a broadcaster, pilot, writer, and our Guest Columnist!
Back to Blog
I'm sure you've come across this person or even know them personally; Mr. or Ms. Buttinsky. They are annoying!
Last week I went to the building material store for supplies. The store was hectic, and only two people worked in the plumbing department; Deb seemed to know her plumbing products, whereas Rick was struggling. Deb had a line of customers waiting for her. I didn't want to wait, so when Rick finished with his customer, I asked, "Where do you keep the shower pan liner." He took me to a different aisle and showed me pre-fab shower floors.
"This isn't what I'm looking for," I said patiently. "I need the pan liner to build a custom shower floor."
"I don't think we carry that," Rick said.
I smiled and replied, "Yes, you do. You have it in four, five, and six-foot widths. The thick gray vinyl comes on a roll, so you can cut the piece to whatever length."
Rick led me back to the first aisle and showed me some rolls leaning against the wall. They were hidden behind other plumbing pieces people had left there. "Is this what you're looking for?"
"It sure is. I knew you could find it." I smiled, "Now, how do we measure and cut it? Do you have a mechanical device, or just roll it out on the floor?"
"I really don't know," Rick said. "I just started here two days ago; I've never sold any of this."
There was no space in the crowded aisle to roll out the vinyl, so I pulled out the material while Rick steadied the vertical roll. Rick tried cutting the sheet vinyl but was getting far off the marked line. "Let me try from this side," I said to Rick. He handed me the knife. While he held the material, I got on my knees to finish cutting the piece. It was awkward, but we were getting the job done. That's when he showed up.
"Do you work here?" Mr. Buttinsky demanded to know (as if I wasn't there). Rick said that he did. The obnoxious man held up an old corroded part, "Do you have one of these?"
Rick looked at the part, "I really don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?" The man was very condescending in his tone.
Rick looked confused and admitted, "I'm not sure what that is."
Mr. Buttinsky raised his voice, "How in the heck did you get this job?"
I stood up, "It's a faucet cartridge, Rick." Then I addressed the obnoxious customer, "It's bad enough the store is understaffed; you being rude isn't going to help."
"Well, I need help finding this part," Mr. Buttinsky justified. "He works here, and he should be able to help me. I'm in a hurry."
I shook my head, "You know, your problem isn't any more urgent than any other customer's, and your time isn't any more valuable than theirs." Then, I pointed to the far end of the aisle, "Why don't you go down there and wait for Deb. She's very knowledgeable; I'm sure she can help you find your cartridge."
Mr. Buttinsky glanced at the people waiting for Deb, offered me a few cuss words, then walked away, leaving the plumbing aisle. From around the corner, I heard him demand, "Do you work here?"
Rick was a bit timid. He seemed bothered by the confrontation, "I wish I knew more of this stuff," he said. "They don't give us very much training. I think I upset that gentleman."
"Gentleman?" I laughed. "He was acting like a jerk. But don't worry about him, Rick. There's a lot to learn here; you'll get it; it just takes time." Rick seemed relieved. "Now, I need another piece of four-foot liner…." After we cut the second piece, I asked Rick if I needed a tag or slip showing what I had.
"Just take it to the register," Rick said, "They'll know what to do."
Although I didn't think he would know the answer, I asked Rick another, more technical plumbing question. "I don't know," Rick said. "Another guy is coming in at two o'clock; he would know."
"That's okay," I said, "I can wait for Deb." I wished Rick a good day, then walked to the other end of the aisle.
While waiting for Deb, I explained to a lady and her husband how a compression fitting worked, then helped them find the parts needed. Next, I helped another young guy find a fitting he needed and helped a third man who had questions about PEX plumbing.
"Oh my gosh," I thought to myself after I helped the third customer, "Am I being a Mr. Buttinsky?" However, I was laughing to myself when Deb approached me.
Deb was finally caught up with her customers, "How would you like to work here?"
"I kind of feel like I do," I answered.
"How would you like to work here and get paid?" We shared a good laugh about that. Deb quickly answered my question and asked, "Did Rick give you a slip to take to the register for the shower pan liner." I told her he did not. She said, "He's new and just learning the system."
Deb started to walk to the other end of the aisle with me. A pushy lady tapped Deb on the shoulder, "Do you work here, miss?" Oh, my Lord, it's Ms. Buttinsky. She could clearly see Deb was with another customer but interrupted anyway, "I just have a quick question…" (as if I wasn't standing there). I told Deb to go ahead and help the lady, and I would get a slip from Rick.
I told Rick I needed a slip, explaining what it was for. He dug through a junk basket and pulled out a wrinkled-up pad, "Is this it?"
"That's it," I said. Next, I felt my shirt and pants pockets and asked Rick, "Do you have a pen." Rick felt his pockets, looked through his waist pouch, and said he did not.
The couple with the compression fitting was back. I walked over and asked if they needed something else. "We're trying to decide if we should buy an extra fitting," the lady said.
How many fittings do you need," I asked? They only needed one but felt they should get a second in case they messed it up. "They come three in a pack," I told her, then asked, "Would you happen to have a pen I could borrow?"
The lady dug through her purse, pulled out a pen, handing it to me. "I'll be right back with your pen," I promised her. Pens are one of those things I borrow, and I naturally put them in my pocket when I'm done writing, forgetting to return them.
"Don't worry about it," the lady said. "I want you to keep it as a gift for helping us." Her gesture of kindness warmed my heart.
Rick wasn't sure how to fill out the form. So I took the pad, "What's the skew number," I asked, then showed him how to fill out the slip. When I was done, I offered the pen, "Would you like a pen, Rick?"
Rick reached into his pouch, pulling out a pen. "I found mine," he said. Then he pulled out another, "Actually, I found both of them." We shared a good laugh about that.
Rick extended his hand. As I shook his hand, he said, "Thank you. You've taught me a few more things about my new job." Again, my heart was warmed, this time by his sincerity.
"Stick with it, Rick. You've got this." We said our farewells and I left the store a happy man on what could have been a frustrating day.
The next morning, I put a load of my work clothes in the washer. I wash them separately from other clothes because they're really grungy. I sat at the table while I waited for the washing machine. The pen was in front of me.
It's an aqua pen with glittery sparkles in the transparent barrel. It has a lighter blue gel grip for writing. Pushing the top of the pen extends the tip, and pressing the clip retracts it. It's a pretty cool pen, and it writes smoothly but has aqua-colored ink – it's kind of a girly pen like my daughters had when they were little. Maybe I'll give it to one of my granddaughters. Just then, the timer sounded, and the washer was done.
I grabbed a handful of my work clothes and tossed them into the dryer, then another, and another. On the third handful, I heard something fall back into the washer. It made a ting sound, but not metallic like a coin would make. I looked down into the washer. "Oh no." I had that sinking feeling. I ran a black Sharpie pen through the laundry. I put the last few clothing items in the dryer.
I sighed with relief as I remembered these were all work clothes. Black ink spots wouldn’t hurt them. "I've got to be more careful," I told myself. "This could have been a disaster if these were Melissa's good clothes." I knew this from experience.
The cap was still on the Sharpie. I removed it and drew a line on a piece of paper. "Hey, it still works!" I was happy. A few minutes later, I used the Sharpie to write a grocery list. "What's all over my hands?" I examined the Sharpie. Apparently, the barrel had cracked, but under the cap. "What a mess," I complained as I threw the marker in the trash. I washed my hands in vain. Sharpie ink does not wash off; it eventually wears off.
I looked at the pen the lady gave me again. I thought about the tension stirred by some people at the building material store. I reminded myself how that pen brought me a calm, peaceful feeling. Then I looked at the palms of my hands, with splotches of black ink stains all about where the Sharpie assaulted me.
One pen brought me peace and another anguish. I smiled warmly, "Maybe it's true; the pen is mightier than the sword."
Back to Blog
She called out from the bottom of the steps by the garage door, "Honey, can you turn off the driveway lights from the living room."
"You can turn them off from the garage," I answered.
"I know," my wife replied, "but if you turn them off in the living room, both switches will be down the way you like them." She was correct.
I installed a lot of three, and four-way switches when I rewired our house because they are so convenient. For example, I put a light switch at the top and bottom of the stairwell; there's a light switch at both ends of the hallway.
We can turn the kitchen light on from the dining room door, living room doorway, or the back door to the deck. Likewise, the living room light can be turned on or off from the hallway, the stairwell, the dining room door, or the front door.
We can operate the driveway lights from the garage or the house's front door. This convenience allows us to turn on the lights if we expect company after dark. When guests leave in the evening, we can see them off at the front door, then turn the lights off (without running downstairs to the garage) after they have backed out of our driveway. I like many light switches. But I also like the switches down when a light is off and up when it is on.
I've often walked down the steps to turn the stairwell lights off, then climbed the steps in the dark just so the switches were in the proper position. Although this defeats the convenience of having multiple switches, it drives me nuts when a switch is up but the light is off.
I appreciated my wife's consideration of this detail for me. "Okay," I answered her, "I'll turn them off up here.
I walked to the front door and flicked the switch with my index finger. Just as I did so, a pain shot through my finger, then up my arm. "Ouch," I cursed as I examined my fingertip.
I was helping my cousin with a project in which we were using black drywall screws. Unfortunately, those little boogers are notorious for carrying very fine metal slivers, and I had one in my finger. I bit my lip, held my breath, and squinted my eyes as my cousin attempted to remove the sliver with a pair of sharp tweezers. "I can't tell if I got it or not," Cliff said, while looking closely at my fingertip.
It always amazes me that something so tiny can cause so darn much pain. It's even more painful when someone inadvertently brushes a sliver the wrong way while attempting to remove it. So much pain, in fact, I told my cousin, "I'm pretty sure you got it out," even though I had no idea if he got it. It turns out he did not.
A few days later, I showed the sliver to my aunt Di. She immediately got a pair of tweezers and sat me at the table. I winced with pain as she tried to grip it with the pliers; okay, they were tweezers, but it felt like she was pinching my finger with pliers. "It's not wanting to come out," Di reported. "Let me get a needle."
Di returned to the table with the newest weapon of torture. After holding the tip in a flame until the needle glowed red, she said, "My dad taught me to heat the tip of the pin with a match to kill any germs."
Di poked my finger just a bit, but I screamed like a chicken, pulled my finger away, and told her, "I'm pretty sure the sliver will come out later on its own." I have high pain tolerance, but sliver removal exceeds that limit.
Di suggested a pain-free way to remove a sliver. "I've heard that if you wrap a banana peel around your fingertip, the banana skin will draw the sliver out of your finger." I gave her a look of skepticism.
"Some place in the world, there is a starving monkey who needs that banana more than I do," I said.
"I'll wait until Melissa can look at it later," I said. "She's really good at getting slivers out. And if she can't get it, eventually gangrene will set in, then my fingertip will fall off. Poof! The sliver is gone!" I left my aunt's house and went home to my wife.
One time, Melissa removed the worst sliver I ever had in life.
It had poked into the tip of my finger, penetrating under the fingernail. We could see the silver through my fingernail; it was almost one-half inch long, and it hurt! When I tried to remove it on my own, I broke off the exposed small wooden tip. Melissa looked at it, "That has to come out," she said, but I wasn't going to let her even try.
I was pretty sure it would hurt worse coming out than it would to leave the sliver there. "It will eventually grow out as the fingernail grows," I insisted.
The next day we were at my brother Dan and Petrina's house. They all agreed that the sliver needed to be removed. Melissa approached me with an arsenal of silver removal tools. Petrina stood by with triple antibiotic ointment and a band-aide. Dan held a bright headlamp, shining it on the tip of my finger, but looked away as Doctor Melissa began the procedure. (I think he hates slivers more than I do.) I'm not sure if Danny was really there to hold the light or tackle me if I made a run for the front door.
Melissa barely touched my finger, and I screamed like a girl that she was trying to kill me. I demanded a shot of courage - whiskey. Whiskey always worked in western movies when a cowboy out on the prairie had to remove a bullet from his buddy’s leg. Although I've never been shot, I'm pretty sure it can't hurt any worse than a sliver.
In the end, Melissa got the sliver out. She has a steady hand. But, honestly, it felt better right away as the pulsing in my fingertip stopped as soon as the sliver was gone.
After bumping the sliver on the light switch, I held my throbbing finger, examining the metal sliver. Melissa came up the steps from the basement, "What are you looking at," she asked. I showed her the sliver, which had now festered in pretty well. "That's going to have to come out," she reported. I swear she had a twinkle in her eye.
With a new year upon us, it's time to make resolutions that will make us better people and improve our lives. So as Melissa approached me with a handful of gadgets, sharp things, and a bottle of whiskey for sliver removal, I came up with my resolution. This year, I will stop worrying about which way the light switches are flipped. Melissa may never have known about this dang sliver if it wasn't for that stupid light switch issue!
Melissa reached for my finger. "Not without a shot of courage first," I insisted.
And so, I lift my shot of courage and propose a toast: "Here's to a sliver-free new year, my friends. Cheers!"
Back to Blog
I talk about ours a lot. Some people have asked me, "What is a three-seasons room?" It's a room that’s not heated. Instead, a door closes the space off from the house to keep the warm air inside the house during extreme weather. We only use these rooms during fair weather in the spring, summer, and fall. (Thus, the name, three-seasons room.) The room also has a lot of windows. In our case, over ninety percent of the three exterior walls have large windows.