A while ago, I lamented our horrific attempts at home improvement, including dying phlox, a shelf that forgot how to assemble itself, and “unbreakable” switch plate covers that somehow did not fit the light switches.  I have since uncovered the truth about all 3 things. 

1) The phlox was deluged on a fairly regular basis by dog urine owing to lazy dog owners who shoo the creature out front for his last pee, rather than leash him and take him down to the curb to kill the neighbors’ grass.  He enjoys the phlox. 

2) The shelf had fit together perfectly before.  Then we made each board thicker with two coats of primer/paint.  It no longer fit so nicely.  Our closet-builder friend recommended that we take the tedious step of sanding when the boards’ “swelling” (my first hope was bloating due to the shelf having its period) didn’t go down.  We sanded.  We grunted.  We dealt soft blows with a hammer on a piece of scrap wood so we didn’t split any more boards.  The shelf is up.  It’s full of books and gorgeous.

3) The fucking switch plates.  When our kitchen was designed/remodeled in 1465, switch plates were a standard size.  When we went to Home Depot and bought brand-new unbreakable vinyl ones in 2009, they were also a standard size.  A bigger standard size — one designed to cover more wall, more mistakes from the painter, more half-assed switch box assemblies.  Thus, the sconce which was not too close to the switch in 1465, is now too close to the switch.  Mr. Apron took some scary-looking wire-cutters to the plate.  And now it “fits”. 

The latest saga again involves — you guessed it — switch plates.  Because we’re gluttons for punishment.  We like to fail at our home improvement attempts, no matter how small. 

The walls in downstairs painted, we decded to replace the ugly granny switch plates with new ones.  Mr. Apron, being the bridge-brained beau that he is, fixated on some ceramic switch plates at Anthropologie we’d seen a while back.  On our next trip there, we scanned the hardware section to no avail.  Disappointed, we traipsed back to the sale section, where I played among the racks, and he scoured the tables of tchotchkes, including books about fashion, French pick-up sticks, hair pins, scarves, and dishtowels.  Guess what he found?  Two double switch plates, in the exact design he’d wanted.  And.  On.  Sale. 

Huzzah!  Took them home only to realize our electrical system had not been updated since the house was built, and our light switches did not fit in the slots.  We don’t have the hundred year old push button switches, nor the modern “decor” rocker switches, nor the boring, usual switches.  What we have looks like the ordinary switch, but is just slightly thicker.  Enough so that it won’t fit through the rectangular slot of our snazzy new Anthro plates. 

The electrician came about something more pressing (I think “fire hazard” was a word the home inspector used), and I begged Mr. Apron to ask him to replace our switches, as trivial as it probably might sound to an electrician.

He did it yesterday. 

Take two.  I came home, and, craving some pride in accomplishment,  immediately went looking for the switch plates.  Only they were nowhere to be found.  Now I’m not the cleanest person in the world, and I’m not so organized (except at work, where the other SLP and I just organized the office supply closet, and it’s freakin’ awesome), but Mr. Apron’s style of cleaning leaves me, ummm, frustrated sometimes.  He cleans out his car by taking a black plastic trash bag, filling it with junk, and stashing it in the trunk of the car, or our garage.  Are you surprised I thought my grandma’s quilt had been the victim of an unmarked trashbag and pitched in a feverish cleaning spree?  House cleaning is also challenging.  Much as I try to bite my tongue and not say, “Where did you put the..?” I am often wondering the same thing. 

So, after tearing the house apart yesterday, from top to bottom, looking every place we could have logically stashed the switch plates, Mr. Apron finally uncovered them.  In the kitchen.  In a bag.  Stashed in the dog food cupboard.  Because company was  coming 2 weeks ago, and he needed to hide our clutter. 

Take three: installation.  I located 4 cast off screws from the former switch plate and dropped them into the new plate.  They fell right through.  That’s right, folks; the heads were too small because artsy fartsy Anthropologie switch plates have non-standard sized holes.  Off to the hardware store.

ACE hardware was inexplicable closed at 5:25pm Monday.  True Value is not really a hardware store any more because they used to be 3 different variety stores, and now they’re condensed into one store that simultaneously carries everything and nothing.  Not a loose screw to be found — just packets of useless hardware we couldn’t try out on our switch plate.

Sears hardware did not want to sell us anything.  Though they had a nice hardware aisle with tons of metal thingies, there was not a soul to help us.  Two ladies staffed the register, and no one else was to be found.   After failing to find a screw with the same circumference and a larger head on our own, we meandered through the deseted aisles, perusing gas ranges, air conditioners, caulk, and small children mouthing hardware bits.  Finally, I spied an employee. 

“Quick!  There’s one!  Get him!”  I whispered to Mr. Apron.

Johnny Hardware had about as much luck as we did on our own finding our Perfect Screw.  I took frequent breaks to disappear from the insanity as he kept opening drawer after drawer.  Finally, there was a breakthrough.  Johnny Hardware suggested using our existing screws (or ones with a slightly longer shank) with washers to keep their little heads from falling through the holes. 

By the time we finished with Mr. Hardware and tried to check out, we’d discovered both check-out bitches had disappeared, leaving a growing line of confonded would-be customers.  I swear, the store doesn’t want to sell us things. 

We  finally returned home around 7pm with 8 screws and 8 washers, and a motion detector flood light kit for our next hopeful project.  Installation pretty much sucked because the plates are extra thick and — have I mentioned? — non standard.  I could see Mr. Apron’s fist curl as we kept dropping screws under the radiator and struggling for some decent light to see by.  Finally, they were in.   And beautiful.  They really do match the colors of the room. 

But our success is not without reservation.  The one by the door is such a tight fit that it now requires Arnold Schwarzenegger to flip the switch.  One day we’ll take it off and sand it down.  For now, we’ll suffer, suffer in success or a job that took entirely too much of our collective energy and money.

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