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Zen (for real) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

(*** Language Alert***)

Did you know that dust can trigger a smoke alarm? I didn’t. Until today, that is.

It seemed that it might be a relatively quiet day of hanging sheetrock and getting started on the taping and waterproofing of the joints in the main floor hall bathroom. But, there was one more (please, God, let it just be one more) dirty, dusty job to be done, and I, like the mother of several children who keeps forgetting the excruciating pain of childbirth, once again underestimated the minefield of potential issues that could be encountered. (Not that there was anything to be done to change it, even if I had estimated the issues correctly. Sometimes continued ignorance is better).

Tim began the day as his optimistic Dr. Jekyll-self, filling me in on his objectives, which is always a welcome mental breakfast for my inner project manager. As he talked me through his plan, he realized that before he could start the taping and the floor, he first needed to tackle the doorway to rip it out and make the opening larger. This is because one of the truly annoying elements of the old hall bathroom was the tiny door & doorway, which featured a regular hinged door operating in an opening that was far too narrow for anyone I know to pass through it without somehow coming into contact with it – not terribly surprising given the limitations of the dimensions of the room, but it has to be addressed. We’ll be replacing the hinged door with a sliding barn door, which will be a first, though a better solution in this situation than a pocket door.

After establishing George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album as the musical backdrop for his preparation and morning travails, a placid, upbeat Dr. Jekyll-Tim got to work hanging the remaining sheetrock. Once that job was done, the door-ectomy commenced, heralded by the all-too-familiar noise and vibration of the Sawzall. 5 – 10 minutes of tooth-chattering tremors later, thinking (fairly reasonably if you ask me) he’d cut through all the critical connective structure, he started trying to pull the door frame/jamb out. Something unseen was holding it in place, and, right on cue to assist in the unexpectedly larger effort, Mr. Hyde announced his arrival, spitting expletives.

I had a call at 10:10, and it was about 10:00, so, I took *my* cue, heeding my “decision-tree” lesson from the other day. While the Sawzall resumed its job, I quietly packed my gear, and crept upstairs to our son Owen’s room (which is uncharacteristically clean in Owen’s absence while he’s finishing his freshman year away at college; and with its desk and position in the house relative to this bathroom project, it therefore makes an excellent surrogate-office for me). A few minutes later (thankfully before the call started), amid the cacophonous duet of the Sawzall and Mr. Hyde’s curses, I was jolted out of my (Owen’s) desk chair by the piercing beeps and digitized monotone warning of “FIRE . . . FIRE” blasting from every smoke detector in the house, including the one that was 12’ away from me on Owen’s ceiling.

Mr. Hyde registered his displeasure (the one on the 7’ 4” ceiling of the rather small downstairs hall outside the bathroom was about 4’ from his ears) by loudly asking-not-asking me over the beeps and dire warnings to come downstairs and help him “cover this fucking thing up with some Saran Wrap or something.” I hurried down the stairs to oblige, asking what happened as I carefully pulled back the dust-infused drop cloth hanging in the doorway between the dining room and the hallway. I had my own question wordlessly answered by the heavy plaster-dust haze that hung in the air. Hmmph! Who knew dust would set off a smoke detector?

I peered surreptitiously around, looking for flames (just in case – you never can be too cautious), then being no more willing to endure that sound than he was, I dashed to the kitchen, retrieved the roll of Press ‘n Seal, and inhaled deeply before ducking back under the drop cloth to hand it to him while holding my breath (to avoid a later side-effect I imagined might turn my lungs into a solid mass of plaster. Work with me on this – it *could* happen. Right?) Meanwhile, he *was* wearing his protective mask with the particulate filters, and I noted to myself as he reached up to cover the smoke detector with the sticky wrap, that his breathing sounded like what would happen if Darth Vader and Mr. Hyde had a baby, accelerated as it was by his aggravation, and further amplified by the mask. I silently buried that observation in that moment, however, waiting quietly while he cocooned the smoke detector, then took the (now spent) box of Press ‘n Seal back to the kitchen.

I re-ascended the stairs thinking the plastic wrap would do the trick, and settled in for my call, which took place without further interruption, though Mr. Hyde, with the timing of a practiced performer, stuck around for just about the call’s exact duration, thankfully muffled by several walls, a floor, a ceiling, and the cellulose insulation between them that had protected us during the 5 winters we had spent without any other insulation above us.

Shortly after my call wrapped up, the All Things Must Pass album gave way to the Concert for Bangladesh, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were making alternate appearances at about 1-minute intervals as Tim continued the grueling effort of removing all traces of the former door jamb:

*Sound of Sawzall* with shouted (sometimes sung, angrily, in place of song lyrics) “FUUUUUUUUUCK!” (or a variant, i.e., “FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING FUUUUUCK!) . . .

Silence (after the Sawzall was dropped to the floor with a clunk) followed by happy-sounding whistling or actual singing to “Wah-Wah” or another tune from the album . . .

*Sound of Sawzall* with fuck-laced insults hurled at all surrounding inanimate objects . . .

Over the course of the next hour amid an unending tit-for-tat between The Sound of Sawzall and The Sound of Silence/Singing, it became evident that our clever little Press ‘n Seal remedy was ineffective, with the smoke detector launching into its shrieking serenade, not one, not two, but *three* more times as the door frame was finally dismembered, each instance jerking me rudely out of my concentration.

Very shortly into one of the “silence” moments, after one particularly thunderous interlude by Mr. Hyde and his Sawzall Band, there was a knock at the door, answered by an oh-so-brief “come in!” harmony as Dr. Jekyll overlapped his angry alter-ego and reasserted himself as the dominant personality. Mere seconds after any passerby of sound mind would have seriously considered a call to 911 for domestic assault, Dr. Jekyll-Tim was amicably chatting away with our neighbor Paul, who popped over, perhaps in response to a text from Tim seeking input on planning for the sliding barn door, as if this were the most normal segue in the world.

And around here, I suppose it is.

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