I should have known that starting a wood working project at 5:30 pm would end with me sticking my hand in boiling water. It was inevitable really. It all started with a terrible, terrible idea.
The Descent to Project Hell
15 minutes: that’s all I thought it would take to make a minor change to Ethan’s crib.
Earlier in the day I’d lowered Ethan’s crib to the bottom setting. Everything lined up perfectly. The crib looked quite safe until I looked under it. I noticed that wooden based holding the mattress buckled a little in the middle. A glance at floor level helped me see that the mattress platform of the crib had a serious dip in it.
I didn’t like the look of it, but I thought there was no way it could fall apart. It was all too tight. I went back to work.
But was it alright? The thought of it nagged me the rest of the afternoon.
By 5:30 I had wrapped up my work. My wife was due home in 15 minutes with Ethan after a full day visiting her friend who had just had a baby. I had 15 minutes. 15 minutes would give me plenty of time to cobble together a block of wood, cut some notches in it, and install it underneath the crib.
The Man Who Didn’t Measure
This was not a difficult job. Screw two pieces of wood together and cut two notches in it to hold up the crib platform. Simple, right?
I thought 15 minutes would be way more time than I needed. I would even be able to share on Facebook that I finally got a project done in the projected amount of time. Unfortunately, there were problems.
For starters, I honestly have no idea how to cut a “U” in a piece of wood. I started out chopping and hacking at odd angles. That took way longer than anticipated. Even so, I got it together. I shoved it under the crib, and then I noticed my first problem: the crib was now elevated on one side!
I didn’t cut my notches into the wood far enough. Or perhaps the floor in our old house was crooked. As I wandered down with my sad piece of wood, my wife walked in with Ethan.
Welcome Home! I’m Destroying Stuff!
As I talk about my plans here, it bears mentioning that my “15 minute” plan was intended to get this project done BEFORE she arrived home. I wanted to help her unload the car or snuggle Ethan. At the very least, I wanted to give her a short break before making dinner.
Instead she came home to me blabbering about crib safety and just needing a few more minutes to “fix” the crib with this chunk of wood that would provide support in the middle. I just needed to cut the notches down a bit.
Opting for the chisel, I pounded away at the wood while Julie made dinner. Ethan flopped around on the kitchen floor, unaware that I was slowly coming undone in the basement.
After the first chisel session, I learned that still further chiseling would be required. Back to the basement I returned to pound away at the chunk of wood.
Each swing of the hammer made me a little more frantic and worried. This was NOT the plan. I wanted to help. I wanted to keep my child safe. I wanted to finish this in 15 minutes.
I finally got the wood in place, and then I realized that my problem wasn’t just the chiseling in the two notches. I had to cut the entire piece of wood down a size.
Most intelligent people would stop a project at this point and wave the white flag. But I kept thinking about the safety of the crib. What if something happened?
Besides quitting, the other thing I should have done was fetch the extension cord for the jig saw. It didn’t quite reach the wood at a favorable angle for the cuts I needed to do, but I just kept hacking away. I was rushing and trying to get this thing done. I could hear Ethan whining upstairs as my wife tried to wrap up dinner before his bed time.
With chunks of wood and sawdust creating a ring of madness in the basement, I emerged with my prized block of wood. I finally got it lodged into place, and entered the kitchen, ready to help.
She had Ethan in her arms, so she gave me the easy job.
“Can you dump the spaghetti into the pot?”
I’ve made spaghetti plenty of times. This was not hard. She even had the water rolling at a full boil.
As I dumped the pasta box over the water, it didn’t come out. Instead of turning the box upside down and shaking it into the pot, I gave it a sideways flick with my wrist. The spaghetti zipped across the pot of boiling water, sending about half of it on top of our (thankfully closed) trash can.
Seeing our dinner cascading toward the trash, my reflexes kicked in and I swiped at the pasta with my free right hand. I missed the pasta but not the pot. I stuck my entire hand in boiling water. With pasta all over the floor, I screamed and cursed and shoved my hand under cold water at the sink.
Things didn’t go much better after that. Ethan had a rough evening, gagging on a teething biscuit before spitting up everything in his stomach. I had to leave story time to put another ice pack on my throbbing hand.
I traced it all back to my flawed project plans.
How many times have I ruined my day by trying to get a household project done “real quick”? (I’m not going to answer that question!)
The insanity of the moment burns, but the stress and worry that continues after the fact can also linger.
Thankfully my hand healed up overnight. I can write. I can do the dishes. And I assure you that I won’t attempt any household projects this week if I only have 15 minutes.
I’m celebrating the release of my book First Draft Father this week by sharing select chapters. It’s a compilation of an online journal that I kept after the birth of our first child, and it documents my journey from insecure, overworking writer to over-tired but over-joyed father.
Read more in First Draft Father.
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