Rainy Day Writing

Writing, Reading, Inspirations and Aspirations

The Old Man and The Sea of $#!%

I spent several hours out in the old man’s shop today. I’ve been trying to avoid the place as much as possible the last couple of years. My typical trip down the drive to the shop is made in order to access the extra fridge we keep out there. Right by the door. So I can open it, grab what I need, and beat feet out of there.

Occasionally though, I have to venture into the belly of that beast. And what a beast it is. It is a complete and utter wreck of a place. Which you would never guess from it’s exterior. That’s looks pretty nice actually–cedar siding, barn lights, green metal roof and nice white doors with frosted glass windows. Just don’t open those pretty doors.

Inside, the shop is a pit. My husband is an excellent handy man and mechanic. He has an innate mechanical ability that boggles my mind. In our last house he designed and installed an in-floor hot water radiant heating system simply by researching and purchasing everything he needed for it on the internet. And it worked like a charm. I still miss my warm cozy toes in the middle of January. And he spent thirty years working in the Aerospace Industry machining parts to extremely precise tolerances. Sometimes I tease him and call him the “Super Genius”, ala Wiley Coyote. Because he is really, really smart.

But when it comes to organizing his prodigious collection of handyman/car guy/pack rat stuff, he definitely suffers from some kind of organizational attention deficit disorder. He pretty much leaves everything out on every work surface, ALL THE TIME. And when they get full he throws shit on the floor. And then when that is reduced to a couple of little game trails winding through and sometimes over the precarious piles of heavy, greasy parts and dangerous looking tools he seems to prefer, he starts leaving shit outside leaning on the garage and getting rained on for forty days and nights because he’s “working on that, don’t touch it”. That’s when my head starts to feel like it is full of electrified cotton and my ears ring and I’m talking unkindly under my breath whenever I have to go in there and then at some point I generally sneak in there when he is gone and swear and sweat and bruise and batter myself bloody and clean the f#$%*@# place up already! But that’s hard to do now that he is retired and around all the time. Which of course could give him more time for cleaning and organizing his shop—HA! –if it weren’t for his OADD.

And you know, over the years, recognizing that he is organizationally challenged, I’ve tried, so hard, to help him. Nearly every gift giving opportunity, I bought him organizing supplies–towering steel shelving systems, bountiful bins, rolling tool boxes with multiple drawers and compartments for all the little parts and pieces that one accumulates as a DIY-er. One year, I even banished him from the shop the week before Christmas. I built him a big sturdy work bench (from a kit I had bought several years earlier that he never assembled, go figure.) I installed shelves and peg boards and hooks and hangers and organized everything and it looked so nice and had a functional lay out and I had so…much…hope. And I was pleased as punch with myself. Wouldn’t any car guy/DIY-er/pack rat love to have a wife who was so thoughtful? He couldn’t possibly not keep things clean and organized NOW, could he? And I could occasionally use the shop for a little project of my own now, couldn’t I? I imagined us working together out there, joking and laughing and drinking coffee on rainy afternoons.He might even come over and steal a smooch every now and then. It was a lovely thought.

Phtt! Within a couple of months my hopes and dreams were cruelly dashed. I could see the stuff piling up on the new work bench and overflowing onto the floor and I noticed the shelves I bought him were largely empty and all the bins and boxes that things had been stored in had been emptied out and strewn about the floor along with every empty package from every tube of epoxy, bag of screws or electrical part he ever opened despite the fact that he had a residential size trash can waiting patiently next to the bench to be utilized. UGH! Piles of crap everywhere. And no apologies even. Just a terse request that I not buy him anymore organizing accessories. Imagine my shock and dismay.

So I decided I am not going to clean or organize his shop anymore. I am not going to do it. I don’t care how dirty it gets and I don’t care if he breaks his leg wading through the piles of tools, the empty boxes and bags and stacks of lumber and the buckets of unidentifiable oily liquids with what could be rags floating in them but might actually be some form of oil slicked small rodent for God’s sake! So gross. But no sir. It’s not my problem and he doesn’t appreciate a clean healthy working environment anyways.

Until today. It’s getting to be winter and I have some projects in mind that need the space that is available when the piles of crap are cleaned up, so what the heck! I went out there and thought, I will just clear this little work area here and make myself some floor space. So I started sorting through the piles and putting the electrical parts in the electrical parts bins and the plumbing parts in the plumbing parts bins, and so on and so forth, so easy anyone could do it really! I was proud of myself because I was only swearing at him once in a while, like when I was filling the trash can up with empty bottles and cans and plastic bags and pieces of tape and bent nails and screws and rusty bolts and filthy rags and for Christmas sake, now I know why the trash can was empty! And there were lots of little bits of paper with numbers and letters on them that might indicate to someone who didn’t know him that he was up to something illegal or perhaps hallucinating that he was decoding an alien language, but I know that they are parts numbers for his 55 Chevy project car because they are all over the kitchen and living room also so I threw them away in a furtive manner and hoped he wouldn’t need them. He even came out at one point and was messing with his car and didn’t freak out about me cleaning the shop although he did ask me not to go near the piles around the car which I really had no plan to do because there are rare and precious things over there that I know I must never…ever…touch. So I had the opportunity to ask him important questions like “is this little piece of metal that is folded and drilled and filed and looks like some kind of bracket for something or other anything?” He admitted he had no clue what he had made it for, or when, and actually let me trash it. So yeah, things went okay. I was even able to sweep a years worth of metal filings and sawdust and grease off one of the work benches and got down to the surface of another couple of areas and wondered how there could be so much dirt UNDER the piles of junk that had covered the entire surface for the last two years??? Some things will always remain a mystery to me.

So now I have a little area where I can work on my own little projects. And maybe he will come out too and we WILL joke and laugh and drink coffee together. As long as I keep my back turned to the area where he works on the project car, the sacred place that I am not allowed to enter, and don’t think too hard about the growing crap piles of parts on the floor and bench over there while the industrial duty Costco shelves I so lovingly bought him sit practically empty, I’ll be okay. I won’t even swear at him. Well maybe just a little, under my breath, when he starts up the compressor.

©2016 by Ilona Elliott

Me and Cosmo

The Author (on the right)



  1. OMG! Thanks so much for this! I really thought I was the only one!! Honest, I have big and hopeful plans to build myself my own shed next year, with a lock and key so he can’t infiltrate and leave his crap everywhere! And maybe I will take back those glorious organizing bins I had bought and put them to good use! Haha! Wish me luck as I am wishing you luck on maintaining your own space in his Sea of $#!%!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe there’s a business model here. A women’s only place to work on projects. There could be wine and music and organization. We could put out “No Boys Allowed” signs! Best of luck navigating your seas!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Christine Mansfield

    A familiar sounding story my friend. Made me laugh and cry at the same time. I am still trying to dig through the infamous shop!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have some wine we could share and the hell with it!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: