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  • Mark Lipton

Houston, We Have a Problem!

Updated: Sep 18, 2019

You know that scene in the movies: the pilot dies and a passenger needs to land the plane. Over the radio a retired pilot who’s been rushed into the tower assures the pilot nee passenger, “We can get you down!”


I spent this weekend with my fiancée’s family at a lake house we had rented. Fifteen Italians and a Jew walk into a lake house…...there’s a joke in there somewhere.


Theses guys are a family-loving bloggers dreams come true: They’re both loving AND entertaining!


THIS story is NOT about how loving they are!


I’ll have to skip a lot of the background or we’ll be here all day. In a nutshell: they ALL spent all weekend trying to prank each other and right at the moment that a water balloon was supposed to hit a knife and dump water onto Dune’s (pronounced Dunie) hair, Anthony’s knee went through the wall. A failure caused by over-engineering!


Sadly, no one was taking any video.


This family is a pretty bright bunch or at least I considered them that until this weekend. The two patriarchs, both engineers with talents more suited to putting an addition on the back than touching-up this wall, sprang into action!

In an attempt to salvage the security deposit, they decided to make a repair. It wasn’t a bad plan actually, it wasn’t THAT big of a hole. I put on my PaintMan superhero cape and made them a list of what they’d need: a 4x4 fiberglass patch, a half-pint of spackle and a quart of eggshell to match the wall.


Not that anyone was listening to me!


When they returned from (what turned out to be their FIRST) run to Lowe’s (which, impressively was opened at 9PM on Labor Day) they had a bag of plaster, a bucket of joint compound some Bondo and two cans of Rustoleum oil-based high-gloss spray paint which I was pretty sure they had NOT used to paint this house originally. Were they fixing this wall or repairing a fender?


Their plan was to remove the paper from the damaged sheetrock, patch the hole and then glue the painted paper from Sheetrock back up onto the wall. I’m still not quite sure what the Rustoleum sprays were for and I didn’t see any glue there! Not to mention: it wasn’t a good plan.


Why not just cover the hole with duct tape?


If we weren’t leaving at 8:30 AM the next day, just for fun I’d have let them do that. But we didn’t have time for another prank and so I sent them back to Lowe’s with a list of necessities and a sample to do a color match.


They called when they got back to the store: the Lowe’s temp who was filling in the holiday time-slot gave them the bad news: she didn’t know how to do a color match! They were panicked.


They put me on speakerphone:


“Hi, I’m Mark. Everything is going to be ok” I said to the Lowe’s temp who drew the short straw for the holiday shift. “Have you flown a pla....I mean matched a color before?”


We started with the basics: “what sort of color matching devices do you have there?” It’s a paint department, I know they had something!


Like the retired pilot helping the passenger land the plane, I was glad to figure out that they were flying a plane I’ve flown before: MatchRite! My familiarity with their software should make this easier. I started walking her through getting this baby on the ground!

“I see the formula, but there’s a warning message: poor match quality.” Her fear (as well as a desire to go home I’m sure) made her want to abort. “I WANT TO MATCH IT TO A CHIP!” she cried out!


“I picked a bad day to stop sniffing glue!” (If you don’t know this line, rent the movie “Airplane.” TONIGHT!)


Staying calm, I reminded her of what was on the line. Souls would not be lost if she did not come through, but dollars would be!


“Not today, not on our watch.” I implored her forward. I’m sure she’s never worked harder to sell a quart.


I admired the family’s optimism as the men walked back into the house. I was a little concerned when I saw how many bags they had, given the circumstances. And also with how many GALLONS!


We were painting a 4-inch by 4-inch square?


As they got to work, my pessimism grew. As you know, it’s never a good day on your paint job if a hair-drier is part of your plan!


We say things are "as exciting as watching paint dry" to imply that something was not exciting at all. I don't know who was the first to use that expression....but they certainly never watched paint dry with a room full of Italians huddled in prayer!


We didn’t have the original can, color number or name, finish or even know the manufacturer! I knew they were up “Shit’s Touch-Up” without a color swatch.


But I kept it to myself!


I wish I had thought to take a picture of 10 of them crowded into a tiny hallway, leaning over the shoulder of the men: “You missed a spot!”


I wish they had missed more! The spots they missed looked the best.


If you know anything about paint, you know that this touch up looked like one done with the wrong paint, with the wrong tools and by the wrong people! But since the patch was only about 4 inches around I made my prediction: You're going to get away with it! It looked AWFUL….maybe a 6 on a 10-point scale! But it was a small spot near the base of a wall in a big house. Who’s going to notice?


And then…….there was Teodoro!


In a decision that I’m certain will be the subject at Thanksgiving dinners for decades to come, he decided to paint the entire bottom third of the wall.


In a comedy of errors, they saved the best for the finale!


Never mind that the walls had been rolled and that all they only had were brushes. Never mind that the finish was just an OK match. Never mind that the color-match was a “B-“ at best. In his mind, painting more was going to solve this problem!

His reasoning was if they paint more, then that one small area they had patched wouldn’t be as noticeable.


There was some (distorted) logic in that thinking but of course, it didn’t work. It did exactly what each of you knows it did: it made a small problem a big one.


“Won’t the owners be MORE likely to notice the damage now?" young Nicholas asked when his father was done. "I mean….a third of a wall is painted a different color?”


His words hung there. When one of them said "Maybe it will get lighter overnight?" I thought "only if someone sneaks in overnight and paints it another color!' and went to bed! The damage had been done, there was no point in spoiling their moods.


It was worse in the morning! I guess there's no point in having a paint superhero on hand if no one will listen to him!


The next morning at 6:30 I was awakened by the sounds of arguing Italians. I opened our bedroom door and there they stood (and knelt) arguing over whether they should just paint the entire hallway!


I think we’re going to need more paint!




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©2019 by Mark Lipton

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