Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Compliments of the House

Now that I’ve turned the corner and I’m painting on the north side of the house I’m getting another round of comments from passers by. The house sits on a corner lot and if you come at it from the north or the west you still mostly see the north and west sides which are still the old brown paint job.

I’m a bit jaded at times, so sometimes when a neighbor compliments me on the paint job I think that it may just be obligatory. You know, if a neighbor sees me working hard on a project for months on end and then we pass each other on the sidewalk I may get a, “Looking good!”, and then after we pass the wife leans in and says under her breath, “What was he thinking with the green paint. My God, how long are we going to have to look at that!” I don’t think that happens too often, and either way it’s fine with me. That sort of civility is what makes living in a city tolerable. I think in the end, whether my neighbors like the color or not, they’re mostly just happy someone’s taking care of the property, and it’s not still a rental filled with drug attics, Nazis, and prostitutes.

Of all the comments and compliments I’ve gotten, a few of them do stand out. It wasn’t so much what was said, but who said it. I expect some people to comment on the house. People like my immediate neighbors, friends, and maybe coworkers. Whether they like the color or not, they’d have to be blind not to see the change, and it’s just civil to comment on it.

The first memorable one was back in the beginning of August. I had spent more than a week working on the pair of corner brackets and the window trim that makeup the right-hand corner of the front bay window. This is the corner that is closest to the street and it’s very noticeable. I stripped the whole thing back to bare wood and sanded it all down. The work just went on and on. This was the point when I had been dabbing on paint in small quantities for so long that I began to wonder what it tastes like. I’ve since discovered that Clary Sage doesn’t taste anything like it looks. Ugh!

After 7 or 8 days on the ladder it felt like I had been out there a month working on this one small part of the house. I was up on the ladder putting the finishing touches on one of the sunbursts when I hear this young woman behind me on the sidewalk exclaim, “Oh….Mygod, that looks so awesome!” It was the classic 17 year old girl exclamation with all the inflections done perfectly. I turned to say thanks and she went off how nice the house looked and what a good job I was doing.

She must live a few streets over because I don’t see her that often. This time she was walking the family dog. The compliment was nice, of course, but it was just so unexpected. I mean, I would think there would be almost nothing about an old house that would impress a teenager. It’s not like I was Justin Timberlake or some other heart-throb up on the ladder painting a house, and yet she noticed and complimented me on it. When I was that age a nuclear bomb could have been set off and I would have said, “Yeah….whatever”.

A few weeks after that I was, once again, up on a ladder painting. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a very old man in white paint splattered painters cloths limping down the sidewalk towards me. I thought to myself, “Here it comes, another sales pitch from someone who wants to paint my house”. When I first started this project I got regular visits and business cards dropped in the mail slot of people who wanted to paint my house for me.

I didn’t turn around for this guy and just continued painting. I heard him walk up behind me and stop on the sidewalk. “Here it comes”, I thought. All of the sudden I hear, “Man…’ve got that house is looking good”. You have to say that with a bit of soul that comes from smoking too many cigarettes and working too many long hours for too many years. I very briefly looked down at him from the ladder and said thanks, all the while waiting for the other shoe to drop. I went back to painting and he walked back to his truck without saying another word.

Then yesterday I was up on the ladder yet again and a couple of regular kids rode by on their bikes. There were two of them, and they were about 14 or 15. You know the type. The oldest looking and biggest of the 2 said, “Man, that house looks great!” I turned around and he wasn’t looking at me on the ladder. He wasn’t really saying it to me. He just sort of said it. I looked down once again and said thanks.

About an hour later the same kids rode by only this time there were about a half dozen of them. I was around the corner washing out a brush and I could hear them in the street. They all stopped on the street next to my house and the older kid was sort of lecturing them on the paint job…..

“See, look at the brown. That’s what it all used to look like. Now look at this. See, there’s green on the second story and primer on the first story. Now come here and look at the front. That’s what it’s all going to look like soon.”

I was amazed and felt a little uncomfortable for some reason. It was just really interesting that the paint job was getting noticed by the people I would least expect to notice it. It was kind of cool. Maybe this is the first step in old house appreciation.


King of Kentville said...

I know exactly what you mean!! We are on the home stretch of painting our house, not nearly the size/complexity of your job, but a major change none the less. It amazes me the number of total strangers (and local kids) that stop their car/bicycle in front of the house and comment on how good it looks. I came out one morning to find two older ladies with their car stopped directly in front of our house and their jaws dropped. They seemed a little embarrassed to have been "caught in the act", but hopefully they were thinking it was a change for the good :-).

Keep up the good work!!

jm@houseinprogress said...

I think that is the coolest story I've heard all week. :) Impressing the teens with a paint job means it HAS to look good. Soon, you might even be able to pull a Tom Sawyer on them. ("Looks good and HEY! This is soooo fun too! Why this painting is the most fun I've ever had. Whooo! Wanna try it? Got any money?")

Greg said...

Hmmmm, HiP, you could be on to something....