Friday, May 24, 2013



I was under the impression that because of the economy, people are eager to earn money nowadays.  Well, obviously the guy I hired over a month ago to paint my porch and decks isn’t.

I must say he talked a good talk. Of the three painters who came over to give me estimates for the job, he impressed me the most.

“I charge exactly what I pay for the paint,” he said. “Not a penny more. I’ll even give you the receipt.  I earn my money solely from my labor, which is $25 per hour.  And I don’t rush in and spray paint everything. I paint by hand so I can get into every nook and cranny.”    

Unfortunately, my porch and decks currently look as if I hung out “Bird Restroom” signs on them.  There are so many bird droppings on them, they look as if they have a paisley pattern. I had visions of myself spending countless hours on my hands and knees scraping up bird poop before any painting could be done.

“Don’t worry about it,” the painter said. “I have my own pressure washer. I’ll clean off everything a couple days before I start painting.”

So I hired him for the job and gave him the small down payment he requested (to buy paint).  He told me he’d be over on Tuesday to do the pressure washing.

Tuesday arrived and he called. “I can’t make it today,” he said. “My parents are ill and I take care of them, and today is a really bad day. But I’ll be over on Thursday.”

On Thursday he e-mailed me and said his wife was having problems and really needed him, but he would be over on Saturday.

I’d made plans for Saturday, but I canceled them. Then I sat around all day and waited.  Finally, the painter called at 5:00.

“I’m really sorry I didn’t make it over there today,” he said. “But my friend bought a restaurant and it wasn’t going to be ready in time for the grand opening, so I had to help him.  I promise you I’ll be there tomorrow.”

“You’d better be!” I said.

“I feel really bad about all of these delays,” he said. “Believe me, I fully intend to get your job done as soon as possible.”

The next day, he called and said it was too windy out to do the pressure washing. “And my arthritis is acting up. It affects my grip, and I need a good grip for the job. But next week is supposed to be a fantastic week weather-wise. So I’ll be over on Tuesday.”

By then, I figured the odds of him actually showing up on Tuesday were about equal to those of my winning the Miss Hawaiian Tropic bikini contest.

When the painter called on Tuesday, I braced myself for yet another one of his excuses – like he couldn’t make it because he’d been invited to throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game.

“My friend still needs help with his restaurant,” he said. “I’ll get back to you when I’m through helping him, I promise.”

I’m still waiting.

I’m beginning to think his friend is opening a restaurant that’s about the size of Madison Square Garden.

Meanwhile, the birds are still using the porch as their private restroom.  By the time the painter does get over here, he’ll probably need a plow and a couple hand grenades to get rid of all of the piles.

That is, of course, if he’s not too busy helping his long-lost cousin build a resort on the Las Vegas strip.




Saturday, May 18, 2013



After I had my car inspected back in January, I realized I’d forgotten to have the oil changed.  According to the sticker on my windshield, I was about 1,200 miles overdue.  And if there was one thing my dad always preached to me from the moment I got my first car, it was to change the oil regularly.

“It can make the difference between having a smooth running engine or ending up stuck on the side of the road somewhere and having to hitchhike!” he’d always say.

So, with my dad’s advice still haunting me, I decided I’d better schedule an oil change as soon as possible – which turned out to be two weeks ago, four months later.

In my defense, I had been trying since January to get the oil changed. But every time I made an appointment, there would be either a blizzard or an ice storm and I’d have to cancel.  I even scheduled the appointments after carefully watching the weather reports, to make certain I wouldn’t run into any problems.

I soon learned that Mother Nature has a cruel sense of humor.

The meteorologist would say, “Cold and sunny all week,” so I’d figure I was safe. But the day after I called my mechanic and scheduled an appointment, the weather report would change to, “The blizzard that was 100 miles out to sea is now circling back and heading straight for New Hampshire!  The snow will start falling at 2:00 on Tuesday afternoon, the exact time of Sally Breslin’s oil- change appointment!”

So if you thought New Hampshire had too much snow this past winter, I sincerely apologize, because it clearly was all my fault.

Anyway, two weeks ago I decided to play it safe and not make any more appointments, just in case there was a tornado or hurricane lurking somewhere, just waiting to attack.  Instead, I drove to an auto-repair shop I’d never been to before and asked the mechanic if he might be able to do an oil change.

“Gee,” he said, “if you’d have gotten here 15 minutes earlier, I could have done it, but I have a customer coming in any minute now, so I won’t be able to get to it until tomorrow afternoon.”

I silently cursed my dog, Willow. It was because of her that I hadn’t arrived earlier. She had scratched at the door to go out just as I was about to leave. I let her out into the yard and then stood waiting in the doorway, hoping she would quickly do her duty and come right back inside. Instead, she walked outside, flopped down on a patch of grass and promptly fell asleep.  I did everything but put on a dress made of raw meat to lure her back inside, but she completely ignored me.  Finally, 20 minutes and half a box of dog cookies later (I made a trail of them into the house), she returned.

So, against my better judgment, I made an appointment for the next afternoon. Then I sat and waited for a blizzard to blow in.  It’s not as if this state has never seen snow in April before, so I knew it was a distinct possibility.

When I woke up the next morning and didn’t hear any snow plows, I was pretty sure I finally was going to make it to my oil-change appointment.

And I did make it, right on time.  Relief flooded through me as I took a seat in the waiting area while the mechanic set to work.

Unfortunately my relief was short-lived.

It seemed like only seconds before he came into the waiting area and said, “Sally, come here. I have to show you something.”

Years of experience had taught me that when a mechanic utters a sentence that begins that way, it’s never a good thing.

He led me to my car, which was up on the lift, and started wiggling some kind of rod that looked as if a good sneeze would cause it to fall off.

“Your tie rod is broken,” he said. “If you hit a bad frost heave or pot hole, you could lose your steering.”

My eyes widened and panic flooded through me as I imagined what it would be like to suddenly have a car with no steering.  Visions of my car hanging by two wheels over the side of the bridge at Bear Brook State Park rendered me temporarily unable to speak – a real rarity for me.

“Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do the job today,” the mechanic said. “Can you bring the car back tomorrow?”

“You actually want me to drive that deathtrap home?” I asked him.

“It should be OK as long as you take it easy,” he said.

“You haven’t seen the road to my house! It has so many frost heaves, it looks like the roller coaster track at Canobie Lake!”

“OK, then,” he said. “If it makes you feel better, you can leave the car here and I’ll have my son drive you home.”

He didn’t have to ask me twice. So his son drove me the seven miles to my house and dropped me off.  I’d barely set foot in the house when I noticed the son’s car coming back up the driveway.

“Forget something?” I asked him.

“Yeah, you! My dad just called me. Your car is ready.”

I just stared at him.

“He changed the oil, put in two new tie rods and then did an alignment. It’s all set.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. I figured the mechanic must have been a former member of Mario Andretti’s pit crew. Either that, or he was like Samantha on “Bewitched.” All he had to do was twitch his nose and “poof!” the car was fixed. 

So I now have a car that has clean oil and new tie rods that hopefully will prevent me from ending up treading water in Bear Brook.

But if you see it snowing in the middle of August, you’ll know it’s time for me to have the oil changed again.


Thursday, May 9, 2013


Every day for the past four months, I’ve glared at my husband’s van collecting dust out in the garage. The only thing that’s prevented me from selling it is I’m too lazy to clean it out or wash it. 

So a couple weeks ago, when I no longer could tell what color the van was, I decided it was time to sell it. For one thing, I refuse to drive it. It’s big and long and so wide, it clears the garage doorway by only about a half-inch on each side. Past history has taught me that I need at least two feet on each side if I want to be certain I won’t leave the side mirrors dangling from the door frame.

So, armed with a trash bag and gloves, I set to work cleaning out the van. All I can say is there were so many fast-food burger bags stuffed under the seats, I began to suspect that my husband secretly had bought his own franchise. 

With each bag I discovered, I thought of how many nutritious meals I’d cooked for him, trying to stick to the diabetes guidelines his doctor had given me. Apparently, I could have saved myself a lot of time and trouble if I’d have just invested in side of beef and a meat grinder.

After all of the junk was cleaned out, there still was the problem of the van looking like a giant ball of dust. How, I wondered, could I wash it if I couldn’t even back it out of the garage? 

That’s when I remembered that my brother-in-law used to do auto detailing as a sideline (auto detailing means turning an old vehicle into something that looks factory new, or close to it). So I called him and asked if he might be able to do something with the van.

He came over and picked it up and, to my surprise, brought it back the next day looking even better than when it was new. I could see my face in it. And the inside was so clean, no one ever would have guessed it recently had been a fast-food disposal unit on wheels.

I was smiling from ear to ear and thinking it would be a snap to sell the van, when my brother-in-law abruptly wiped the smile from my face.

“It’s running really rough,” he said.

I didn’t want it to run rough. I wanted anyone who drove it to have a nice smooth ride.  Smooth meant I could make money. Rough meant I’d have to spend it.

“It’s probably just because it’s been sitting around for so long,” he added.

“Probably,” I said. But the trouble was, I knew that assorted parts could have dried up, corroded or become mummified during the past few months, which still would cost me money.

That night, I contemplated what to do with the van. Did I really want to advertise it for sale and have a bunch of strangers come to my house to check it out?  And did I want to sit next to those strangers in the van while they test-drove it?  The more I thought about it, the more I allowed my imagination to run wild, and the less I liked the idea.

So I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea. I called the dealer where my husband originally bought the van and asked the manager if he might want to buy it back.

“Sure, I’ll take a look at it,” he said. “Bring it in.”

“Um, I don’t know how to drive it,” I said.

“OK then, I’ll be over tomorrow to check it out,” he said.

Actually, I had driven my husband’s van only once, back when he first bought it in 2002. We had taken my mom out to eat and on the way home, my husband stopped at his office to pick up some paperwork. While he was in the building, I decided that the empty parking lot might be a good place to try out his van.

Before I knew it, I was in the driver’s seat with my foot on the gas. I zoomed off so fast, when I looked in the rearview mirror, all I saw were my mother’s feet up in the air. I also heard a stream of frantic prayers coming from what sounded like somewhere on the floor.  By the time my husband came back out, we were innocently parked right back where he’d left us. He never knew I’d driven the van. And I never drove it again.

Anyway, the guy from the dealership, Paul, came over the next day, as promised, and was very impressed with the look of the van. I made a mental note to give my brother-in-law a tip.

Paul took the van for a test drive and returned about five minutes later. “The engine light popped on,” he said, frowning.

My heart sank. Why, I wondered, did the dumb light pick that precise moment to pop on? Couldn’t it have waited another day or two, after I already had a check in my hot little hands?

“Tell you what,” Paul said. “I’ll take it back to our mechanic and have him check it out. If it’s something simple, I’ll buy the van. If it’s something big, I won’t. So tomorrow, I’ll either be back here with a check – or the van.”

I couldn’t sleep that night. What would I do, I wondered, with the van back if it was in bad shape?  Pay to have it fixed and then still try to sell it?  Have it towed to a junkyard? Sell it for parts?

Paul called the next morning and told me everything that was wrong with the van. It sounded like the inventory list from Auto Parts R Us.  I recall him saying things about spark plugs and a leaky transmission and needing some kind of belt and maybe a pacemaker or a respirator.  And every other word was, “because it’s old.”  I could empathize with that old van, mainly because as I age, I’m getting rustier and creakier (but fortunately, not yet leakier), too.

“So, I guess you’ll be bringing it back, huh?” I muttered.

“No, I still want to buy it,” he said. “But my offer probably will insult you.”

At that point, he could have offered me $10 and a box of chocolates and I probably would have taken it (I hope he’s not reading this).

His offer actually was closer to $2,000.  Luckily, he couldn’t see me dancing a jig over the phone.

So now I have a nice spacious garage.  I think I might even use the van money to buy myself a riding lawnmower, now that I have a place to put it.

I just hope I can back it out of the garage.