Secret Storm

On Friday, at a time of the morning that probably wasn’t legal, my lawn guy Victor came to cut my grass. It woke me up, the sound of not just the riding mower but also the dang leaf blower. It was awful, and I’m going to go ahead and assume all my neighbors hate me. My intention is to tell him to come later in the morning but I never got to say that Friday and here’s why.

When I was awakened by the lyrical sound of BLAAAAAAAAA, I got up and showered.

I emerged from the shower to the sounds of poor Victor, who I like a lot, cleaning the glass from having shattered my storm door into 12 million pieces. He was mortified. “Miss June, I am so sorry. I’m going to clean this up and get you new glass and install it,” he said. He’d been so concerned about not hitting my car with his leaf blower, but instead hit the door with it.

Edsel and I watched him curiously while he meticulously got up all the glass.

I opened my front door, then stepped back 400 feet. “You know, Victor, I never really liked that storm door anyway,” I said. “Why don’t you give me a few free lawn services, the good one where you do all the weeds, and we’ll call it even.”

So we made a deal, not shaking on it.

After he left, I realized I was gonna have to paint the trim where the storm door used to be.

Also, I was gonna have to remove that hot-pink smudge off the column. bah.

On Saturday, I searched my snakey garage. I’ve never seen a snake in that garage/shed, but it’s an old building and I hardly go in there so I just assume it’s riddled with generations of snake families and also rodent colonies.

However, the man who lived here before me had a cool old car in there and was clearly in his garage all the time. He was one of those exceedingly tidy people, which has made living here an enjoyable experience and now I’m here to ruin the utter care he took of this place. The shed still has jar lids, because he was one of those people who kept nails and things in food jars screwed to wood. He was very organized.

I’m telling you this because I knew he’d be the type and I was right: in the snake garage, the sssssshed, are small cans of paint, all labeled with “front porch rails,” “kitchen walls,” etc. And sure enough, there was a can of paint for touchups to the house.

I’d like to marry someone like that. I wouldn’t like to live with someone like that—we’d kill each other. But maybe he could be in the next house over, organizing my thoughts.

So on Sunday, I got my small can of Sherwin Williams Smoky Quartz and painted my door trim.

Then I decided I should probably get a storm door anyway. Further reports as developments warrant.

Meanwhile, since I was over there at my door, I thought, “I’m gonna try to put on my new doorknob.”

In my old house, I eventually replaced every gold doorknob with a color that didn’t make me sad. Here, one again, my front door and deadbolt are a shocking terrible gold, and months ago when we were allowed out places I bought a nice unshiny black doorknob and it’s backup singer, the black deadbolt. I never put it up because I never felt like it.

And then I did. And that was a mistake.

Getting rid of the electric gold knob wasn’t easy. It’s old, and didn’t have the traditional screws you’d expect. But I YouTubed it and after a sweaty hour (it was hot out) got the doorknobs off. I figured I’d worry about the deadbolt second.

I unpackaged the nice black doorknobs. And? Too big. The hole for the doorknobs wasn’t big enough.

You know how Cokes at McDonald’s have gotten ridiculously bigger since the 60s and we all weigh 300 pounds? Same with doorknobs now. They’re bigger and more imposing. Why has everything gotten bigger? You should see the size of my great-grandmother’s china plates. The dinner plate is what we’d use for snacks at a party now.

I asked around via my texting machine, and my neighbor R walked over with this giant file. “Am I breaking out of prison?” I asked her, the two of us stretching out like we were Hands of God to exchange that file.

I rubbed hand sanitizer on the handle of the file, and then?

I filed.

I filed and filed and filed.

I started filing at 1:30. I was still filing at 5:00.

I was sweating everywhere there was to sweat. Memories of me were sweating. My school pictures were sweating. My future self was sweating. My hair just got bigger as I file filed filed the hole, got the doorknob, tried to fit it, and filed again.

I was the Rockford Files. I was a sweater girl. Holy god.

Finally, FINALLY, the hole was big enough. The doorknob would finally — file-ally — fit in the hole.

And?

The doorknobs wouldn’t get flush with each other. They’d meet up nicely when I clicked them together NOT in the door, but in the door? I was screwed. When you install doorknobs, first you have to install the silver clicky thing, you know, the thing that looks sort of like a slice of cake that opens and shuts the door? What’s that called? Anyway that goes in first, then the two doorknobs have to fit in the holes of that clicky thing. And these doorknobs weren’t fitting.

At this point it was getting sort of late in the day, and I had no doorknob at all.

I’d had to really rip the old gold, the Rold Gold, doorknob apart taking it off, and I helplessly held the many shiny gold parts in a panic. Could I stick them back in the door? The hole was now five hours larger than it had been.

The broom and dustpan are because, and I want you to brace yourself, there was a lot of sawdust from FILING FOR 100 HOURS.

Panicked, I texted Alf, my ridiculous handyman. “Eym in da mowntins. Whattup?” he texted, because you know how he texts. He tries to make his texts as unreadable as possible. I ignored Alf. What good could he do me in the damn mountains?

So I did what any normal person would do: I got on Facebook. “I have an emergency,” I wrote. “Does someone have a handy husband?” I know that’s sexist, but I didn’t have time to be politically correct. I needed a no-nonsense man.

Within seconds, my phone was booping and beeping and ringing and what-all, and maybe I should have asked in a less public way. Not only did I talk to the guy I went to 9th-grade prom with, I also Facetimed, looking RIDICULOUS, with a faithful reader’s husband, who told me a way I could jerryrig the door for the night, at least, till I could get a doorknob really on.

But then? Like the cavalry? Came my neighbor, A., down my street.

A and I lived across the street from each other during my Year Abroad, but we never met. Then she moved into this neighborhood just months after I did. Because she’s handy and can rewire and knock down walls and stuff, she started an Instagram page called MyMillhouse, where she shows her improvements she makes to her little house that’s identical to mine except for the part where you can see all three fireplaces because she’s knocked down walls to make them all visible and I waste entire Sundays tryina put on a doorknob.

I didn’t know about her Instagram page till a faithful reader wrote me and said, “Hey, June, isn’t this your neighborhood?” And that is how A and I became friends.

It’s weird, too, because at first I wrote her on Instagram and she wrote me back, and we did kind of a tentative, “We can see each other’s houses. We should meet” thing, but then we kept running INTO each other. At New Year’s, we were same party across town.

At the pub near us, we were both at the Inebriated Spelling Bee, where we were both knocked out in the first few rounds.

Anyway there she was, coming down my street with her tool apron and a face mask. I was never so glad to see someone, despite my 50-foot-side hair and lack of shower. I told her the doorknob just wouldn’t work in our 98-year-old door. “We just need to find a way to secure my door for the night or something, I said,” as I left the room to get her some lemonade.

Click!

All I did, y’all, ALL I DID was get a glass, dump ice into it, pour lemonade, and when I came back she’d already put the new doorknob on. IT TOOK HER A MINUTE.

“How did you do that?” I haired at her. Seriously, y’all, my hair.

“Sometimes it just takes another person to try,” she said generously, and we all know that isn’t true.

Holy cats.

However, we couldn’t get the deadbolt off because like the gold doorknobs, there are no visible screws and here’s the best part: I don’t have a key for that thing. No idea where one is. A. says she’s gonna look up how to remove it anyway, and I’m going to try to deal with the emotional truth of having a black doorknob and a gold deadbolt.

Meanwhile I’ve now had electricians, Victor, R and A. here all in one week, so it’s been nice knowing you. Be sure to ask the paramedics to admire my new doorknob when they come get me.

Knobbily,
June

58 thoughts on “Secret Storm

  1. I do not have jars of nails. I have a tool kit with nails that are too short to hang a picture. I asked a friend for one longer nail and she promptly supplied it, and I promptly dropped it into my plastic bags full of plastic bags. While I was shaking them out, the nail burrowed into the yard to play with the snakes.

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  2. Hi June, I love the porch steps and the metal pipe stair rails. Such a very cool house. If we get you a drill, then you can build bird houses!

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    1. These porch rails are original, and I still have the pipe rails in the back, too. Lots of people in the neighborhood (we all have matching houses) replaced their rails with something stupid and I feel bad for them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I discovered that Kwikset deadbolts fit the older (smaller hole) spaces on doors. New deadbolts are typically 2 1/8″ (54 mm) & the older size is typically 1 1/2″ (38 mm).

    I did not want to have to have to drill into the (original to our house) 100 year old front door when we had to replace our deadbolt with very short notice. Kwikset was the only one that I could find that had the style of deadbolt I was looking for in the (no drillIng necessary) size @ the local big box store. If you are willing to order one, there are others available.

    Your deadbolt screws may be behind the trim ring, rose plate, or face plate depending on the manufacturer. If so, there is a few ways to remove the ring/plate – suggestions listed in the 2 websites below. If you look up the manufacturer/brand of deadbolt that you have & how to remove it, there are quite a few sites with specific info.

    My deadbolt:
    https://www.kwikset.com/products/detail/909-smartcode-contemporary-electronic-deadbolt?variant=909-cnt-11p

    Remove Old Deadbolts:
    https://www.hunker.com/12239448/how-to-remove-a-deadbolt-lock-without-screws
    https://www.quora.com/How-do-you-remove-a-kwikset-deadbolt-with-no-visible-screws?share=1

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  4. You are impressive. I would never attempt something like that.
    “Ssssssshed!”
    I don’t think rodents and snakes will be cohabitating.

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  5. Somewhere years ago I was told that hanging a door is the worst job in the whole world. It requires shims and levels and a deal with the devil to get them right. If you ever need to have a new door hung, you might want to call A from down the road AND a priest.

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  6. Great post. I’m pretty handy but would never attempt a door knob. I’m impressed.
    I wonder if a certified locksmith could make a key for your gold deadbolt?

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  7. I to think I was overly impressed with myself for changing the batteries on my front door lock pad thingy. Go June!

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  8. My husband and son can fix and/or build just about anything but if I need any sort of simple handyman stuff done around here, I ask my daughter to do it. She has replaced all of our doorknobs, rewired a light switch, hangs pictures, done minor plumbing repairs etc. She’s also a notary. I need to get her working on putting new screen netting on our screen door and notarizing some construction releases.

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    1. I loved this post! Hysterical. And I tried to change my own doorknobs ( not a euphemism) and had no luck. My husband is as handy as a squirrel at the Kennedy Center. I feel the struggle. Glad it’s over. On the other hand, you know have the skills to break someone out of the Joint.

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  9. The whole thing about things being bigger can be applied to so many things. Anybody notice who has old silverware (and I don’t mean from the 50’s or 60’s only, like even as recent as the 90’s) that the spoons and forks are huge? There always used to be the teaspoon and the tablespoon. I think the modern spoon is bigger than the old tablespoon now. And the forks now? Pitchforks.

    When I read your post saying you had an emergency, my mind went immediately to some animal had gotten into the house, and your current animals were afraid of it.

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    1. Wow, really? That’s a specific scenario. When I moved to college, I had this fear my new roommate would be missing an eye, and that there would be a tube in its place, and that every night she’d need help with her tube.

      In fact that turned out to be not the case.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I cannot stop laughing at that . Omg. And yet here I am, on Paxil , because I keep thinking my 55 year old husband is going to keel over from a heart attack.

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  10. I love your neighbor’s Instagram photos of the renovation. Or is it restoration? Whichever it is, she’s an inspiration.
    And changing a doorknob intimidates me a bit, but I did it once. But it wasn’t an exterior door.

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    1. Ohmygod, I love watching her page. It’s so much more satisfying than my whole, “I got a turquoise puff and hung it on the ssssshed” makeover.

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  11. But did you get rid of the pink squiggle on the porch? Ha. That took me a minute.

    Glad it worked out. Nice of you to let lawn guy off the hook.

    My husband is handy, which is lucky but sometimes he does things in a ‘unique’ way. Replaced floor in powder room at old housewith ceramic tiles. Then the door would not close. He sawed off the bottom of door. Um, it was hollow. So every toy or book or dirty sock in the path of the hollow door with no bottom got caught and the door splintered. Gradually. Bit by bit. Then we moved.

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    1. When our front doorknob stopped turning and wouldn’t let us in, Mr. The Poet took his hacksaw and sawed off the tongue. Then it would let anyone in, so we used the deadbolt instead. There’s handy and there’s handy. Pleeeeez, pleez send neighbor A to do two carpenterish things at my place. I have no first-born child but I’m sure we can come up with some method of payment.

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  12. I’ve always thought those things look like new lipstick. Before I smash them with my special lip application technique.

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  13. You and A represent the two types of handy persons. I am definitely in your camp. If I touch it, the screws will end up down the drain even if I am 15 feet away from the sink or the replacement parts needed haven’t been made since 1982. I hope you have time to deep condition and hydrate yourself today.

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  14. Why don’t you tape off the deadbolt and paint it black? In my experience, hanging doors and installing door hardware is the most frustrating job ever.

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  15. First doorknob I ever tried to replace was the knob/deadbolt into our garage. Everybody including the internet told me how easy that is. Well guess what? It was MESSED UP and jammed and I don’t even know what all and I finally got it replaced but I’m not sure I will ever try another doorknob again. And I am pretty handy. Not “I have my own leather tool belt” handy, but not bad. I feel your pain.

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  16. P.S. I have my own leather tool belt and bag (and tool box and tools that my husband is constantly using) that I found at a yard sale for 25 cents. Best buy ever. It was a life saver when we replaced the siding on our house.

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  17. Our house is also old and we bought it from an old lady but her husband was all super organized and we have tons of jars in our basement with nails and screws in every variety. And my husband tried changing our door knob and deadbolt and the same thing, new stuff was too big. you made out better than we did as we had an old glove stuck in our door for years until we finally got the right sized deadbolt.

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    1. An old glove! That was my fear. Also, 39494023 flies got in yesterday and I feel bad, but three were in the open window so I shut them in there between the screen and the window and they died a slow terrible death overnight.

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  18. Piece of cake? I thought it looked like a tube of lipstick. It’s so frustrating to work, work, work on something and then a friend/husband/handy man comes along and just finishes the project like it was a first grade puzzle. I love your organized garage. I need to show this to my husband, his workshop looks like an explosion in a mattress factory, but I shouldn’t complain because he makes some incredible furniture in that messy shop. I hope you can get that deadbolt replaced soon. I love the mail slot in your door. The truth is, I just love old houses. I follow A on IG. She undertakes some amazing projects. There are some really nice storm door now, we debated about putting one on our front door, but my husband built a louvered screen door that I love, it provides a cross breeze and privacy, however, there are some places along the bottom that I can see daylight, I must make one of those sand filled draft stoppers to put down because I’m right there with you about fears of snakes. I would freak out if one came in my house through those cracks.
    Tee

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  19. I love that the Internet evil has been used for good! (And yes, bc of you, I, too, now follow her escapades on Instagram and am amazed!) Also glad you got a fancy new doorknob and slept safely and securely.

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    1. Holy cats, when I was talking to that faithful reader’s husband, every 5 seconds my phone was all BOOP! BOOOOOP! Ka-ching! BAAAP! SQURRRRIP!

      Now next time I have a handy emergency no one will call me. “Oh, everyone will answer her. She’ll be fine.”

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    1. Dood. I fuckin killed myself yesterday and then today writing this post and finding shots of jars on wood and clicky things in doors and I TOOK TIME OUT OF MY CHAOS YESTERDAY to take a shot of the door with a hole, knowing I’d be writing about it today.

      Now I won’t show a picture of it on principle! Hah!

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      1. I think Joan in NV was rather intrigued with your choice of words for such knob. Maybe pretty please cut her some slack, I think something in her overheated when she read.

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        1. Is Joan who wanted photos of the … big knob? heeeee. She’ll be disappointed when she sees it one day. I’m looking at it now but all I can see is GOLD DEADBOLT GOLD DEADBOLT.

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  20. I follow MyMillhouse, too! I learned about her from this very blog. I love that you asked for husband help and two capable women came to your rescue!! I am a very handy lady who can do all kinds of housey tasks with power tools, but I find door hardware to be completely mysterious. I realize that at its core a doorknob is a simple machine, but in my experience, it’s some Byzantine Rube Goldberg contraption with no clear end. Don’t be too hard on yourself – you did 95% of the work!!

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  21. Sometimes my husband and I go and secure foreclosed houses. The last one we had was ridiculous. The doorknob and dead bolt had been molded into the door. We pryes and conjoled. We cussed and pounded. It took us 2 hours to finally drill it out of the door. I watched youtubes and googled and they didnt have a clue. My husband is smart and handy and figured it out. Later I looked up the door manufacturer and called them. They told me the knob should never come out. It is built into the door. That the lock can be relayed by a certified locksmith. So I feel your pain. Also and too you are amazing. You will tackle anything.

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  22. You had me grinning ear to ear from the beginning and it just got bigger. Thank you so much.
    Just gotta have friends. Also too, friends with tool belts.

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  23. I am so glad it was not a life-threatening emergency; you have to know we were all concerned! Doorknobs can be the devil. I have had a similar experience but at least it was an interior door. In our younger days, when we didn’t care and had little responsibility, we had NO doorknob on the front door for months. Had the door tied to the wall somehow and used the other door. We DID have a storm door that sort of hid the missing doorknob feature, so you were out of luck with that, too. Glad your handy neighbor was able to help.

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  24. My husband once left for the weekend so I thought I would surprise him and replace the doorknob on our back door – we’d had it for weeks and just never got around to replacing it. So I took the old one off, which promptly broke when I removed it, but whoooooo care, right? Well MEEEEEE when the new one didn’t fit! I used my text messaging machine to tell my husband I was now going to be murdered in my bed and he replied “Oh I meant to tell you. I need to return that doorknob and get the right one. That’s why I didn’t replace it.” GAHHHHHHH!

    I absolutely love that your cry for “a handy husband” brought A down the block. She was the first one I thought of, when I realized you needed a HANDY person and not a HANDSY person, which is how I first read your FB post. Then again, “handsy” doesn’t necessarily scream MAN, now does it?

    Anyway… you’ll be fine June. Really you will.

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  25. What a pain in the patoot! So glad you have such a handy neighbor who was able to help in your time of crisis! I started following her on Instagram-she’s amazing!

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    1. I know, right? And she’s so casual about it! “Oh, I just rewired the house. Yawn.”

      “Today I tore down 50 walls and put new ones up. [sips tea]”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And right then I knew…A. is your man.
        I know she is attached, but you can replace Alf with another A.

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