My readers know that I am not mechanically inclined or physically gifted. These are givens in Burritospecial Land. Sometimes, however, even I amaze myself with just incredible achievements of self-inflicted stupidity.
Thirteen years ago I occupied my first counseling office in an old building that had once been a corner pharmacy back in the day. The local church bought it, rehabbed it, and then rented office space to various helpers– a doctor, a psychologist, a group of counselors and a massage therapist or two, and a disturbed end times prepper gunsmith with black teeth. When I took occupancy in July 2004, I immediately painted the four walls and put up a nice wallpaper border of maps and sailing ships, a manly bid to navigation, as if mine were the captain’s office on a mid-sized 19th century frigate.
I kept tweaking the decor as I found inspiration. Since it had no windows and felt a bit claustrophobic, I installed some old wood framed windows over a piece of woodsy fabric, creating the illusion of an outside woodland landscape. But that was not enough for Renovatin’ Renoir. I continued to hang pictures and reconfigure the feng shui of the office. I stumbled across a pile of extra bricks the church had not used in its last renovation project– big, over-sized brown Presbyterian bricks. I asked management if I could use them for a fake hearth in my office right below my four fake windows. Ron gave me the go ahead, and I began wheeling them in to my office ten at a time on my old wheely office chair. Very heavy.
Here’s the stupid part: since I had just painted the wall a lovely golden wheat color, I did not want to mar its matte finish with brick edges and dust. So I drystacked the bricks about a half inch out from the wall, thus depriving them of a solid buttress on one side. The higher the stack, the wobblier it became, but no matter. I had a vision with a mantle of 1 x 6″ pine that would act as a magical cap ballast when completed. Once my hearth was around 36″ high, I added the mantle and the illusion of security and solidity. It did not wobble, though I did wonder about all that weight in one spot. The piece de resistance was a shattered mirror that reflected hundreds of face shards back to the its troubled viewers.
In any event life went on and I received glowing feedback about my decorative genius.
“Oh my! How nice. It’s like a portal to another place.”
“Cozy. So cozy. What about a fire in it?”
“Is that a real window?”
Even my most dull witted readers know where this is going, right? It was a Saturday morning appointment, as I recall. My client was facing the hearth wall and my back was to it. I had put a pot or a candle on the mantle that morning, upsetting the fragile final balance. As we sat down to begin our session, a faint vibration rolled across the wooden floor beneath our cushing butts and created a rumbling, tumbling Presbyterian brown brick avalanche. I saw my client’s mouth and eyes jack open as the bricks crashed across the floor, tumbling toward the back of my armchair. I did not flinch since I knew exactly what was happening. He said, “That can’t be good.” And it wasn’t… as the cloud of brick dust settled around knee level and lower. We continued on with hardly a smirk on either face.
Eventually I rebuilt the pile of bricks along the wall with less enthusiasm but more buttress. For the next three years the faux hearth anchored that far wall. Ron told me to just leave it up when I moved in 2007. I was immensely grateful.
Oh, movement, urgency, shuffling. These things are opportunities for disaster in my world. Which brings us to yesterday at 10:36 a. m. I was chatting politely on my cell phone with a client while facing my desk, upon which my Lenovo laptop lay wide open, playing Accujazz and beaming mindless Facebook info toward my glazed eyes. Three and a half feet above, a shelf I’d installed a while back was overloaded with books I’d recently stacked on it after my daughter began working in the extra, previously known as the storage, room. When I piled the books up, I felt sure that I had anchored that shelf with good long screws into the 16″ OC studs. Well, even the dullest of the dull witted see where this is going, right?
Somewhere the fragile balance that had been in effect for two months broke loose. In slow motion, as all trauma victims can attest, I saw 60 pounds of hard and paper back books spill onto me and the floor around me. Miraculously they parted like water and didn’t break or upend a thing. With my one free hand I managed to stop the shelf from also falling outward toward me in my wheely chair. That hand motion managed to redirect the shelf straight down onto my pile of files to the left and the end of my laptop to the right. Crash, boom, karumpfchh! It was really something just short of the Johnstown Library’s Nonfiction Section Flood.
My phone client didn’t even notice the commotion as she was knee deep in two crying toddlers keening for her attention. On my side I remained calm as my daughter came flying around the corner expecting to find my lifeless body beneath a mountain of debris. She stopped in awe of my zen calm. “Dad, I thought you had fallen and hurt yourself, and here you are just chattering on the phone like nothing happened.”
“Yes, remarkable. The thing is, this was not my first rodeo nor will it be my last. I can’t very well preach centeredness and mindfulness while freaking out about an office accident.” The next day I’d learn my computer was ruined. $600 later I’d be back in business with another story to tell about how My Kingdom Came Down Upon Me.