Friday night, we were heading into the basement to ride our bikes when I had a brilliant idea.
Let’s hang pictures on the wall.
After painting the basement walls, we had about a dozen frames filled with assorted Ironman and triathlon glory that needed to be hung. Now, if you are married to an engineer you know that hanging a picture is not an easy task. And after attempting to hang pictures on my own only to be lectured in the proper way to prepare and then hang a picture I just gave up and said fine from now on you hang things on the walls.
So there the pictures have sat.
Friday night seemed like the perfect time. Finally we were both in the basement together. Finally we both had nowhere to go. Unless you count 20 stationary miles on the bike. And how long could it take to hang pictures after all?
Long. It can take very, very long. Please take my word.
And for some reason Chris is game. Let’s hang pictures, he said. Immediately Chris gets to work. He gets out all of the tools for hanging pictures on the wall. I know what you’re thinking. There are only two tools you need. But you are wrong. There is actually an entire toolbox containing - a plastic divided box filled with nails of at least ten dozen sizes, hooks, a ruler, a level, a pencil, a laser level beam, and an electric drill.
What ever happened to just a hammer and a nail?
Not with an engineer. No, when an engineer takes on a house project you might as well call a contractor in because it’s going to be a very, very long time. Besides, you’re going to need someone to talk to and to pass time.
But back to the pictures. First, Chris had me show him where I wanted all of the pictures. Easy enough. Then he marked the spots with a pencil. Fine. Then he got out the laser level beam. Ok, I’m done. That’s it. Anything that involves a laser is way above my head and I would rather not be involved.
So I checked out. Went upstairs, played with the dog. About 20 minutes later, I hear my husband call my name. Call it a miracle but the picture has finally been hung. And it took less than a day. I go downstairs to take a look and then I notice something about the picture on the wall.
“It looks great - except that it’s crooked.”
Chris stares at the picture hanging (crookedly) on the wall. He looks, he studies, in his mind he is performing complex paper science algorithms and angles requiring at least a four year degree in engineering which prepares someone to look at a problem like that and very intelligently say…......huh.
It was more than obvious that the picture slanted down to the left side. No level necessary to figure that one out. But never trust a woman or never trust anything but your level if you’re an engineer. So out comes the level and it goes on the picture frame.
There is a silent pause.
“It is crooked. DAMMIT!” he says.
Immediately he scrambles because this couldn’t be right. I mean, how can a leveled level be wrong? How? To an engineer the level is one of the few trusted things in the world. It can’t possibly not be right. If the level isn’t level than how can you trust anything at all? How do you know you’re mom is really your mom or your wife really your wife…..if the level is not level HOW CAN YOU HAVE FAITH IN THE WORLD AT ALL!
He sets off on his sleuth work to find an answer – any answer proving that it is not the level that is wrong. It’s the picture frame, it’s the screws, it’s….the wall.
I’m not buying it. It’s the level and it’s off. And because of that we have unleveled screws and a bileveled crooked Ironman picture on our wall. To prove my point, I show him how. I take the level, I put it on top of the screws and show him that the level doesn’t level out at all. Sure, I don’t have the letters B.S. behind my name but I do have a B.A. and if it was good enough for B.A. Baracus than my skills have to be worth something with this picture on the wall.
But B.A. is not good enough. From behind me, Chris has the laser beam going to show me that I was probably most definitely 100 percent….
He is stumped. But wants to figure it out. Because that picture is going on the wall straight no matter what. It might be 10 pm before it happens but it will.
Meanwhile, I am e-mailing my coach. Actually she is more like my friend. She listens to me for better or for worse in sickness and in health so honestly she is more like my wife. We talk a lot and she also coaches my husband and she also married an engineer. So she understands. When I told her that I just told Chris his level might not be level and he got that look on this face like I just told him there was no Santa Claus she said that’s nothing, she has me topped.
Because her husband would have just rebuilt the entire wall.
Let me just say – touché. Because my husband was ready to rebuild an entire nine dollar picture frame. For all this time and effort we could have just driven the 10 miles to buy a new one for double the cost and still come out ahead. But still he set off to rebuild the picture frame because he has an *idea* for how to do it with a few little hooks, screws, fasteners, and…
Things I really don’t care about at all. Give me a hammer and a few nails and I’ll get that thing on the wall. With a tried and true method called "eyeball it" if you will. Realizing this is not an option I go back upstairs. Another 20 minutes later, a voice breaks from the basement.
“ALL RIGHT, IT’S ON THE WALL.”
If I know anything about my husband, I know that just might be his angry voice. Deep breath. Go down there and make him feel like a million dollar rock star for hanging that picture on the wall.
“WOW,” I say – I am beaming, gushing, I am full of let’s just forget I ever asked you to hang anything on the wall, “You did it! You got it straight on the wall.”
He tells me how he did it – I really didn’t understand – and then admits that the picture frame almost got beaten off the wall with a hammer because he was so aggravated by the lack of precise engineering skill in its shoddy at best design. All I know is that all of this could have been solved with two things – hammer and nail. And a few (mostly) incorrect holes in the wall (but who’s counting).
But honestly the picture did look great and the pictures next to it looked great as well. So after complimenting his work I pick up the next thing – a large metal bicycle to be hung on the wall. We choose a place (actually I tell him it will go here) and he says ok and then says “I just need to figure out how to hang it on the wall.”
Again, my bad. I should have stopped at the pictures and left the walls. Because you know this involved more computation, angles, levels, and a laser beam. Which I watched from atop my bike for the next 20 miles. But let me tell you one thing - if I had a hammer, this task would have been finished long ago – and you don’t need a level to prove that.