Y’know how sometimes you can buy a giant gift for a kid, but they’ll have more fun with the box it came in? And they aren’t terribly thrilled when you order them to be excited about the right thing? As you get older, you’ll find your own forms of excitement that sound silly to those who just don’t get it, while those who ride your same wavelength will make with the high-fives.
So, our latest accomplishment here on the lower rungs of the middle-class ladder: we bought a door.
Some of you have already clicked away, which means now I can mock you behind your back, short-tempered blog-snob that you are. Seriously, though: this door means more than you’d think.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: we suck at major home repair. Anne and I became first-time homeowners back in 2007. Whereas she grew up in an actual owned house, I was raised in section-8 rentals and stuck with them through age 35 because it’s all I ever knew. The third year into our marriage, we felt it was time to take the leap. We knew it meant more responsibility. We figured either we’d learn how to do all the things that would need to be done (probably with the internet’s help in lieu of family authority figures), or call professionals to do said things for us. The latter was the more expensive scenario, and uncomfortably resembles Michael Scott’s “Scott’s Tots” plan: take a giant leap of faith based on the rash assumption that money will never be a problem in the future and every wish will be granted.
I’ve figured out how to do some little things I never learned as a kid — how to walk on a roof, how to refasten a mailbox that a school bus knocked off its post, how to rescue a tree that a summertime drought tried to murder, how to swap out torn mesh in a window screen, how to mow grass (that one was ludicrously embarrassing), and how to replace the dryer vent cover, which required me to overcome my lifelong fear of drilling holes in walls, which in turn emboldened me to replace the ugly blinds the previous owner left behind and put up new curtain rods of our choosing. Various other crises great and small have come and gone. More than a few times we’ve needed outside help. Our house was built in 1998 and, we’ve come to realize in hindsight, wasn’t an upper-class top-of-the-line model at the time. We kept our purchase modest and, well, we’re seeing the consequences of our modesty borne out. Fifteen years later, entropy has assembled for us quite the to-do list.
For a variety of reasons, progress on the list slowed to a crawl during the pandemic. We did what we could within our limited skill sets; otherwise, though, we spent much of that era focusing on debt reduction, which doesn’t require handyman tools or frequent trips to Lowe’s. This year we’ve reached the point where we could afford to resume list-work, and we felt it was safe to resume inviting strangers into our house. We successfully crossed off a few bullet points, two of them water-related. The water in our area is so thick with minerals that we could probably pan for residue and build our own Iron Man armors. Suffice it to say a water softener is nearing the top of said list.
Before we could proceed any farther or get to some of the changes I’m most looking forward to (e.g., replacing the loudmouthed old fridge that the previous owner left behind), some surprise damage cropped up, as damage is wont to do when you’d least prefer to deal with it. One of the hinges on our garage door that connected the two bottom panels snapped. We’ve no idea what caused it. Perhaps it was basic metal fatigue in the 24-year-old apparatus. Or some would-be intruder tried to kick it in and broke just the one hinge before getting really tired or distracted by a really cool TikTok. I also can’t rule angry geese off the suspect list because I’ve never trusted them and refuse to underestimate them. I’ve granted clemency to the previous owner because the statute of limitations has run out for blaming everything on him, like the aforementioned fridge, or the part where he moved out but had forgotten to take the plastic off his final furnace filter. Alas, he’s no longer a viable all-purpose scapegoat.
The garage door had to take precedence above all other maintenance and repair — mostly due to safety and security concerns, but also because, as longtime apartment dwellers, we’ve really come to love having a garage. If you’re like me and would prefer not to replace your cars every 3-5 years, garages are an awesome way to shelter the most expensive objects you own and cut way, way back on weather wear-‘n’-tear. Garages are also a great place to hide your vehicles so the neighborhood kids aren’t constantly showing up in the middle of the night, opening your unlocked car doors, and and searching for stuff to steal. Based on the uncountable Nextdoor threads I’ve seen screaming about this very subject, this is apparently a common problem on our side of town. And yes, I said “unlocked” car doors. In the Year of Our Lord 2022 there are still car owners who think leaving their cars unlocked is a wise choice because that’s how their parents used to do it when they were kids, so if they start locking their doors now, the terrorists win.
For the sake of car preservation we’ve also resisted the urge to use our garage as a giant storage unit. My entire comics collection would definitely fit better out there than it does in our library room (half of which has been serving as Anne’s makeshift WFH space since March 2020), but we want the garage to be a garage, not an excuse to enable hoarding. Well, hoarding above and beyond what our “collecting” impulses have already brought in over the decades, anyway.
The thought of garage door repair intimidated me. After spending too much time in deliberation (read: paralyzed indecision), I reached out to Garage Doors of Indianapolis, a large local company recommended to us by Anne’s stepmom, the first person who gave us any kind of recommendation whenever we’d mention the issue to anyone who’d listen, as opposed to a mere sympathetic ear. I filled out the form on their website, which they promptly ignored. I called them instead. We set up an appointment. On the day of, they neither called nor showed up. Perhaps someday we’ll hear from them again.
Then I reached out to Overhead Door, another large company that loves paying third parties to send old-fashioned junk mail on their behalf. I filled out the form on their website, which they promptly ignored. I could see where this was going. I wondered if perhaps both companies ghosted us because changing a garage door hinge wasn’t that hard and they had better-paying things to do. So I YouTubed it and, to my surprise, it didn’t look that hard. Buy the correct kind of new hinge; unscrew the old one; screw the new one in; presto.
I went to Lowe’s; crawled through the large bottom shelf to reach the very last right-sized hinge that had fallen out the back; went home and did the thing. In and of itself, it worked. The hinge was in place and did its hingey job. Unfortunately the bottom panel had gotten so warped from repeated lowering and raising during the old hinge’s crippled final days that the entire door was a rattling mess that, when retracted, creaked and buckled and threatened to collapse on us. It could’ve been an empty threat and maybe we could’ve lived with it like that till it called our bluff. That would’ve been the properly indecisive thing to do. At this point I was confident YouTube couldn’t save me.
We pulled the trigger for the nuclear option: Anne asked Facebook friends for garage repairman recommendations. Within seconds her sister gave us a name: a gent who calls his small business Indy Door Guy. The name alone really spoke to me. In my head I could feel echoes of The Office‘s “Fire Guy” as well as the 1990s debate in the pages of Comic’s Buyer’s Guide over which was the better Aquaman villain name, “Charybdis” or “Piranha Guy”, which is a long story I will never, ever forget. If I’d been raised with any serious tooling proficiencies, “Indy Door Guy” is exactly the kind of name I’d have chosen for my company.
I called Larry the Indy Door Guy (non-jokey here: his name really is Larry), who personally answered and set up an appointment to come check it out. He arrived exactly on time, diagnosed the issue even before I opened the garage door for him to see and wince at, and promptly set up the installation appointment. The day of, he called right on time, showed up with the door, and knocked it out in a few hours. We’d already replaced the garage door opener when it broke down three years ago, so that was one less headache for him or us. He even patched up some additional garage damage that was a tangential but separate issue on our list.
Here’s the thing: we see so many handyman horror stories out there that we’re genuinely afraid to cold-call any company for help. You never know which ones are awesome, competent, middling, or straight-up con men. Online reviews are a mixed bag, Nextdoor anecdotes doubly so, and handyman referral services have gotten us nowhere. (Don’t even get me started on Angi, f/k/a Angie’s List. Don’t even.) Our local circles are so narrow that whenever we mention such troubles…well, their sympathetic responses are nice, but warm eyes and shoulder pats don’t reverse wood rot. And of course no one who’s dived into homeownership wants to look helpless and hopeless, but too often that’s how I feel. And I hate asking for help, especially when I assume the answer will be “no”, or, worse, straight-up ghosting. This same line of reasoning is why my first date didn’t happen till I was 19.
All this would be a more heroic tale if, instead of trusting a qualified repairman, I’d watched hundreds of tutorials and then carved my own garage door using the maple tree from our front yard. This is not that story and I am not that lumberjack. We’re weirdly excited and grateful that Indy Door Guy rescued us on more levels than he probably realized. Now Anne and I can go sit outside in lawn chairs and spend an evening opening and shutting and opening and shutting and opening and shutting and opening and shutting and opening and shutting and opening and shutting and opening and shutting and opening and shutting while listening to Weezer’s “In the Garage” on repeat. Just because we can, without fear or trepidation, local crime rates notwithstanding.
And now we can move on to the next items on our long to-do list and get back to getting things taken care of. Unless the angry geese come back and mess with us some more.