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Cast of Characters:

Randy, the electrician

Will, the electrician’s assistant

Wallace, the building inspector

Kermit, the unreliable contractor

Kevin, the well guy

Scottie, the well guy’s assistant

The wildflowers

The wildflowers put on a pretty show last week, but I was focused on other things.

On Monday, at the end of a busy and productive day, Will, my electrician’s assistant, and I stood in the kitchen as he identified, again, the places where new outlets and wiring were needed. This used, portable classroom is receiving a simple make-over, and long pieces of plastic-coated strands of metal and lots of gray electrical boxes are critical to making it my home. (Please see my previous posts for background.)

“You’ve got to have an outlet for every two feet of counter space,” Will (pictured above) had explained earlier in the day. “You’ve got to know exactly where your sink, counter, and appliances will be.”

So, I’d spent time with my measuring tape, imagined opening the refrigerator door (Boy, that’ll be a tight fit.), standing at the invisible sink washing dishes (Won’t it be nice when there’s a window right there?), and reaching into an imaginary pantry (Darn, it won’t be as big as I’d like, but it’ll have to do.). So, here Will and I were at quitting time on Monday, identifying all of the electrical components they’d add the next day.

Or, so I thought.

As the list of necessary and desired electrical elements grew beyond what my electrician, Randy, had originally cost-estimated for me, I explained to Will that I needed for Randy to let me know what additional charges would be involved.

And, then, I made the critical mistake.

I expressed anxiety about what Wallace, the building inspector, would say when he came to inspect the electrical work. The plans I’d submitted included a bathroom that was part of the original construction. As you can see, however, I picked out a classroom with no bathroom at all.

Kermit the contractor had worked on Saturday, and when he finished, the skeletons of my walls were standing.

But, Kermit failed to show up on Sunday to hang sheet rock, so the studs were still exposed, all but shouting “new construction”. I worried that the building inspector would fine me or, in general, make things difficult when he saw my project wasn’t going according to the plans I had submitted.

To Will I said, “I’m not sure what Wallace is going to hit me with.” But, I wasn’t going to slow down the project. It was time to get on with this show.

Will missed that part of the script.

Maybe he didn’t want me to get “hit”. Or, maybe it was a Mars and Venus thing. Warring planets, crossed stars, minds in alternate universes. What registered in Will’s brain was: “STOP. DO NOT PROCEED.”

And, that’s what he told his boss, Randy, after he left my property Monday evening.

Meanwhile, tired and exhilarated, I coasted home in my universe that evening, Venus as my guide.

Tuesday morning came. Bleary-eyed, but determined, I drove to my property. It was as if I’d walked into a darkened theatre, the curtain drawn. What had happened to the actors in my play? I tromped around my property and looked at long trenches…

…and white pipes tucked neatly into the ground.

By midday, I headed home, called Randy, got the story, and nearly cried. Could he come on Friday? No, he said, that wasn’t a good day. We left things hanging.

Next I called Kevin, the well guy. “Hey, Kevin, I thought Scottie was going to be back today to finish the work.”

“Ellen, he’s on his way. His mother’s been in the hospital and she might need more surgery. That’s where he’s been this morning. But, he’ll be there.”

Then I called Kermit. Told him I was angry (my words were a little more crass than that) when he didn’t show up on Sunday. And he said, “Aw, Sweetie, I didn’t mean to rile you. You shoulda called me.”

Biting my tongue, too close to lashing out, I told him I’d talk with him later.

Meanwhile, my dears, this building comes along slowly. Kermit will likely be fired. Randy and Kevin and their assistants, Will and Scottie, will come through for me.

And, always, despite the drama going on in my schoolhouse project, the weather is cool and the wildflowers are blooming, putting on their very best show.

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I saw a small turtle crossing the road this morning. A good omen! With a slight gasp, then a prayer that it would make it across the pavement before another vehicle came along, I decided not to stop. It was 7:15. Don’t have time. Don’t want to be late.

I had a date with Ron, my schoolhouse guy, to pick out the portable classroom that will be my home for the foreseeable future. It’s not every day that I pick out a home to be delivered to my new piece of property, and not every morning that this night owl is on the road so early! And, for goodness sakes, how often do I go look at a bunch of portable classrooms that have been put out to pasture—literally?

I had some hours on the road ahead of me. But it took only a few seconds to come to my senses and reverse my decision on the turtle. How could I not rescue my own good omen? I made a quick u-turn, parked on the narrow shoulder of the road, ran along the highway, carefully lifted the turtle, and deposited it in the grass. Then I was on my way.

Excitement fueled my drive. As did some anxiety. With a check for $4,000 in my pocket and a contract I’d drawn up to be signed, I wanted very much for this business deal to go smoothly. Would I find a building I’d be pleased with? Would Ron ask me to pay out more funds because he’s having to pay his mover to haul this building a greater distance than we had originally planned on—with gas prices soaring? Would he be coming to my homesite when the two halves of the building are delivered (which I preferred) or would he wait until the next day to come out and complete his part of the work?

Four hours later I meet up with him and his father, who work together in this enterprise to rescue and rehabilitate portable classrooms that are no longer used by the schools. Here they are, all these metal buildings, clumped together in a former cow pasture, like wallflowers at a dance, waiting for someone like me to come along and pick one of them out of the crowd.

Ron and his father assure me that the one pictured above is structurally sound. A beauty, it is not. The front of this building is grayer and more forlorn than some of the others.

“Is that just mildew?” I ask Ron’s father.

“Oh, you just get you some Chlorox and spray it on there, and wash it down. It comes right off,” he assures me as he waves his hand upward at the side of the building.

Have faith. Have faith, I tell myself. You can do this and you can work wonders with paint.

With a little help from Ron’s father, I boost myself up through the doorway of the building, get my feet on the floor, and step inside. The floor feels sound and I see no bumps. The ceiling’s in pretty good shape, as are the walls. The inside’s much prettier than the outside, but then, that is the way of wallflowers, isn’t it?

“I want the carpet taken out. I don’t like carpet,” I tell Ron and his father.

“What are you gonna put down on the floor?” Ron’s father asks.

“I’m going to paint it,” I explain, making no effort to describe my half-baked vision of an artistic floor, something cute, something funky.

“Well, now, there’s glue underneath that carpet. You’ll have to get the glue up,” Ron’s father says.

“Oh, I didn’t think of that,” I say. And Ron assures me that the glue will be all dried up and all I’ll have to do is scrape it up.

“But, if it’s not dried up?” I ask.

“Oh, you just get some acetone and it’ll take it off.” I quiver inwardly at the thought. Acetone is highly toxic.

“Whatever you do,” Ron’s father says, “if you’re not gonna cover it back up with carpet, you ought to rent yourself a sander and sand the whole thing.”

Oh, boy. I’m wanting to make quick work of this remodeling project. A floor sander? I’ll think on that later.

Even with these problems presenting themselves, I can feel myself starting to fall for this little wallflower. In addition to its dull exterior, it does not have the configuration of doors and windows I had anticipated; and, most importantly, it does not have a bathroom, which will mean more expense to me. Ron assures me, though, “You’re making the best choice if you focus on getting one that’s sound like this one.”

I know he’s right. And, I’m ready to make a commitment to this diamond in the rough. We’ve already looked at several others. “I’ll take it,” I say.

“You’re sure?” Ron says. We can keep looking, if you want to.” He’s told me more than once he wants for me to be pleased with my building.

“I’m sure,” I say, and the three of us convene under the branches of a tall oak tree, using the tailgate of their truck as our desk. The contract is signed. There are no conflicts or disputes. I hand over the check. Ron smiles. We’re both relieved and shake hands.

On the drive home I remember the excitement I felt two days ago when I got the call from Danielle at the county planning department telling me my paper work had been processed. Yesterday I went into the office and wrote a check for $826 for permits, only to find that the my schoolhouse home cannot be delivered until I have been cleared for a septic tank. That will be another $400 permit fee, which I will pay on Monday, another few days of waiting, and another trip to the building department to get my final permit for the installation of the building.

Meanwhile, I’ve made my choice, and am glad to be heading home. Off and on the rains come as I drive and I flick my windshield wipers on and then off again, several times over the course of a few hours. The wildflowers (pictured at the beginning of this post) along the sides of the interstate are beautiful. How could I not have noticed them on my way down? And, the skies are lovely to watch. The scattered showers, one long lightening streak, and a few heavy downpours, make for some interesting sky gazing and beautiful cloud formations.

Worries wiggle around the edges of my elation. Because the doors and windows of the portable are not configured in the same way as those depicted in the plans I’ve already submitted for approval, will I be tangled in more red tape? How much more expense will I encounter beyond what I’ve already anticipated? Ah, well, I’ll celebrate the steps taken thus far and trust that the rest will work itself out.

I’m relieved to be almost home. I come through one more shower. I look across the field into the blue sky and see one of the longest rainbows I’ve ever seen!

I grab my camera for one more shot through the rain-spattered window and think, surely, Dorothy, my occasional alter ego, couldn’t have had a better day in Kansas or in Oz than the one I’ve had today. “Somewhere, over the rainbow…”

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