Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Rip Van Roofer

There comes a time in every homeowner’s life when the roof on his or her house needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, that realization should have hit me about four years ago when water stains first began to form on the bathroom ceiling.

At first, I just painted over them, but it didn’t take long for the stains to seep through again, all brown and ugly against the white paint. When it got to the point where I would lie back in the bathtub and make a game of guessing what shape each water stain on the ceiling most closely resembled (one of them looked just like a three-legged horse, and another like a cigar-smoking turtle), I knew the time finally had come to call a roofing company.

My husband and I decided to get a galvanized steel roof. The thought of no more shingles blowing off in the wind, no more snow piling up on the roof, and a warranty that neither of us would live long enough ever to see expire, appealed to us. The price, however, was another story.

“I can sell a bunch of stuff on eBay,” I said to my husband. “I figure if we sell all of your power tools, all of my jewelry and the TV, we can at least afford the down payment. By the way, do we really need two cars?”

So on March 13th, we met with a sales representative from a local home-exteriors company and signed our lives away. “If we order the materials tomorrow, they should be here in about three weeks,” the man told us. “Then there are several other homes ahead of yours. We’ll call you and let you know exactly when we’ll be over to do the work.”

Two weeks later, I was awakened at about eight in the morning by my dogs’ frenzied barking. I have always been a night owl, which means that I usually go to bed at about five in the morning and sleep till at least noon. This particular morning was no exception. I was in no mood to be barked awake at eight o’clock.

“Quiet!” I yelled at the dogs. They immediately settled down. Just in case they decided to bark again, I reached into the drawer of my nightstand and dug out my earplugs, which I keep handy to block out my husband’s snoring. They are good for up to 29 decibels (even though my husband’s snoring is about 35). I stuffed the earplugs into my ears and within five minutes, I was peacefully asleep.

I crawled out of bed at about 12:30 and walked into the bathroom. The bathroom has a skylight in the middle of it, so I usually look up to see what the weather is like. As I stood there in my pajamas, yawning and scratching assorted body parts, I glanced up and saw a man standing near the skylight!

That’s when I heard footsteps on the roof. I vaguely recalled having heard something up there while I was in bed, but with the earplugs, the sounds were pretty muffled. There are always squirrels running across our roof anyway, so I’d just figured the critters had gained a few pounds.

I panicked. There are three skylights in our house: two in the living room and one in the bathroom. I suddenly felt as if I were the star of a peepshow.

My husband uses our tiny bedroom closet, so I keep my clothes in the larger bathroom closet. Frantically, I reached into it, blindly grabbed some clothes and dashed back into the bedroom to get dressed. Under the circumstances, I didn’t think taking a shower or a bath beneath the skylight would be such a hot idea…not unless I wanted to make the guys on the roof fall off from laughing so hard.

After I got dressed, slapped on some makeup and ran a comb through my hair, I finally went outside to see what was going on. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Half of our new roof already had been installed! Either these guys were really quiet workers, or I unknowingly had been in a coma.

When I emerged, the three men stopped to stare at me, their mouths hanging open. “You’ve been home all this time?” one of them asked in a way that made me suspect he was worried about what I might have overheard.

“Yeah, but I was sound asleep,” I assured him.

Their mouths fell open even wider. “You slept through us putting a roof on your house?” another one asked.

“It sure looks that way,” I said, eyeing their work. “Had I known you were coming, I would have set my alarm clock. But you’re…um…about four weeks early.”

“Turns out we didn’t have to order the materials after all,” another explained.

I smiled, thinking how shocked my husband would be when he came home that night and saw the new roof on our place.

The roofers said they probably could get everything done that day, but if not, they’d definitely finish it up the next morning. By the end of their workday, they’d completed about 75 percent of the roof, which I thought was pretty impressive.

When my husband got home, about a half-hour after the workers had left, he wasn’t nearly as shocked about the roof as he was about me sleeping through its construction (this, from a man who snores right through thunderstorms that are so loud, they make the windows rattle?).

Well, as it turned out, the roofers didn’t finish the roof the next day, nor the next, nor even the day after that. Why not? Because the moment they said, “We’ll be back,” the skies opened up and exploded with so much rain, I swear I saw animals lining up in pairs.

And which part of the roof didn’t they finish? The part over the bathroom ceiling…which now has an added assortment of huge new stains. I’m really going to miss the one shaped like a headless scarecrow.