By Mordechai Schmutter
I think it’s about time we started telling people what we found in our wall.
Perhaps I should explain: My wife has this nerve-wracking tendency of opening up walls. This has come up before.
Okay, so this was a wall that needed opening up anyway. It was the wall of our entranceway, which juts out of the house. At some point, the entranceway had been an “enclosed porch,” which is a politically correct way of saying, “A room that has no insulation, and probably no door lock.” But then, some previous owner decided to make it part of the house, but saw no reason to add insulation or improve the roof in any way. So for a while, we had a leak on the left side of our entranceway. We’ve since gotten that fixed, but that did nothing to repair the drywall inside the house. (Drywall can’t really handle water damage. It’s called drywall.) So parts of the ceiling were peeling, there was a crack in the wall over the window, the shades had brown water streaks, and we had no idea what was going on inside the wall. Not without opening it up and looking.
We also needed to put insulation in there, especially since my office is right off the entranceway. When I’m not typing, my left arm is technically in the entranceway. This is convenient if I ever want to get anything from my work bag, and I can also turn around and watch the kids play in the living room when I want to postpone work. But it also means that:
A. It has the effect of people coming into the house and saying, “Oh. This is your office”; and
B. During the winter, I have to work with a coat on. My kids got me something called a “Snuggie,” but I rarely use it because I don’t love being seen in it, and I’m right near the front door. (“Oh, this is your office. What are you wearing?”)
But I do like that I don’t have to walk far to answer the door, especially since my Snuggie is hard to walk in and doesn’t close in the back.
We’ve actually done a lot of small construction jobs in our entranceway over the years, to postpone work:
1. We’ve added door locks.
2. We’ve replaced the front door with one that was more than five feet high.
3. We’ve installed a floor that is actually parallel to the ground.
4. We’ve replaced the windows with ones that are not older than the house.
5. We’ve installed a light, so we could better see all the knapsacks on the floor.
6. We’ve debated putting in a coat closet. (Yes, some previous owner got rid of the coat closet. Why do you need a closet when you have to wear your coat all the time?) I want a closet, but my wife doesn’t want to block the windows. So instead, we have a coat rack, which blocks the windows.
But every time we’ve ever called contractors about our entranceway, they’ve given us the same story: After a lot of poking around, they said that they couldn’t give us a concrete estimate because, quote, “There’s no telling what we’re going to find in the wall.”
And I think they all knew. Because every single one said the same exact words: “There’s no telling what we’re going to find in the wall.”
And we said, “You can tell us. It’s our wall.”
And they’re like, “Nope. There’s no telling.” Like they’d all made a pact.
I could not imagine what they thought they were going to find in there. Raccoons? Bricks? But we did know that “There’s no telling what we’re going to find” is never a good thing. It’s not like, “We might find a big pile of building supplies.”
We know exactly what they mean. They mean that they expect that they’re going to find that it’s more work than they expected. But how much more work can it be? Will they find that the entire wall was a big pile of sand, and if they break it open, it will start leaking out everywhere? It’s still one wall. They’re not going to open it up to find that there’s a water pipe from the kitchen that snakes into the entranceway and then snakes back out.
So that’s why my wife decided that we’d rip open our wall—so that the contractors stop saying that.
“Well, you know, there’s no telling what we’ll… Oh. What is that?”
“Yeah. We know.”
“Are you wearing a Snuggie?”
Our general policy, when it comes to doing projects ourselves, is that it’s not a huge deal to try our hand at anything that doesn’t involve playing with electricity or water, or making holes to the outside. If we stay away from those, worst case scenario is that we can’t do what we set out to do and someone has to come finish it, and how is that any worse than hiring someone to do it in the first place? Unless you count injuries.
She has the same basic policy with giving haircuts.
(Some frequent readers of this column might be wondering why we’re attempting a major construction job when we’re trying to find a bigger house to move into. And the answer is that we’re actually not sure whether we’re going to find a bigger house or just make our current house bigger. Basically, we’ve determined that the only house we could afford, using the money we get from selling our current house, is one that is as big as ours and needs a lot of work. Which seems kind of pointless, because our house is as big as ours and needs a lot of work. Nevertheless, we’ve been holding out hope to find that one house that’s bigger, needs no work, and costs less money. So far we haven’t found it. But we know for a fact that as soon as we start construction on our current house, we’re going to find that other house. So that’s the other reason we tore open a wall.)
So my wife waited until one day when I wasn’t around to chicken out, and she went for it. There’s no telling what she found in there.
Okay, I’ll tell you: She found windows. Between the drywall and the siding.
More specifically, she found, right behind the crack, one of those nice semicircle windows with thick, opaque glass cut into sections, like a half a pie. She also found two other windows near the front door, both of which were broken.
But that is not what we expected to find in there. And it’s not even like anyone told us.
Who would put windows in a wall? It was like someone installed windows and didn’t know how to cut the drywall around it. Or like someone said, “There’s way too much natural light in here. Let’s board up the windows, but then incorporate it into the house.”
But my wife is really excited. It’s kind of like when the Jews came into Eretz Yisrael, and they broke open the walls of their houses and found treasure. Only in our case, we found windows. As if the Cana’anim had done weird repairs to their homes and hidden windows in the walls.
So we’re not sure what to do next. My wife wants to keep the semicircle window exposed. She says it adds the illusion of height.
The illusion of height? So we want people to bump their heads?
She also wants to stain the window, because that’s something we want to do in front of impressionable young kids—color our windows. But if she doesn’t stain it, our other option is to cut through the siding to make it functional, which blatantly goes against our rule against making holes to the outside.
Meanwhile, I’d originally hoped that we’d put a coat closet in there once we were doing construction anyway, but there’s no way that’s happening, now that there’s an extra window that my wife doesn’t want to block.
I’m also worried that the old window isn’t weatherproof, and that seeing as we’d opened the wall in the first place to put in insulation, it might be better if we didn’t leave huge parts of it open.
So now, even though this was supposed to be a two-day project, the left half of our entranceway has been open for weeks, because we can’t decide what to do. And every time we try to decide, we get no closer to making a decision, because all we do is open up more possibilities. And those possibilities have windows.
And meanwhile, we don’t want to open up the right side of the entranceway, because yeah, there could be a matching window in the wall, but it could also be broken. There’s no telling what we’d find in there. ϖ
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of four books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.