May 14, 2008
In my defense, I know how to paint. I know how to stain. I've laid tile and carpet once. I know landscaping.
But on my first day as a construction volunteer for the Habitat for Humanity Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Huff Alley in Biloxi, those skills were useless.
Instead I taped seams in weatherproofing material. I ferried supplies and tools. And then I installed insulation in the ceiling of Angel Lewis' two-bedroom house.
My relationship with insulation is bad, poor, worthy of therapy. In September 2000, a few weeks after buying my first home, the air conditioner went out. Like a do-it-yourself trouper, I hiked into the attic to self-diagnose, and crossed a series of strategically placed plywood pieces to the A/C unit in the middle of the room. It was a little dark, and I missed a step. Falling through the ceiling, I got covered in scratchy yellow fiberglass insulation.
Fiberglass. Very small shards of glass. Everywhere. Like 1,000 needles poking you constantly.
In the end I was OK, except for the involuntary acupuncture treatment. When Dale, the house leader, asked me to help young Natalie with insulation, I had flashbacks, but I said yes. After all, I'm volunteering. I'm learning something new. I'm overcoming fear. Natalie was on a ladder, with other volunteers around her. She held the long blue sheets in her hands. She wasn't wearing gloves.
Oh, the foolishness of youth, I thought. She'll suffer for it later.
I climbed up another ladder to secure the sheets of insulation in the ceiling before the drywall crew came in. I looked at the gloves in the pocket of my toolbelt, thinking, "Yes, once you get this staple gun loaded, put them on."
I forgot. I touched the stuff. I cringed in anticipation.
Nothing happened. I touched it again. I stapled it. I pulled it apart with my bare hands. Nothing happened. I read the bag.
It wasn't fiberglass. It was something else.
Thank you, whoever invented this stuff. Thank you, Habitat, for buying it.
Natalie, I'm sorry I doubted you.
Today is my day. I get to paint. I may even get to tile or lay carpet. I can't wait.
Seriously, for those of you who have never used a carpet kicker, it's great stress relief. I promise.