Remember those math test problems in school where they would tell you something like ‘Timmy was on a train traveling 60 mph for 20 minutes from City X and Joey, who left two hours earlier, was in a car traveling at 45 mph the opposite direction from City Y that had four two-minute traffic lights, two school zones and a White Castle drive-thru.’ Then magically from that sketchy given information you’re supposed to extrapolate, ‘if it took Timmy six minutes to perform CPR to revive Joey who had a heart attack while waiting for his friend at the train depot, how many square belly bomber burgers did it take to clog Joey’s arteries?’
What the hell? I never knew how to solve those problems. Math was not my thing. It still boggles my brain. To me ‘cosine’ is something you do to cash someone else’s check, ‘degrees’ tell me how cold it is, ‘rational’ is a deluded excuse, a ‘variable’ is kinda fickle and a ‘tangent’ is something I am on right now. Luckily in school, I excelled at other stuff like reading and writing. I was that annoying kid in class that loved the essay tests over eeny, meeny, miny, multiple guess. Although the gambler in me likes my passing odds in True and False.
From this, I learned pretty early that I’m damn good at somethings and, well, just plain suck at others. And that’s okay. I used to be hard on myself about it but I’ve mellowed. Even my wife is pretty forgiving of the messes I create when I try something that turns out to be one of those things that I suck at. Which is good because I keep learning new and creative ways to truly suck.
Let me preface my example of this with another one of those tangents (one that has nothing to do with circles and angles). Because of that ‘great at English / horrid at math thing’, I always thought of my brain as pretty darn average. I realized early on that average brains are fine if you are amazo- great looking, but if you were a Dork-a-saurus Rex like me, you better have something else going on upstairs or you were not going to make it.
Those thoughts stay with you as you grow up and once I became an adult I tried to find where my ‘bar of acceptability’ with myself was. Apparently, it’s fairly low. I got made fun for my appearance a lot as a kid so basically, my rule is, I just don’t want to be embarrassed by the way I look. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t think I could pull off perfect if I tried. But not embarrassing, that’s something I can strive for. I wish I did not care at all about what other people think, but I do.
So in my current neighborhood, everybody’s house numbers are not only placed prominently by the front door but are also painted on the curb. Ours was pretty faded when we moved in a couple of years ago and it has only gotten worse. After I had a pizza delivery guy get confused because he could not read it, I started imagining a fire breaking out and because our curb numbers were not legible, I pictured the fireman soaking my neighbor’s house while all my worldly possessions turned into a steamy charred ash pile.
About a year ago we got one of those badly cut out and poorly printed home-made ads rolled up and wedged on our front door handle. Because of my ‘not embarrassing’ rule, I likely would have done a better job producing the ad, but I still got its point. For $35 to $40 bucks the guy would paint any kind of rectangular background and stencil our house number over it. I could get my college mascot or flag or red polka dots or whatever I wanted slapped right there on the curb at the end of my front walk. The money was practically flying out of my wallet until my wife looked at it and her immediate thought $40 was a bit steep for 5 minutes work and 50 cents of paint. Then she got me with the ‘you wanna trust a guy who’s ad looks like this?’
My Wife assured me we had plenty of paint and even volunteered to do the job, reminding me that it took her seconds to spray paint our house numbers on the trash cans at our old place. But right around that time her world started getting busier and busier. Last week while she was out of town on business, I decided to be a good guy and tackled a bunch of little things from both our ever expanding to-do lists.
So, ummm… aaaaaaaa… painting numbers on a curb is harder than I thought. Apparently, I am as good at that as I am at math problems but it took a little bit to learn that. I dug around the garage and found some outdoor deck paint for my background rectangle. Then while looking for a brush I found the stencils my wife purchased for the trash can a decade ago, so I stopped,searched and found the receipt for the new ones I just purchased, so I could later go back to the store and return them.
Out to the curb I lugged the paint, a brush, an opener to pop off the lid, a piece of newspaper and a handful of paper towels because I know there is no way I could do this without making a mess. I shook the can like crazy, but upon opening it I discovered there was a hard lump on the bottom with some tinted water at the top. I forgot a stirrer.
I walked back down the path passed the yard, through the house, into garage where I found a stirrer. After bringing it all the way back out to the curb, I tried to mix the stuff but it was too hard and the wood stick broke leaving half of it submerged in the paint muck. I decided to try using the liquidy glop at the top but it dripped down into the street like I poured vanilla ice cream into a hot dish.
I walked back into the house to soak my paper towels and then mopped up the dribbly white tinted stuff that pooled up in the gutter. I then walked all the way back to the garage again and found some other white paint that was not oil based but I was already over a half hour invested into this five minute job and really wanted to get it done.
My white rectangle came out fairly good. I kept trying to make the sides even but with each swipe it got wider and wider till I decided my options were to paint the entire street’s worth of curb or accept that it will not be perfect. Again, I left it at the ‘not embarrassing’ point. Then when I went to pick up my mess, I discovered my newspaper was on top of an ant hill and that all of my supplies looked like they were covered with moving chocolate sprinkles. After a good de-ant-ing, I dragged all my crap back down the path, through the house and into the garage.
The next day I got my stencils ready and looked for the spray paint, but the black had dried up so all we only had red and silver. I assumed the red would immediately fade and the silver was too hard to read. I found a small can of black enamel paint. Perfect. I lugged all the crap out again, dodging the ants, I crouched in the street and proceeded to learn that I suck at painting house numbers on a curb.
That not embarrassing thing kicked in again. Yeah, this one is way over the bar. My numbers looked like a blind one-armed man with Parkinson’s was trying to paint hieroglyphics. I stepped back to assess my work, cringed, dragged my crap back inside and added this task to my ‘suck list’.
There are things I can do well and there are things that I suck at. Now if you want me to write a long wacky story about a dumb little task, I can do that with ease. But if you want a good example of some major suckage, ask me to paint some house numbers on a curb.