Feeling 'porch pains' in the Triangle

The News & Observer
Sunday Journal D2
A.C. Snow Staff Writer 
Published: September 9, 2001

 It is said that in the interest of emotional health, you should never watch laws and sausage while they're being made. The same goes for a porch being born. The process is not pretty, although, in our case, the finished product is.

Building a porch has afforded me a peek into the building industry as it operates here in the booming Triangle. From the outset, I was warned by my friend Glenn Keever, who had to replace almost half his house when Hurricane Floyd dropped a monster tree on it two years ago.  "They're not going to work according to your deadlines," he said. "They'll tell you they're coming, but they won't. And they won't call to say they're not coming, no matter how many cell phones they have strapped, like six shooters, to their hips."

After talking to three builders, we settled on a young, energetic and personable fellow by the name of Kevan Riddle. We bonded immediately. Within a couple of weeks, when some of his crews didn't show up, I began unbonding. I became hyper. "I want you to get off Kevan's back," my wife said one morning. "You've been harassing him long enough. It's that newspaper personality of yours -- too many deadlines. Rome wasn't built in a day, you know." "This isn't Rome," I retorted. "It's a 12-by-14 screened porch that is costing more than the whole house cost 40 years ago."

Even my sister-in-law contractor in Myrtle Beach, S.C., urged patience. "Keep in mind that your contractor is at the mercy of God and everybody else who can swing a hammer, install a light switch or lay a brick. You're not living in Surry County. You're living in Raleigh!" Keever again cautioned, "Cool it, man. This is the Triangle. Kevan is doing you a favor by even building you a porch. You're small potatoes. You should have had to deal with my people. It took eight months for them to bring my den, kitchen and porch back to life after Hurricane Floyd. "

A few mornings later, my wife handed me the comic page: "Here, read 'Dilbert.'" In the first panel, Dilbert's contractor is saying, "Here's my cost estimate. I'll start the job on Monday." In the next panel, he says, "When I say 'Monday,' I am referring to the service industry's space time continuum." In the third panel, the contractor says, "Now I'm not supposed to show you this, but check out our calendar. No Mondays."

Finally, the porch started taking form. And I was rather excited as we drove over to pick out tile for the flooring. "Now, honey," my wife said. "I want you to understand that whatever color tile you like, we'll go with. It's YOUR porch! And you've waited 40 years for it." I thanked her sincerely. At the store, when I immediately went for a soft Carolina blue, a pained expression crossed her face. "But I like this tile they have on the floor," she said. "It's just perfect. Also, it will blend with the brick and won't show dirt."

"It looks barnyard brown to me. Besides, you just said on the way over that we'd go with whatever I liked." "But, honey, I have to save you from yourself. You're colorblind! And the color you chose is not Carolina blue. It's green, an atrocious green at that!"

(Incidentally, I did not know I was colorblind until I was 19 and a second lieutenant in the Air Force said to me during a physical, "Soldier, you're colorblind. I regret to inform you that you will not be allowed to fly in a B-24 bomber and be shot down over Tokyo.")

"My husband is colorblind," my wife said as the tile store manager walked over. "Please tell him that this tile he thinks is 'barnyard brown' has beautiful, soft shades of rose, pinks, beiges and blues." "She's right, sir. She's picked out our best color, so popular it's the only one we keep in stock." During the five weeks of construction, I dealt with some very nice people, including Dwayne Mitchell, the project supervisor who served as my on-site psychiatrist.

As Kevan and I shook hands in parting, he paid me the highest compliment possible when he said, "Mr. Snow, I'd like to take you fishing sometime." "Kevan," I said. "I like you a lot and I really love my porch. But please don't make me go fishing."

A few days ago, my wife asked me to stop by the grocery store and pick up a new broom. "A new broom!" I wailed. "Honey, you've got a new porch! You'll just have to wait a while for a new broom. We live in Raleigh, not Surry County!"

 Copyright 2001 by The News & Observer Pub. Co.