New bath will shower family with blessings

July 11, 1998|By ROB KASPER

NATURE CALLED in the dark of night and I answered, plodding along a well-worn path toward the second-floor bathroom. Arriving in a familiar doorway, I came to the slow realization that most of the bathroom was missing. The room that once housed the household's essential plumbing fixtures now contained little more than bare pipes and dangling wires.

Eventually it dawned on me that we are in the process of having work done on our bathrooms, and things are not where they are supposed to be.

Take, for instance, the toilet. It disappeared from the second floor bathroom on the first day that the workmen showed up. A new one appeared a few days later and sat, in boxes, in the first-floor hallway. During my late-night meanderings, I almost bumped into those boxes as I made my way to the first-floor powder room, a room whose facilities were still functioning.

Such adjustments in daily living probably sound familiar to anyone who has experienced a home remodeling project. Once the plaster dust starts flying, so does the domestic routine.

We're in the "rip-it-out" stage of our project, a stage that makes me think of the axiom military commanders used during the Vietnam War. Namely that you have to destroy a village in order to save it.

Various members of the family have had differing reactions to the disruption.

The kids, teen-age boys, seem to regard the experience as more evidence of parental incompetence. In their view, my wife and I should have planned this endeavor so that it did not interfere with their customary activities.

My wife seems to feel a mixture of elation -- that the long discussed project is finally started -- and concern that we might be doing something wrong.

I have had those feelings, too. But I have also surprised myself by behaving like Dodge City's Marshal Dillon, tracking down long-lost outlaws. Most evenings after the workmen have left, I have prowled around the work site, looking at the skeleton of the house, hunting for old enemies.

I was delighted, for example, when I found the iron water pipes that once supplied the shower. These pipes were so clogged that if somebody turned on a cold water tap in the basement, the second-floor shower would lose all its cold water. For years I had cursed these pipes as I hopped out of the shower.

The other night, as I stared at the culprits, I felt a sense of vindication. At last they had been exposed. Soon they would be replaced by new pipes and by a shower with a temperature-

control valve. I felt so good I considered dancing a jig above the "dead" pipes. But there were too many holes in the bathroom floor to risk a victory boogie.

I was also intrigued by the holes in the kitchen ceiling. Coleman, the plumber, put them there, after figuring out that the kitchen ceiling served, in effect, as the headwaters for the river that flows to our upstairs bathrooms. If I knocked a hole in the kitchen ceiling my wife would kill me.

But Coleman could get away with it because he has credentials. Over the years, he has battled the twisting waterways of our old house, and has emerged victorious. To the victor goes the right to punch holes in the ceiling.

The goal of all this work is to create separate but equally appealing bathrooms, one for the kids, one for the parents, on two separate floors of the house. It is a goal that unites the family. Both camps, the teen-agers and the parents, are weary of the old arrangement of sharing "the good shower" and of tolerating each other's hygiene habits.

I remind the teen-agers of this when they complain about the indignity of being awakened at 10 in the morning by the noise of construction. Like most parents of teen-agers, I have a hard time getting them out of bed on summer mornings. But Michael, one of the workmen, passed along a sure-fire, rise-and-shine tip. Just run a power saw a couple of times, he said, and before you know it, everybody is awake.

Once the kids have risen, they have fled, seeking solace and a hot shower at the neighborhood swimming pool. Ripping up your bathrooms does present some inconveniences, but it also keeps your kids from hanging around the house all day.

It has motivated me as well. The other morning, for instance, I was planning to have another cup of coffee and linger over the comics. Then the plumber arrived. He announced that the new bathtub, a big, heavy one, had to be carried up a flight of stairs. He wondered if I was going to be on hand to help. Suddenly, I remembered I had pressing business at the office.

Pub Date: 7/11/98

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