still not admit to.

Me:  So, does this mean I can’t light a fire?

Him:  Honey.  Can you not see the 3 feet of empty air in Small Son’s bedroom where the two ends of the pipe are not touching each other?  If you light a fire right now, you will burn the house down.

Me:  Well, technically, no.  One cannot SEE empty air, can one?  Is this situation Duct Tape fixable?

Him:  Please help me, Dear Lord, to not strangle my wife on this or any other day.

To make a long story less long, it took another week to get the right parts.  Finally, two days before the kids LEAVE, we are ready to light a fire.  We all stand around basking in the magnificence that is the new fireplace that spins oh-so-gloriously, (note that we are standing because the lounge chairs that are supposed to go around this wonder are on backorder), as Mr. Big puts match to kindling.

Oooh!  Aaaah!  It’s so cool!  But, wait.  What is all that black smoke pouring out into the room?  And, why does it appear to be, well, there’s no other way to say it, MELTING?

As Small Son runs for cover into the kitchen with his shirt pulled up over his nose to get away from the noxious fumes emanating from the fireplace that he is convinced are going to turn him sterile or worse, Charming Daughter steps up to assess the problem.  Remember, Charming Daughter works for a giant paint company and she is the Queen of Coatings.

“Hmm,” she says.  “I believe you have a faulty primer coat here.  See, see all of these bubbles on the outside?  See how they are popping and I can just rub away the paint off with my finger?  The manufacturer didn’t use a high enough heat-resistant paint.  You got gypped, Dad.  You shoulda called me before you bought this thing.”

By now poor Mr. Big’s eyes were bulging out of his skull.  He had both of my oven mitts on his hands, (because this sucker was HOT) and he was poking and smearing and cursing.  Oh, was he cursing.  GET THE CAMERA, TRAILING SPOUSE!!!  DOCUMENT THIS, THIS *&%*$ PIECE OF %$#* FIREPLACE!  THESE $%*&@S ARE GETTING AN EMAIL FROM ME LIKE THEY HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE!

I’m sure he scared the living beejayzus out of Small Son’s and Charming Daughter’s girlfriend and boyfriend.  No doubt they went home and told their parents, “The skiing was great but the Dad is a lunatic”.  To try and distract them from the meltdown of both the fireplace and my husband, I had all the kids go around and open the windows to air out the house.  So much for the marshmallow roasting I had planned.  That would just be the icing on the cake to send them home with a nice case of esophageal cancer from consuming toxic marshmallows.

I’ll keep you updated on what, if anything, Mr. Big hears back from his ranting email.  Lawd knows if they even understood it.  Mr. Big runs all of the emails that he sends to French and Swiss people through Google Translate to magically turn them into French before he sends them.  I have tried to tell him that Google Translate is notorious for getting things wrong, so we’ll see.  For all we know, the fireplace company thinks he has some problem with his shirt (chemise) and not his fireplace (cheminee).  If he gets a free shirt in the mail, I fear for his sanity.

****I, of course, have no actual knowledge of Swiss German.

1 comment:

  1. You're my hero. I'm bookmarking this blog post so that the next time my husband comes home from work worried about what I've 'fixed', purchased to pull apart to 'make it better' or thrown out because it's garbage... I'm going to make him read this and I shall be forgiven (for at least 10 seconds). Thank you. At least this way he can see what he's got to look forward too! :)