Reality Truck: Hey I Could Do That

Intro quote: I will not eat things for money. --Bart SimpsonI am not one of those people who suffers from the prevailing opinion that I could do everyone else's job better than they can. On the few occasions I have actually kidded myself that I had any acumen outside my usual purview, the results have inevitably been such that I have had to call in a professional and pay them double to repair the damage I've done. Now, I humbly bow before people who can say, start a lawnmower, for example. I definitely should have learned a trade. A liberal arts education may have its merits (I suppose), but it appears that few of them are financial. My parents solemnly stressed to me (from birth) the importance of getting "a good education, because no one can ever take that away from you." Yeah, well anybody who wants it, at this point, can have it. Unless my circumstances take an immediate turn for the better, it'll soon be the only thing left that isn't worth repossessing. And before anyone starts in with some sexist argument about girlie spending habits, let me point out that the women in my family are mostly financial dynamos who are fully capable of busting a union before they've even had their morning Wheaties, while the men in my family tend to blithely rival Congress in their unparalleled and dizzying feats of deficit spending. So any genetic fiscal stupidity I may be predisposed to is at most a 50/50 proposition. But in the past month, my entire salary has been solely, unexpectedly, unavoidably and catastrophically allocated to the purchase of services I am simply unqualified to perform. (Forcing me to consider furthering my education at any local vo-tech institution that will have me.) First came the vet bills. Now, I did grow up in the country, practicing (as all farm children do) a fair amount of amateur animal husbandry on the side. I could probably even still castrate a pig if the need and opportunity presented itself (although that's hardly the sort of skill one trots out at cocktail parties...not if one wants to be invited back, at any rate). But those limited talents aside, I am, in no way qualified to handle the diverse array of medical needs my new puppy has. Our first visit involved some very unattractive sounding things like: a DA2PL-P-C-Vac; Strongid-T; bordatella vaccination-intrana; and a fecal examination ova flotatio. OK, I'm pretty sure I know what that last item was (and it doesn't bear discussing in polite company), but as for the rest of it, they could have MADE IT ALL UP. (Various relatives have helpfully pointed out to me the inadvisability of the impoverished taking on the expense of pet ownership, but an equally good argument could be made for people minding their own business unless they'd like to havetheir checkbooks and spending habits subjected to intense scrutiny for possible signs of profligate idiocy-and then spelled out in print.) So then I paid $75 for a puppy school to teach me that owners have four options in learning to live with their new dogs: 1. Tolerate. 2. Train. 3. Divorce. 4. (as a last resort) Euthanize. For a minute, I thought I'd mistakenly stumbled into marital therapy. By the third class, we had also learned that Travis is a "special needs" puppy. There was a lot of rationalizing on the part of the trainers, but the bottom line is that my dog is so "dominant" that he borders on "dangerous." That prompted an extremely sage therapist I know to observe, "Y'know puppies are like children. They learn by what you do, not what you say." (That, and a few other salient observations over the course of an hour, was another $75 bucks.) Next, the dishwasher broke. The manufacturer, whom we'll call, let's say, General Electric, assured me that my machine was probably still under warranty and, if so, the repair would be FREE. Magically though, my warranty had somehow expired sometime between the phone call and the repair guy actually getting in the van. The way he broke down my costs was something like: $34.99 for him to KNOCK on my door; another $42 for him to step across the threshold; and $22.50 for him to actually lay hands on the appliance. Parts would (of course) be extra. He took a flashlight and performed some highly complex engineering which could be described as, and I believe this is the correct technical terminology, "jiggling the unit." Driving home the next afternoon, I heard this ominous hissing sound every time I slowed down. When the hissing progressed into a dull but persistent moan, I (naturally) turned up the radio. When the car's groaning got louder than Aerosmith's, I reluctantly drove over to Lowell's who cheerfully announced, "Well it's good news for me." The next day I was due to see Michael to have my roots done. I may be poor, but here are two words I pray you'll never hear in the same breath as my name: Miss. Clairol. I firmly believe that hair coloring is not unlike brain surgery in that 1) it's not the kind of thing that should be attempted at home; and 2) it's CERTAINLY not something one should perform on oneself. All of this, of course, was small potatoes compared to my decaying house, also known as The Money Pit. The first "roof restoration" proposal was a real work of art, arriving at the poetic conclusion that, "Due to the interrelation between the flat roofs and cornice and the box gutter and slate roof, this project should be done as a whole," to the tune of $20,000 plus change. I dried my eyes and called another roofer. But not before discussing the project with my architect friend Steve. So when the next guy asked what type of roof I wanted, I racked my brain for the benefits of Steve's copious wisdom before coming up with, "gray," which was the only thing he'd told me that didn't sound like it was in a foreign language. That bid came in at $12,000. Now. Does anyone know if Bob Vila is single?

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