Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Friday, November 21, 2003 Just Breathe
The painting project in our upstairs bedroom has reached the point of no return. I just hope I can get through it alive.
It seems my recent cold brought along an old friend: my asthma from last spring. Most of my cold symptoms have faded, but I’m still inexplicably stuck with this intermittent Piggy-from-Lord-of-the-Flies wheeze that manifests at inopportune times. And what time could be more inopportune than a week when our bedroom is going to be filled with plaster dust and paint fumes?
The other night I scooped joint compound into all of the nail holes and cracks and various other irregularities in our bedroom walls and ceiling, which are legion. Gave it all twenty-four hours to set. Then fired up the power sander.
I like repairing wall surfaces. I’m actually sort of handy at it. I like the way I can slather light-gray goo into a gap and come back the next day and smooth it into a white space as smooth as a mirror.
The dust from that last process, I’m not such a big fan of.
This stuff is so fine, it’s barely a solid. It’s more like vapor. It spreads and fills the room and settles on everything in a nearly weightless layer. It hovers in the air, coating my glasses and getting inhaled into my respiratory system, where it hopes to be reconstituted back into its initial, semi-liquid form, only more phlegmy.
Not this time. That’s likely to kill me, the condition I’m in.
But it had to be done, with in-laws coming up this weekend to help us paint. The walls had to be ready when they got here. So I patched, and I sanded, but I treated that dust like weaponized anthrax this time. I threw a plastic dropcloth over our (stripped) bed and Trash’s computer desk, the only two items of furniture still in the room. I opened both windows and positioned electric fans at them, blowing outside full-blast. I donned a dust mask to keep from breathing the stuff, and a hat to keep it out of my hair, which made me look like a darker Michael Jackson. Then I went and took a nap in the garage.
No, not really. I sanded, and the dust went everywhere, as it does. In the room we sleep in, no less. Before I took my mask off I folded up the dusty dropcloth into a thick, unwieldy envelope of terror, vacuumed the dust off the floor and the walls (and out of the air, waving my little Dirt Devil™ Hand-Vac around randomly like some kind of low-rent Ghostbuster), changed out of my dusty clothes, and mailed them to Bangladesh. Then I rinsed myself off so as not to carry a single speck of dust to bed with me. I was kind of wishing I had a level five hazmat suit, but most of DIY home improvement is all about improvising anyway.
And it worked. No asthmatic attacks of any kind all night.
This was two nights ago. Last night I got started painting the trim, so it’ll be all nice and dry and masking-tapeable when the crew arrives tomorrow. Trash busied herself slapping coats of primer on those dumbass wall stencil patterns that we’ve hated since day one. At one point, I dislodged a tiny little coke-line of plaster dust that had landed on the top of one of the baseboards. And me without a dust mask. I managed to hold my breath just long enough to fling myself out the window.
No, not really. I didn’t panic. There wasn’t enough dust there to bother me.
Flash forward to 6:30 this morning, an hour before my alarm goes off. I find myself in a dream where I am physically unable to sigh and the very act of breathing requires conscious effort. Which, soon enough, renders me conscious. I get up, go downstairs, take a couple of hits off the inhaler, and lie down on the living-room sofa to wait for my lungs to kick in again.
Our bedroom’s going to be so nice when it’s finished. It’ll be done up in different shades of sage and green that will be a huge improvement over the depressing off-yellow we’ve been living with all this time. Too bad I won’t ever be able to sleep up there.
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