Deep Sleep (or, The Princess and the Pee)

So, I’m flying over water again, this time, it’s the Arlantic, and I’ve found something even more challenging than smelly baby poop. It’s having a window seat, with a seat partner that refuses to awaken.

We’re three hours from Madrid, and the sodas I had with dinner finally need to cone out. So, it’s time to find a lavatory. Actually, there’s one located one row behind me, because I’ve been hearing it flush all night. Easy-peasy.

Except for one thing – I’m in a window seat. I like window seats. You can see where you’re going. You have something to lean on while you sleep. You don’t get slammed with carry-ons and drink carts. The only problem is getting up.

So, all I have to do is find a way past my seat mate. In almost all of today’s aircraft, this requires moving my seat mate. 

Usually, this is easy because I’m traveling with someone I work with or live with. So, a couple of good pokes, they’re awake, they get up, I get up. No worries. Most of the time, if I’m traveling with the Spousal Unit, she has to go way before me, so I just get out of my seat while she’s gone. Efficient.

However, this is a business trip, so I’m on my own. While I feared sitting next to the other large guy all the way across the Atlantic, fate has given me a young, pouty, possibly anorexic generic European woman. She’s probably in her late twenties. Her girl friend/traveling companion is across the aisle. They chattered quite a bit at the beginning of the flight, ate, and passed out. 

So, she has been asleep since just after dinner with her sleeping mask on. We’re five hours or so into the flight. I envy her, actually, I’ve slept some, but mostly just read. I don’t sleep well in planes anymore.

So, how hard can it be to awaken a possibly anorexic generic pouty European? 

I grabbed her shoulder. Gently. “Excuse me.” Nothing.

I squeezed her shoulder. Nothing,

I shook her shoulder. Nothing.

I squeezed her arm. Nothing.

I’m out of ideas at this point.

I could grab something else, but there may be Sky Marshals onboard, and I would not want to explain that particular arrest to the Spousal Unit.

I could just kiss her, but I’m pretty sure at least one porno movie started that way – and if not, there should be one – “Sky Booty”, maybe.

I could get her friend to help, but she’s asleep with her sleep mask.

You know, if I had offered to switch seats to put them together, I’d be on an aisle right now. So, it’s my fault.

I’ll just read another chapter. She’s bound to wake up. She had as much to drink as I did, and women have smaller bladders. Right?

She’s still asleep.

Commence grabbing and shaking (gently) again.


Try to figure out how many languages I can say “Excuse me” in, since maybe she just doesn’t speak English.

Well, that was an entertaining exercise (“Excuse me”, “Con Permiso”, “Pardon moi”, “Pardon me”, “Yo, Adrian!”), but I still have to pee.

I could call the flight attendant. If I get lucky and get the old, bitchy one, she’ll wake her up. She may even dump water on her. Revenge!

Maybe I could dip her fingers in water to make her need to pee. I still have a water bottle from dinner. I could just flick some in her face. That may be cruel, though. Also, I’m thinking I’m glad I didn’t drink the water bottle.

Horrible thought: Maybe she’s dead. Who could tell with the mask? We’re already delayed, if they have to take a corpse off, and do paperwork, I’m going to miss my connection to Nice.

If she’s dead, I’m glad I didn’t kiss her. That would be icky.

Can you ask a flight attendant to check if your seat mate is dead? What part of the manual is that in?

Wait. When will the crew wake her up for something, so I don’t have to be the bad guy? Hey, whatever happened to the duty free cart, anyway?

When’s breakfast?

She moved! Frantic rubbing of arm. “Excuse me!”

Nothing. However, she’s crossed her legs, so there is no way I’m climbing over her without hitting something that could cause an incident. Not that I could have before, but I was considering it.

This must be what it’s like to live in a Tiny House.

I’ll just read another chapter. I’m pretty sure it’s at least ten hours until a human bladder bursts, so I can always crawl into Madrid. Also, I’m reflecting on how glad I am the flight attendants didn’t offer coffee after dinner.

I remind myself again of my rule to never take my Furosemide unless in an aisle seat, even though it will make you walk the cabin.

She moved! Now, both her legs are in her seat. She still won’t answer my “Excuse me”, of course. So, I could squeeze past, except for the people in front of me who seats are all the way reclined. And they are occasionally smooching.

Luckily, American 777s still have barf bags. I may need one from having to watch the kissing. Hey, can you pee in a barf bag? Is there a pee bag? Why didn’t I keep my Coke can?

However, if that couple is talking and kissing, they’re awake. So, I ask if he could move his seat forward for a moment, so I can try to get out.

He finds this humorous. Just move the seat, Loverboy.

Now, today’s airplanes are designed to have less space between rows than buses or cornfields, so, it can be a bit tricky for a “person of size” (say, anyone larger than a six-year old) to squeeze out, even with the seat in front all the way forward, and your seat mate’s legs crossed poutily onto her seat. This is why I usually try to sit in the bulkhead row – which is where I was for the hunger strike and poop from hell flight.

I stealthily slide past my sleeping seat mate and immediately step on all the crap she has on the floor (not under the seat in front of her.)

I’m wondering if I can move another two feet while off-balance when she finally wakes up, raises her mask, and looks at me. She curls up even tighter on her seat, which does not help move the piles of floor crap, but apparently is her way of being helpful. Gracias, bitch. At least, she’s awake. No, she’s back asleep. 

I feel badly I awoke her.

Wait. What?

In the bathroom, it occurs to me she might have been just faking sleep all along because she thought I was hitting on her. I’m strangely flattered, yet insulted she would think I would try to pick up a woman on an airplane by squeezing her arm repeatedly, and saying “Excuse me.” I’m old and married and not European, but I’d like to think I would have better opening lines. Besides, that would make me a male cougar. What do you call a male cougar? A guy.

I used the lavatory and headed back to my seat. She was asleep. I climbed over her and she didn’t even budge. She didn’t even raise her mask. That’s faster than in most of my relationships.

I don’t think I’m drinking anything else on this flight.

I hope she’s awake in Madrid. I have a connection to make.

Better than new

Our kitchen is being remodeled. Remodel is from an ancient French word that means “probable insanity”.  We are using Ikea. Ikea is from a Swedish word that means “probable insanity.”

A kitchen remodel is the perfect project to prove the adage that the first 90% of the project takes 90% of the time, and the last 10% of the project takes the other 90% of the time.

All the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Since there are no innocents in a remodeling project, none of the names were changed.

Why do women swoon so over their kitchens? They have spent most of the past few millenia finding other things to do, specifically so they would no longer be spending time in the kitchen.

Here’s an interesting side-effect of completely removing a room from the house even for a short time – all of the house is affected, and not in a good way. Crap that was in the kitchen pretty much filled the spare room, which used to be where my grandson took his naps when he was over. So, last visit, he was driven around the block for a while to sleep. You can’t get to the bathroom off the kitchen any more, and the toilet is gone, anyway, since the floor is being redone (another side effect).  The dogs can’t be loose because the contractors tend to leave doors open, so they’re spending a lot of quality crate time (yes, they’re annoyed). You can’t use the garage because the driveway is blocked with a dumpster. I’m making coffee in the guest bathroom. The only advantage was that for a while, the refrigerator and a (new) microwave were in the family room, which made beer and snacks more accessible while watching TV.

On the bright side, I’m actually looking forward to the hour-long commute to the office every morning because it means I’m leaving the construction zone.

This project started because our kitchen floor was buckling. So, there was a leak somewhere. However, after the leak was fixed, there was still a ripple in the floor. Male solution: Fix the floor. Female solution: Fix the floor and while you’re at it, replace vinyl flooring with tiles, put in new cabinets, replace the counter-top, paint the walls a different color, and because it’s adjoining, maybe replace the carpet in the dining room. Oh, and maybe paint the hallway. The only thing that stopped the kitchen remodeling from progressing through the whole house (and an entire retirement account) was a hailstorm. Now, we need a new roof which is limiting the kitchen budget. Sometimes, an act of God is actually a good thing. Thank you for the hail, God.

Spousal Unit: “Don’t you love this tile? It reminds me of my Mom’s kitchen in her home long ago.” Me: “That looks like the tile in my grade school cafeteria.” So, who wins? I will now be having supper in my grade school cafeteria. This reminds me, I have to get the Spousal Unit a hairnet. Actually, considering it will be food I didn’t order prepared by a cranky Italian lady, it will be supper in my grade school cafeteria. All I need now are some spitwads. And detention.

Any time a woman finds something that reminds her of “long ago”, it will be in a section of the store called “retro”. Retro is from an Indonesian word meaning “grossly over-priced.”

Spousal Unit: “Should the walls be red or black?” This is an unwinnable situation, unless one really prefers red or black (Me? Notsomuch.) So, I don’t care. However, you cannot say you don’t care in a project of this magnitude – not because you know your opinion is going to be ignored anyway, but because then it looks like you don’t care. (Think about that for a moment.) However, I really don’t care – I just want Bubba, Joe-Bob and their tools out of my house and their monster truck and mini-dumpster out of my driveway. I don’t really care what color the walls are. The only time I’m in the kitchen is to make coffee, and that means I’m asleep, so my eyes are closed. Just put the coffee pot back in the same place it was before the remodel and nobody gets hurt.

We first priced a couple of professional remodeling services. Spousal Unit’s estimate: $15,000. My estimate: $30,000. Actual estimate: $37,000. I can’t give that much blood in a year, so it was off to Ikea. (Spousal Unit’s estimate: $10,000. My estimate: $25,000. Still open. Let’s just say hers was low.)

Ikea is a Scandinavian firm that produces functional furniture. Saying furniture is “functional” is like saying a girl has a good personality.

Ikea is inexpensive, mainly because they don’t produce products, they produce kits. You get a flat box of parts and an instruction sheet, whether you’re buying a kitchen cabinet or a child’s set of toy blocks. Actually, I’m not sure the kitchen cabinets aren’t made from the child’s set of toy blocks. Many of their products are just assemblies of smaller products, so the instructions are “get two of these boxes, and one of those boxes. Assemble as shown on diagram.”

I am not a handyman. I cannot use tools. So, the mechanically inept hire someone to do the job for them. Ikea has suggestions for companies to assist you. Well, a company. If you pay them a slight extra charge, they will act as a general contractor.

In the USA, a general contractor manages a project and assigns specific tasks to other contractors. I know this, because I spent a week on jury duty when a general contractor was the defendant in a lawsuit. In Scandinavia or Ethiopia or wherever Ikea is located, a general contractor apparently only does the odd jobs that nobody else does. They also listen patiently to the woman of the house railing about the ineptitude of the other contractors. You get to actually do project management yourself, therefore saving money. This is why their general contractor service is relatively cheap – he doesn’t actually do anything to manage the project. I suppose I should be grateful we didn’t get a general contractor kit in a flat box with an odd Scandinavian name on the side. I would still be assembling him.

Our cabinet installer is a company named Traemand. They specialize in cabinet installations – their website says so. Unfortunately, they are installing European style cabinets in a US kitchen, which apparently is hard (their website says so). I assume this means they use metric measurements, since their first floor plan had one cabinet blocking half a doorway. This measurement (ironically) was done by a subcontractor who was actually working for the same company that is our general contractor. So, why not just have the general contractor do everything? Ikea split the jobs up, so it is not allowed. What happens if you just buy all the boxes of parts and hire someone else to assemble them? It’s not warranted. This makes no sense to me, but I’m not Swedish.

After the cabinet into the doorway design was corrected (strangely, we didn’t want a doorway blocked), the second set of measurements didn’t seem to match the actual kitchen measurements. So, we finally had the general contractor re-measure. He must have used an American tape measure, because this time, the plan actually made some sense and fit the kitchen.

It occurred to me that there is an old adage “Measure twice, cut once.” I guess nobody told Traemand that “measure twice” implied getting the same number both times.

Of course, the actual installation didn’t allow the existing refrigerator to fit under an installed cabinet. After the installers “made” it fit by lowering the feet on the refrigerator, the cabinet doors above the refrigerator won’t open. Apparently, this is a strange model of refrigerator that has hinges on the doors and they are on the top. Who knew? So, we’re waiting for a new cabinet to be delivered. Yes, Traemand, the cabinet technically fits. However, it’s useless if it doesn’t open, so it needs to be fixed. Finally, they installed the existing double oven at Munchkin-level, so the lower oven will be at the proper height when the Spousal Unit has her scoliosis kick in. In the meantime, if the lower oven is used where it is, the dogs are going to learn the hard way not to sniff things, and grandchildren will learn “don’t touch” on their own. Other than that, it’s perfect. Oh, except we need a new kitchen table because the new cabinet takes up more space than the one it replaced, so the table won’t fit. Well, the table will fit, but people can’t actually sit around it.

An aside on the double oven – many women lust after a double oven. Women love their double ovens. They use them one day a year on Thanksgiving and the rest of the time, they just lovingly gaze at them while re-heating leftovers in the microwave or toaster oven, because using the oven heats the entire kitchen. You know, a guy gets a lot of grief for wanting a 70″ TV to watch the Super Bowl, but at least you can watch other shows on it during the year. How often do you really need two ovens? Sheesh.

So, Traemand may be installers, but they are certainly not designers or measurers. Actually, I will be happy to say that they are installers if the cabinets are all still on the walls in a week or so.

Dear Ikea, it is staggering to me that any company could certify another company to do product installations when their employees can’t use a tape measure successfully. I would have thought that would have been question one on the installation certification test, or at least in the first five, after “What’s a cabinet?” or “Which end of the screwdriver do you hold?” I may be mechanically inept, but I know how to measure how tall something is. 

So, we have a general contractor that’s not managing the project, an installer that can’t measure, and a different company for each piece of the rest of the puzzle, all assembling items purchased from random companies throughout the Metroplex. How can this not go smoothly?

Needless to say, the Spousal Unit is approaching a level of cranky not seen since I managed to miss her birthday, our anniversary and Valentine’s Day all with the same business trip. (They’re all within two weeks, so it really wasn’t that difficult. Come to think of it, I was gone less time on that trip than this kitchen project has taken.)

Also, it is taking so freaking long to get the project done, that we’re pretty much used to eating out every night. So, I’m not sure the new kitchen will get that much use, although I’ve been promised it will. (The male version of this is a riding mower sitting in the garage while the neighbor’s kid is doing the lawn.)

A lesson to anyone wanting to outsource a room remodel – get a general contractor and a designer. Write a much larger check than Ikea requests. Pick cabinets out of their catalog. Don’t special-order anything. Go to France for a month.

I heard a loud crash as I was writing this. Luckily, it was one of my grandson’s toys falling off the table in the family room. So, all cabinets are still attached to the walls. So far. I hope it doesn’t turn out that they only hold European-style dishes, pots and pans.

A Strange and Disturbing Relationship

Full disclosure – I’m divorced and have alienated any number of people over the years, so I’m certainly not an expert at relationships (even though my second marriage has lasted four times longer than my first so far – although it may end when someone special reads this post.)

That said, there is one relationship I simply don’t understand at all – that of a woman and her cleaning lady. First of all, I hope “cleaning lady” is PC, I think they used to be called maids and before that, they were servants.

First, cleaning ladies strike fear in women’s hearts. Ask yourself this – do men snake all the pipes and replace washers before the plumber arrives? Do men replace fuses and make sure all the wiring is straight before the electrician arrives? Of course not – that’s why you hire a professional. So, why is it mandatory to pre-clean the house before the cleaning lady arrives?

Contrary to their ability to strike fear, cleaning ladies also seem to be confidantes. I do not know any male who has invited their plumber or electrician to their wedding, but I can think of at least one woman who invited her cleaning lady, and I know one woman who hosted her cleaning lady’s wedding.

Every time I hear about the relationship between a woman and her cleaning lady, I flash back to an old Seinfeld episode, where Jerry starts sleeping with his maid, and it turns out she’s really a hooker. She also starts doing less and less work, which may be a more critical point from the male perspective. Sex is fine, but those curtain rods aren’t going to dust themselves.

When men complain about the costs of a cleaning lady, the counter argument is usually that the current one is worth the money and a cleaning service (e.g. an anonymous cleaning lady with no connection to the woman of the house) would be much more expensive. The secondary argument is that if someone were paid to actually clean the entire house, then the woman of the house would have to pre-clean properly in advance. (“I admit it. The house is cluttered. How could someone possibly clean it?”) What?

My one theory is that a man should just cancel the cleaning lady and then tell his Spousal Unit that the cleaning lady has been rescheduled to the next day. Then, the Spousal Unit will frantically pre-clean the house in preparation.

The other issue – where I am not alone – is that the cleaning lady puts things where she thinks they belong, even if it should be intuitively obvious where they belong. “Let’s see, I have a clean glass. Here is a cabinet with 337 glasses in it. So, I guess this glass belongs in the cabinet on the other side of the kitchen with the plates. Also, all the husband’s shaving equipment is lined up neatly by the bathroom sink. It must belong in the drawer under the other side of the sink beneath the tampons, or perhaps in the closet in the other bathroom.”

As a man wiser than I once said, “The cleaning lady comes every two weeks and it takes me two weeks to find the stuff she put away.” (I would quote him directly, but I’m protecting the innocent.)

I am not friends with my plumber or my mechanic. There is a part of me that would like to discuss my Spousal Unit’s failure to get excited about my new blog (and my inability to tell her why this really hurts) while my mechanic is watching the oil drain from my car, but I don’t think he  likes being distracted. Also, I have no idea what his name is, which makes it harder to confide my true feelings in him.

If I had one of my friends helping me with work around the house, I would be paying in beer and pizza, not cash. They probably wouldn’t expect a clean area to work in, either. Mainly because they live alone, and they don’t have cleaning ladies.