Hello!

Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.

I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Under Pressure

Monday morning early. I roll into the parking lot of the "rent-all" joint in my father-in-law's pickup. To divest myself of my nemesis. The friendly and helpful fellow comes out. Sees that I can barely move my office bound and lounge trained limbs enough to get out of the cab. The unfiltered Camel hanging from his lips, he drawls...

So, did ya'll get enough of pressure washing this weekend?


Oh yes.

I am now fully qualified to say that pressure washing your house and all the horizontal cement surfaces appended to it fits squarely in the category of "a hell of a lot harder than it looks". Gather around my brothers and sisters, and hear a cautionary tale...

A rule that I have found to be universally true is aptly described as the Occasional Accomplisher's Paradox. Simply stated, the rule holds that

When one manages to actually do something one didn't think one could do, and one finds oneself increasingly confronted with other tasks and thinking "I'll bet I can do that, it doesn't look that hard", the subsequent tasks will turn out to be a exponentially more difficult than the first one and very hard indeed. Gruelling even.

A second rule which I hold dear is commonly referred to as the Age/Activity Imbalance. This ancient wisdom is summarized as follows:

Do not under any circumstances attempt any new, demanding, physical activity after the age of fifty. Especially if it involves the out of doors.

Of course, when one is trying to hold up the side, stand for one's family home, be fiscally conservative [an unnatural act for me, I confess] impress one's spouse and child [not to mention father-in-law], etc., even well established rules tend to go out the proverbial window. Often with garish results.

The device shown in the lead photo should have told me all there was to know as soon as I spied it at the pickup door of the "rent-all" joint. Simple yet somehow deviously complicated. The friendly fellow told me early Saturday morning that all I had to do was "attach the hose and crank 'er up." Oh, and do not under any circumstances turn loose of the hose after "'er" is cranked up or dire consequences result. Oh, and if by some minute chance a horrendous leak manifests itself in one of the hose connections, don't worry, we gave you these extra o-rings here for that. In two sizes. You just pop out the old one and pop in the new one. It may take one of those special awls with the curved tip, you know? Awls? Special awls? ML, put the sprayer down and back away slowly...

At this stage, I should have just left the thing sitting on the tarmac and demanded my money back. But when one is trying to hold up one's side and impress one's wife and all that...you get my point. We loaded the 4200 p.s.i. washerdemon into the back of the truck. As I was driving away he called out...

Oh, and another thing....don't ever, ever, ever, let any sand get into the hose fittings because......

I was busy pulling through traffic and did not hear much of that last part. Whatever. Pressure washing looks pretty easy. How hard could it be?

The answer, of course, is plenty hard. The first thing you have to do is get the thing off the truck when you get home. Not too easy when it weighs about 200 pounds and there is only you to wrangle the thing. After considering this problem a minute or two, I decided to meditate on it in hope of Divine communication of a solution. Finally, my wife and father-in-law returned home from an appointment to find me sipping a Miller High Life and pondering the physics of extracting the washer from the truck bed. After considering all the options, I was ready to opt for detaching the dining room table top and using it as a ramp when my F-I-L, ingenious man that he is, suggested backing the truck up to the sloped bank of our front yard and then merely rolling the sprayer straight off the tail gate onto the ground. I took this under advisement for a moment. Despite the fact that I had solved the problem via an act of table dissection, I had to admit it that the "backing to the sloped bank" was a stroke of genius. My father-in-law had nullified the forces of gravity and saved my back (not to mention the dining room table) with one suggestion.

Once I had the infernal contraption unloaded, I hooked a garden hose to some fitting provided for that purpose. Looking back on it, when I twisted the water hose into the fitting, it made a sort of scratching noise and had a bit of a grinding feel to it. But, how could that be important? I wanted to "fire 'er up". Which I did, even remembering to hang onto the spray nozzle as I did so. Even the nozzle is rather intimidating...



especially when it has 4200 pounds per square inch of pressure bounding through it. Think about it. That is almost a ton and a half of pressure directed at one square inch when you pull that handle. That is why you have to be certain of hanging onto the thing when you fire "'er" up. Failure to do so is to know what it is like to have a tiger by the tail. Let me say one more time though, I never let go of the nozzle at any significant time.

Before continuing, I must address the issue of proper apparel. I live in a geographic area which acts historically as a catcher's mitt for hurricanes. This unfortunate fact has required occasional massive mobilizations of manpower over the years to clean up storm debris. In each such occasion, I have worn the same gear. The "up country" surplus hat and heavy work gloves...

I have the names of all the hurricanes written on the inside of the hat with a permanent Sharpie marker. Now, I am adding "power washing--October 2009" to the list. That should tell you a lot. With my quasi-military uniform on, and at least one Miller High Life down the hatch, I felt bucked for a couple of hours of power washing. I seem to recall that some annoying sticker or label on the unit mentioned something about eye and breathing protection, but I am not completely sure. Because I did not read the label.

In any event, I launched into my assault upon the mold, dirt, mud, leaf acid stains and fungus with gusto. The thing is, power washing is, if you will forgive me the term, a blast. It is very effective and provides the user the satisfaction of immediate evidence of progress. At least when you have 4200p.s.i. at your command. In fact, you can do power washing TOO well. With 4200 p.s.i. you can strip vinyl siding off and rip painted surfaces off if you are too zealous. Nothing like flying clouds of vinyl siding and formerly painted surfaces to earn you a raised eyebrow from your spouse. I was very diligent not to cause actual damage to anything. Or anyONE. They told me at least two or three times at the "rent-all" joint to make sure to wear good, sturdy shoes and to not use the nozzle to clean them [or my legs] off. This is because careless contact between 4200p.s.i. and human skin does not produce a pretty sight. I carefully avoided personal injury as well during this odyssey.

I powered through the vertical vinyl surfaces [eves, garage doors and the like] with barely batting an eye. They gleamed. Then, overwhelmed with my superman-like powers, I moved on to the brick facing. Which comprises about 98 percent of the exterior surface of my house.

If you do not live in a subtropical environment, you do not really know about mold and fungus. You may think you do. But you don't. Where I live, a brick home may well look perfectly fine as long as you only look above the hedge row line. Back behind those hedge rows though, where it is shady and damp, is where green and black mold will grow. And where 4200 p.s.i. really comes into its own as a cleaning weapon. In very close quarters. You either have to poke the nozzle through the hedges to hit the bricks behind them, or you have to get yourself behind the hedges and work down the sides of the house that way. Since hedges are not planted by houses with an eye toward getting a fifty year old male body and a spray nozzle and hose behind them with ease of movement, the latter option is not easily accomplished. Unfortunately, the "squeeze it all between the hedge and wall" option is mainly what one has to do. But, man, does it work well. And, man, is it a mess. You are almost immediately covered from head to toe with water and mud. And mold. And small mold and mud dwelling creatures. I wear prescription sunglasses, so I had a modicum of protection for my eyes. I was not worried about my eyes in the least.

So, I plunged ahead. Forging my way down the (maybe) three foot wide space between home and hedge. Wreaking havoc on legions of microbiotics unfortunate enough to find themselves in my path. Which brings me to the subject of "rebound". I had never performed the work before, but through certain rather tedious professional obligations, I know quite a bit about sandblasting. You know, the job in which the worker directs a stream of sand at high pressure at an object to scrub off paint or rust. One of the things that sandblasters are very, very concerned about is the issue of rebound, the term for being hit by sand flying back at the sandblaster off the surface they are shooting at. Sort of like a micro-ricochet.

Well, waterblasters need to worry about rebound almost as much as their big brothers and sisters in the sandblasting field. At one point, a bit too close to my target, I pulled in the old handle and caught a massive blast of water, mud, and mold right in what Jackie Gleason would have called "the old kisser". Spluttering and temporarily in retreat at the biological counterattack, I thought to myself...

Wow, that is amazing! I have been pulverizing this mold and fungus all day and getting hit in the face all the time with it and its a miracle that I have not breathed in...a.....ton....of.....it...

Thoughts of that annoying and unnecessary label on the unit and some mention of breathing protection flashed across my mind. But, six hours in, I strode boldly forward. By the way, at this point, my faithful companion and assistant, Skippy the chow/Aussie shepherd mix, abandoned me. He had done well to hang in around the project all day. But even loyal dogs have their limits. Skip resided here the rest of the weekend as I inflicted my 4200 p.s.i. on the bricks...

One other unexpected benefit of the project was a bit of family archeology. As I blasted away at the back yard brick, I noticed a few round objects covered in dirt and mold. Intrigued, and not willing to grant a reprieve to any fungal creatures in my path, I hit them with a little taste of 4200 p.s.i. Only to uncover these...

Hand prints and foot prints. Squished into concrete when our son, the Future Rock Star, was very small indeed. I had forgotten all about them. But I found them again due to the great power washing of 2009. And in finding these old weekend projects, I found a little bit of the FRS as little boy. So very long ago.

Day One of the project ended at sundown with our side way ahead. I felt manly and effective. Until I woke up Sunday morning. Feeling aged and incapacitated. Stiff as a board. Looking back on it, a day of fighting the non-business end of a nozzle applying 4200 p.s.i. to something is about twelve hours of concentrated, continuous, isometric exercise. Not my usual weekend. In fact, not my usual decade.

The second day of work was occupied with even more horrid activity as I tackled the sidewalk, back patio and driveway. To "easily" clean these horizontals, the "rent-all" gents had generously provided me (at no additional cost) "the swirler"...

See, what you are supposed to do is unhook the pressure hose from the nozzle and re-hook it to this thing. Simple, right? Not exactly. A decided cloud drifted over Day Two of the project right off the bat when I could not get the hose fitting disconnected from the nozzle. I think the combination of me swearing and hopping madly about the back patio awakened my F-I-L who luckily appeared on the back patio and got the infernal fitting unhooked and re-hooked to "the swirler." Amazing how an octogenarian can have hand strength of iron. Anyway, "the swirler" was a complete joke and a waste of time. And it was VERY hard to use. You are supposed to move it about like a floor polisher as it is supposed to be supported on a cushion of high pressure water provided by a rotating arm under it. Except for some reason it didn't work that way. It was more like trying to drag a canoe across a gravel river bed with half an inch of water under it.

Finally, I abandoned "the swirler" and did all the horizontal surfaces with the nozzle. If I moved about like Frankenstein when I started Day Two, I looked like his aged brother by the end of the day. And then I tried to unhook the water hose from the unit. It had taken me less than two minutes to attach the thing on Saturday morning, despite the grinding feeling of what, on Sunday evening, occurred to me was probably sand in the fitting. When you get sand in a brass fitting, it is like cramming boulders into a small, rotating space. That then lock the thing down and prevent rotation. Thus precluding detachment of your garden hose. Which is essential to returning the rented machine. After ninety minutes of exhausted, stiff bodied effort, I conceded defeat in removing the hose. I reached for the pocket knife proffered by my F-I-L who had what could only be described as a look of deep sympathy on his face. Then I amputated the offending hose and put the whole rig back into the truck. Awaiting my return to the "rent-all" joint early Monday morning.

But. The whole place looks amazing now. The brick and driveway and sidewalks just sparkle. And my wife is really proud of me. When I realized I was finally finished, I staggered out into the front lawn again covered head to foot in mud. Then I leaned back and fired that nozzle straight up into the air like some kind of microbial Taliban. It made a huge rainbow.

9 comments:

The Daily Connoisseur said...

lol- sounds like rather grueling work! Glad it payed off in the end :)

Ben said...

This entry was riveting! I don't know how I can write that without sounding disingenuous, but believe me, I am feeling your pain now!

What I've learned is that, as much as our ladies knew us when we proposed, they still also thought there was a capable handyman lurking underneath all that urbane charm and wit. So you gotta step up to the plate, and you have Brother! Now I gotta go find something useful to do.

Turling said...

At least you were able to figure out what the gentleman's yelling of "don't get sand in...." was all about. Granted, it was a very painful way of finding out.

Brilliant story, by the way. I'm still waiting for the book.

CashmereLibrarian said...

Well. Congratulations to you. But that doesn't sound like much fun. Ew--physical labor!

Meisha said...

pressure washing in PA is a tough job! good work.

vicki archer said...

Well done, well done...I do love your rules I have to say. Very wise...even if you didn't necessarily follow them to the letter, xv.

Springheel said...

I laughed reading you post - but it was the rueful laughter of a fellow sufferer.It is so very gratifying to learn that I am not alone in finding that simple domestic tasks turn into herculean labours.

EsseQuamVideri said...

ML -- what a weekend!

EQV
atthemeadows.com

heavy tweed jacket said...

Oi. What a project. But you did it and next time you will now be a master power washer. "Right in the old kisser" Hilarious. One can only wonder what Skip thought of it all.