The Flying Hammer and the Cleaning Lady


Many moons ago, when I was the mother of three young children, my husband (now ex) said, “Let’s remodel the kitchen.”

I stupidly agreed, not realizing that I would be the one to suffer through six weeks of no kitchen sink and six weeks of feeding my family with no way to cook anything except a microwave set up on a board between two saw horses.

Cooking in the Dark was my original song that I sang while nuking Hot Pockets without the benefit of light. No, none of us has ever eaten a Hot Pocket since then.  It’s been twenty-three years.

“Why are you making me go out in the rain?” my youngest asked when I carried her from the family room, across the brick patio and back into the dining room to get around the remodel when the wood floors were sanded and varnished, and we couldn’t walk on them for days.

But the defining moment (actually there are two) of that remodel was when the contractor’s right-hand man told me he would spend the day ripping off the eaves bordering the u-shaped courtyard that would be filled in to make our new big kitchen. The project had just gotten underway, and I did not yet know the incompetence of the crew of one.

It was a Monday holiday (President’s Day?) so the kids were all home that day. The cleaning lady had arrived, so instead of having lunch at the kitchen table, I made us a picnic on the floor of the family room to stay out of her way. She was washing the kitchen floor.  I put down a tablecloth, and we had sandwiches and chips, probably juice boxes, too.

We had just started eating our little picnic when a hammer came flying through the floor-to-ceiling kitchen window next to the table. The cleaning lady screamed and ran out of there. Fortunately she was over by the sink when the hammer came through the glass, richoted off the table and landed on the floor.

I ran into the kitchen and saw shards of glass all over the clean floor and the wooden table where we would’ve been having lunch.

The right-hand man came in through the sliding glass door.

“Sorry about that,” he said, retrieving his hammer. “It slipped out of my hand.”

And came through the un-tempered-glass window like a torpedo!

I was speechless as I imagined my kids showered in shards.

“Don’t worry. I’ll board that up, and it will be fine for now,” he said, pointing to the gaping hole in the wall that used to be glass.

Still speechless, I went back to the picnic and felt my heart pounding in my chest.  My kids were eating their sandwiches, oblivious to what could have happened.

But didn’t happen. Bless that terrified cleaning lady, anyway.  She was busy sweeping up the glass while I thought of giving her an extra tip for her efforts.

The other defining moment of the kitchen remodel from hell came a couple of weeks after the contractor was finished.  My husband and I were watching TV late one Saturday night. I walked through my new kitchen past the built-in bar with the double glass cabinets above it.

I noticed that the carafe to my Mr. Coffee was broken.  I looked up and saw why. The glass cabinets above the bar had slipped down the wall and were resting on top of the coffee pot on the right and a propped-up cutting board on the left. The cabinet knobs were rubber-banded together for earthquakes, and my huge collection of colored Pyrex bowls were up against the glass cabinet doors as the whole thing tilted toward the floor.

I screamed for my husband. He rubbed his groggy eyes. Once he realized that the whole thing could come down, he was willing to push against the cabinets while I carefully pulled out each piece of Pyrex, praying that the rubber bands around the knobs would hold until I got each piece out.

Pyrex is heavy. I don’t know how long it took me to get the dishes out of one set of cabinets and then the two on the other side, but it was a while, and my husband’s arms were aching by the time we finished. The cabinets, now empty and wedged between the two side walls, did not come down that night.

The next day I called the contractor and left a frantic message for him to come fix the cabinets. When he showed up on Monday he was nonchalant about the whole thing, and said, “My guy missed the studs, that’s all.”

That’s all? The guy who chucked his hammer through my kitchen window? The guy who missed the studs (that’s a lot of misses) while installing 48 inch-wide cabinets?

The contractor’s name was Roger Somebody. I don’t remember. When he was surprised that I didn’t gush over his wonderful job, all I could think of was how his right-hand man almost killed somebody.

Thank God it had been cleaning-lady day.

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