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eradicating Mr. Cook


I was just hanging out at nerdygirl's pad reading about her termite problem and that brought back memories of our own plight with this house we call home. We've been here 11 years now and back when we were bright eyed and bushy tailed (before we had kids) we moved into this two-story house with stars in our eyes. I really felt like the realtor looked at us when we walked in and said "Sold!" to himself.

I was captured by the fire roaring in the fireplace, the semi-circle windows on the north wall and the cute little kitchen (little as in not much storage being the operative word here. Back then it seemed sparse and clutter-free, now it seems small and lacking, but whatever.) I do remember asking the realtor, "What's that noise?" when the furnace kicked on.

That would be the forced air. Whenever the heat or the air conditioning comes on you hear a humming, whooshing sort of sound, which presumably is the air being forced through the register. I've gotten used to it by now, but everyone who visits is like, "WTF? What's that noise?" when the air kicks on.

I do wonder if that will be an issue when we sell this house, but we're not going anywhere so I won't have an answer on that for some time.

So we had been here maybe a year when I was on the phone one day in our cute little kitchen. I happened to look up at the ceiling and noticed it was really bowed down in an arc in one area. So I did what any chick would do: I called my husband at work and asked him if he ever noticed that. Alarmed, he told me, "Whatever you do, DO NOT TOUCH IT."

It never occurred to me to touch it. I had no interest in feeling it with my own paws, but once he issued that command I really wanted to touch it. I didn't. But it became a source of intrigue for me after that comment. He speculated that it was water damage as the spot in the ceiling was directly underneath the bathroom above it. He thought there might be a couple gallons of sitting water above the arced ceiling and potentially the dam would break if the ceiling sustained any human contact.

Our homeowner's insurance covered the cost of fixing that problem. But the insurance did not cover the shock that ensued when we found out what was going on inside the ceiling.

Apparently the toilet sits upon a device called an O-ring. This ring should seal the toilet against any leakage. If the previous owners are do-it-yourselfers, like the Cook family was, it's important to get a good seal on the O-ring. Because if it's not sealed, it will leak a little bit through the floor of the bathroom and into the ceiling of the kitchen below it every time someone flushes said toilet.

When the ceiling was opened, thankfully sans a gush of water, what was discovered inside the rafters amazed all of us. Inside was a rusty metal 13 x 9 cake pan lined with pastel colored kitchen sponges! Deductive reasoning tells us that Mr. Cook, handyman extraordinaire, came up with a solution to the leaky toilet on the fly.

I imagined him staring at the kitchen ceiling, hand cradling his chin as he gave the issue deep consideration. His internal dialogue had to go something like this. "I've got to sell this house soon. What can I do to fix this problem? What can I do?" he ponders as he taps his temple with his index finger. Suddenly the light bulb goes off above his head. "I know! I'll rip the ceiling apart, throw an old cake pan inside lined with sponges, drywall the ceiling back up, re-paint it and we'll be good to go!"

Perhaps the wife suggested they call a plumber. Mr. Cook surely felt he was more capable than any old two-bit plumber who might actually fix the cause of the problem. No, as time revealed to us, Mr. Cook was quite the Handyman MacGuyver around this house, coming up with unorthodox ways to seemingly patch the problem at hand.

Over the last 11 years we have slowly uncovered Mr. Cook's trail of carpentry and I believe we have eradicated all signs of him.

My final analysis: He must have been a last-born, based on his half-assed solutions.


2007-02-28 at 8:28 a.m.

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