This is Why I Don’t Work in Construction

My aquarium finally has a proper light. Wherein lies a tale.

The light I ordered in December was undergoing a redesign at the time. The supplier promised it would be ready in two to three weeks. (As a fan of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, I should have known better than to trust that estimate, but I digress.) Three and a half months later I have a light. Not just a light.  The light. The six-bulb, 36″ T-5 max light I was hoping and waiting for. With fans so quiet you can’t even hear them running over the burble of the aquarium itself. In a word, it rocks.

At least, it does now.

I brought the light home Wednesday night, along with a set of brackets to secure the fixture to the tank. I unpacked the light, spent the requisite period oohing and aahing over my new piece of technological awesomeness, and then started to put it together. It took me about five seconds to realize the brackets wouldn’t work. They attach to the short ends of the fixture and I have my filter system hanging on the short end of the tank.

Option 1: Move the filter. Not gonna happen my friends. Filled and loaded, the tank weighs over a thousand pounds and it sits on a carpeted floor. When I mentioned the idea to my husband he looked at me for five very long seconds and said, “What’s option 2?”

Option 2: Find some alternate way to attach the brackets. Inspired, but not happening. The light fixture came pre-drilled with threaded sockets on the short ends. Not only don’t I know what wiring lies beneath the other portions of the case, but it’s also an attractive fixture and I’m not inclined to injure it with unnecessary drilling and patch work.

Which left Option 3: use the hanging attachments that came with the light and suspend the fixture from the ceiling instead. Easy, right? Drill two quick holes, hang some hooks, throw up decorative chains and we’ve got a hanging fixture suspended above the tank. Nothing could be simpler.

In your world, maybe. Mine works a little differently.

A quick family meeting determined that hanging was the way to go. I made a quick trip to Home Depot (with a side stop at Pinkberry, because dessert is a necessary prerequisite to home improvement) and arrived home at 10pm with ceiling hooks (the ones that work in studs or in drywall), carabiners, and ten feet of decorative chain (black, one-inch links, looks awesome if I say so myself).

Five hours later the light was up and in place.

Yes, five hours. Five long, painful and mostly hilarious hours, where my husband and son did their best to ensure that we wouldn’t become “The Three Stooges Hang a Light Fixture” – with exactly the opposite result.

First, find the studs. This went fairly quickly, since my husband has a strange but much-appreciated ability to locate wall studs (using nothing but his knuckles) which I can neither duplicate nor understand. Studs located, I took measurements to ensure the light would hang precisely where I wanted it to.  Measure twice, cut drill once has nothing on me – I measured at least four times. There goes an hour.

The battery-powered drill didn’t work (you have to charge them, in case you were unaware) so we decided to do the work by hand. It was almost midnight by then, and truth be told we probably weren’t thinking as clearly as we might in the light of day. “Let’s screw these in by hand” actually sounded like the easier option.

More fools we.

The first screw went in with surprising ease. The hook was up, the screw solidly in the ceiling stud, and I started thinking this might turn out smoothly after all. (Note to the wise: if you’re ever looking for the moment where something goes horribly, tragically wrong, rewind to the spot where someone says or thinks “we’ve got this” – I guarantee you’ve got your point of departure.)

Enter the second screw. Halfway into the ceiling stud, the screw stopped cold. Would not turn. Would not budge. My husband’s assessment – we’d hit a knot.  Nothing to do but back the screw out and try again, half an inch farther along. But the knot was there too. And also in the next two spots we tried.

After more than an hour struggling to locate a knot-free section of stud in approximately the position I needed, I decided to do the next best thing and put the screw into the drywall just adjacent to the beam.  After all, I’d bought drywall screws. How difficult could it be?

For the record: placing drywall screws in a ceiling is beyond me.  It is also beyond my son, my husband, and our combined capacities.  (Fair disclosure: my husband abandoned the sinking ship about half an hour into this portion of the debacle. My stress level had climbed to a point where he wisely opted to leave me to my increasingly futile flailing until I calmed down and realized there had to be a better option. Possibly an option he’d already mentioned, but we’ll get there soon enough.)

I’ll leave my Adventures in Drywall mostly to the imagination. Suffice it to say that an hour’s effort left me with one broken drywall screw, a half-inch hole in my ceiling, a smaller hole in my thumb where I tried to put a screwdriver through it, and owing a dollar to the cuss jar.  (I’m lucky it wasn’t more.)

At the end of my patience and supplies, I went into the living room and told my husband we’d failed.  “Is there anything else we can do?”

He nodded. “I think we might have some wood screws that would go through that knot, if you want to try them.”  (Note to the not-so-wise: he’d made that suggestion earlier, but I hadn’t been ready to accept it at the time. Note to myself: accept the wise offer sooner next time. It’s going to be right anyway.)

Twenty minutes and one wood screw later, the second hook was in place – through the knot, and in a place that hid the other holes we’d made. It took us ten minutes to string up the chain and clamp the fixture in place with carabiners, and at 3:20 a.m. I flipped the switch and saw:

Best of all, I wasn’t alone. My husband and my son stood with me and shared smiles all around. It took much longer than it should have, and no one can say we accomplished it with skill, but the end result looks fantastic, works as intended and looks no different than the light it took a professional ten minutes to install. Except that this one has a story behind it. And as you’ve probably guessed, it’s the stories that I like best anyway.

2 thoughts on “This is Why I Don’t Work in Construction

  • March 30, 2011 at 5:01 am

    I loved the story and the ending result!!! Brilliant!!! I’m sure it was a very exciting and huge accomplishment! Certainly not something I would do on my own!!!

    I’m stopping in to welcome you to the A-Z Blogging Challenge! I’m a co-host should you need anything don’t hesitate to ask! Most of all have fun and I look forward to checking back to see your posts!

    • March 30, 2011 at 8:39 am

      Thanks Jen! I’m not sure it’s something I’d try again on my own either…though with enough time and caffeine I might just be foolish enough to give it another go.

      Thanks also for the welcome to the A-Z challenge – I’m looking forward to participating and to picking up a bunch of new blogs to read and follow myself!

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