I just finished doing a redesign of my office with my wife’s help. Part of it involved painting a couple of walls, and I got to help. Painting has changed a lot since the first time I tried painting… and failed miserably, to the extent that I wasn’t allowed to paint again for 16 years! This is the tale of that original time… newbies to painting, be warned!

By the way, there are no pictures from that day because cellphones didn’t have cameras back then and it never occurred to me to take pictures of the house before or after we did anything to it. All the pictures shown are what parts of my office looked like years afterwards and now, after the redesign.

part of my red office before
part of my
red wall before

This one particular day was going to be the highlight of my having my own house. For the first time in my life, I was actually going to paint something other than a small watercolor painting; I was going to paint my office!

I go to the house, since we were still living in the apartment, after working on the budget to see what kind of money we still happen to be holding on to; houses are pretty expensive. My wife is there with the guy she’s hired to do some work for us, along with his nephew.

She’s putting down white tissue paper all over the place, saying she’s using it to protect the carpets, floors, and wood molding along the base of the floors. We go into what’s going to be my office and she starts showing me how to lay down this paper. As I’m learning this, I’m thinking about this paper, which doesn’t seem all that thick, but so be it.

She then leaves; I really don’t remember where or why she was leaving, but she had to leave. This leaves me and the other two guys, and they’re down in the basement trying to clean it out (seems that big hole in our basement, in the wall that I’ve always thought Jimmy Hoffa may be buried in, contained lots of nasty stuff, but since I didn’t go down there it’s not a part of this story).

I’m laying out the paper, and what seems like it should be quite an easy task is killing me. Even though the house seemed cool enough, I was sweating like a cold drink in a sauna. My glasses kept fogging up so I couldn’t see, and maybe I was trying to be too precise on this endeavor, but my legs were cramping up on me and my hands just didn’t want to work properly all the time.

I finally finished putting this paper down in my office, then head into the master bedroom. My wife had asked me to take the face plates off the light switches and plugs, so I did that for the first time in my life also. You know, what a stupid design; all I kept thinking was what would happen if the screwdriver slipped and I pushed it into the socket. I could see the newspaper story now: “Local man stupidly misses screw, electrocutes his silly self.” I complete that little task, and still sweating greatly, declare, to no one in particular, “I came here to paint, and that’s what I’m going to do!”

I go back into the office and, being quite meticulous and safe, crank open the paint with a screwdriver; I don’t know if that’s how it’s done or not, but it’s what I was doing. I get this can of paint open, and inside is this beautiful shade of red that I just love.

The overall plan was to paint the room, let it dry, then later on go back and brush a gold glaze over it, which is something I’d found in a magazine and thought would look really cool (it didn’t, but it doesn’t end up playing a part in this part of the story). I decide I’m going to start with the edging first, because I’ve never done this before and because I figure what can I hurt.

I dip the stick into the paint first and stir, because I’ve been told that’s what you do; still looked the same afterwards, but I listen to directions… most of the time anyway. Then I dip this virginal, small brush, pure and angelic looking, into this beautiful paint, and it all just seems to look right.

I pull it out, scrape some off on the side of the paint can, because I want the paint can to look perfect also, and go over to the door frame, where I’ve taped all the wood so I can’t make any mistakes, and I make the first beautiful stroke; it looked great! I stroke it up and down along the wood, and it’s doing exactly what I thought it would do, and I know this is all going to turn out right.

Until I go to dip the brush the second time. I dip the brush, scrape some off, go to the wall, do my first stroke, and a drop of paint falls. Should be okay if it drops straight down onto the paper, but of course it didn’t. It drops slightly to the right, and this beautiful drop of paint lands right onto the plush rug that my wife has been trying to protect.

I hadn’t thought to put anything on the floor in the middle of the door; wasn’t anything to tape to there. And now me, being a novice, bends down and tries to dab at this drop of paint; it smears itself into the rug. Now I have a pretty good mess, and I decide it’s time to cover it up with paper and wait until later to fess up to it, or find someone else to blame it on; that’s what guys do!

I finish painting the trim along the door with no more real errors, except some other paint has dropped, but it all fell onto the paper. After that bit of trimming, I decide to go get the work guy, whose name is Denny, just to make sure I’m doing the process correctly.

starting to see contrast

He comes in, sees how I’ve done the trim, and asks me why I don’t have an edger; a what? He tells me there’s this thing that, if I had one, I could have the entire room edged in 10 minutes, without all the paper and other stuff. He asks me where all the paper came from and I tell him my wife bought it, and it’s all over the house; hadn’t he noticed it? He said he hadn’t been paying attention, and said we didn’t need it.

I showed him the spot where I’d originally had paint drop, and he saw other paint spots on paper, and noted that the paint went right through the paper; oops! Now I have my total excuse, since the paper didn’t work either.

He also asks me what I’ve got on the ceiling, and I tell him that I put tape on the ceiling so that I wouldn’t get paint on that either. He thought that was one of the silliest things he’d ever seen, and had a hearty laugh, which wasn’t the healthiest thing for him because he’d had some kind of chest congestion and it gave him a major coughing fit.

He gets me a blue tarp of some kind, then decides that I shouldn’t expend any more energy doing what I’ve been doing; he’s going to go get me an edger so I can do this job properly. He leaves, and it’s just me upstairs, his nephew downstairs, and these two ladies I didn’t know who have visited (one of which turns out to be a niece by marriage that I didn’t even know existed at that time) to see the house and my wife, who of course isn’t back yet.

It gets a little hazy here because I can’t remember who got there first, my wife or Denny, but the course of events is my showing my wife the spots where the paint has gone through the paper and Denny coming back with the edgers, and showing everyone my first painting effort ever and being kind of proud of it.

Denny shows me this edger thing, and it looks like a neat contraption. He shows me how to use it, then tells me that when I’m done edging that I have to paint that wall, otherwise it won’t look right. He pulls out this black plastic paint tray and hooks it onto the ladder (I’d wondered what that overhang thing was on the ladder), and tells me that it’s not very secure and I need to be careful when I pour more paint into it; he’s not a fan of the plastic tray. He then pours the paint into it, and as I see it dripping down the side of my beautiful, pristine paint can I’m aware, for the first time, that painting isn’t really supposed to be a neat job; I’m used to trying to keep things neat.

He uses the paint brush to skim up the excess off the can, then puts it onto some plastic that I luckily had in the room with me. Then we pulled all the paper away, as well as strip all the tape off the ceiling, he demonstrates how to use the edger, and I figure I’m good to go.

I finish edging this one wall, and I’m feeling pretty smug because it’s working just like he said it would. Now it’s time for the paint and the roller for the wall.

white wall,
new red rug

I take this clean roller, although not as pristine as the brush (it was a pink brush as opposed to the beautiful dark and light brown bristles on the brush, encased in dark wood), and dip it into paint, and then figure out that I’m supposed to roll it into this tray to try to get paint to spread over the entire roller. This turns out to be harder than I thought, as it was kind of bottom heavy and didn’t want to cooperate, and this endeavor took me 3 minutes, of all things; nothing seems to work logically, at least in my mind.

I finally get it all squared away, and I go at it. Now I’m really painting, and it’s not working the way I thought it would. There seems to be gaps on the wall. I decide to push harder, and now paint’s going onto the wall, but it doesn’t look even, and my hands are starting to hurt. But I persevere, and I’ve gotten pretty close to finishing up one whole wall. Then I look and notice that I’m out of paint in the tray, and it’s time to put more paint into it.

Somewhere deep in the back of my mind something was telling me “put the tray on the floor”. Somewhere else in my mind was the thought “you’ll never get the tray back up without dropping it”. In the forefront of my mind was “hey, Denny did it, you can too.” You know which mind I listened to, don’t you?

I pick up the paint can, start pouring it into the tray, and suddenly the paint brush is sliding into the paint. Everything at this point starts moving in slow motion.

As my mind is thinking about the paint brush, I notice the roller starting to shift also. My mind is saying how it doesn’t want to have to touch handles with paint on them (I wasn’t wearing gloves) and I’ve got to do something about this.

While I’m thinking that, I’m still pouring paint and notice that something seems to be amiss to my right. This paint tray has decided, because of all these shifts, that it wants to be on the floor after all, and since I’m not going to put it down there, it’s going to go down there on its own.

It takes flight, and as it goes it’s releasing some of its inner fluids so that it has a chance to survive; at least that’s the human attribute I gave it as I noticed it falling. We’ve got tarp down on the floor, but it wasn’t fully open to protect the entire floor, so there’s still a piece of rug that’s not covered by anything, and of course that’s where I’m standing.

What can I do, but try to use my hip to knock this paint tray back onto the tarp. This works; somewhat. Most of the paint goes onto the tarp, as does this plastic paint tray, but a nice big drop pops up out of the tray and goes onto the rug.

A bit of panic jumps into my brain, and before I can stop I call for my wife. She doesn’t hear me the first time so I walk out of my office into the living room and call her again. She comes in, along with the other two ladies, freaks because it seems I’d tracked paint into the living room with me, totally loses her mind, goes and gets a dish rag and starts rubbing into the paint. I’d tell her that’s a bad thing to do, but I decide to shut my mouth and let her do what she needs to do.

completed new wall area

The other two ladies (new family lol) get to witness this event as I watch my wife scrubbing this rug and burying the paint deeply into its plush self (and wall to wall self; nothing to be done there). I step back into my office to look at the wall; worst paint job I’ve ever seen. It was all red, but very streaky; not a smooth area to be found. It always looks better on TV and much easier.

With things crashing down around us, I go get Denny. He comes and takes a look at the entire scene, and he kicks both my wife and I out of both rooms to take over himself.

That was that. For the second time in my life, I’ve been kicked out of the Garden of Eden, otherwise known as the world of painting. It wasn’t quite the paradise I thought it might be.

Later on we hired a professional painter to paint the rest of the house, including adding the glaze (remember I mentioned that earlier) over the finished red room. That didn’t work out; it figures! We ended up having to put down a large area rug in my office to hide the big paint splotch (my wife said she’d been planning to do it anyway so it’s all good lol).

I was kind of depressed for most of the rest of the day because I knew I’d messed things up, and I thought it would go much smoother than it had. I did get a modicum of grief relief later on.

My wife and I went out for dinner, and she wanted to stop back at the house to check on things. Denny and his nephew were still there, getting close to leaving, and he told my wife that I shouldn’t feel that bad because he had just made the same kind of mistake while painting her sewing room (which ended up being a nice blue color), only he dropped the roller instead of the paint tray, and knocked it onto an area that didn’t have tarp covering it. My wife said we’re all just determined to make her buy special carpets for each room; not my plan since I’d seen our budget before the day began.

Oh well… I never said I was Mr. Manual Labor! 🙂

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