Janet Combs

Janet Combs

As most of you know, I have a high-level, top-secret government day job wherein I am required to be pleasant to the public nearly 100 percent of the time.

I say “nearly” only because I’m not sure if it counts as impolite when you make a big, dramatic face that no one else can see? I have discovered that assuming an exaggerated, sarcastic expression helps relieve the stress encountered by the occasional member of the public who is extremely rude or condescending on the telephone. It is a challenge, but I can provide courteous customer service even while crossing my eyes and making fish lips.

My point is, at the end of some days, my facial muscles have had quite a workout and I need to sit on my front porch with the blandest of expressions for a good half hour before engaging in any sort of home-improvement project. Meanwhile, my husband has been working on our home-improvement projects all day long, and this often involves him desperately trying not to be rude or condescending to indifferent suppliers who can’t locate the order he placed a week ago.

He, too, requires a front-porch timeout at the end of a long day.

So, feel free to drive by and wave to the two of us — we’re like a modern-day “performance art” version of the painting “American Gothic.” Neighbors like to cruise by in their golf carts and wave up at us, to see if we’re alive if we’re just stuffed, home-y props in paint-stained tee shirts. We always wave back, even though it’s quite an effort because we — like the couple featured in American Gothic — are survivors. We took on this enormous homestead renovation project and we’ve been at it more than a year but we’re proud of our work and gosh darn, we love it! Mostly.

Sometimes, we’re just exhausted. But this is when a positive, playful attitude can make all the difference, rather like making funny faces when you’re on the phone with irritating people. Please appreciate how this column interweaves a coherent theme in an understated fashion.

During the week, my husband might have five or six jobs that are in various stages of completion, from putting together a desk we ordered online to removing the rotting boards and balusters from our front porch and steps. And he’s developed a wonderful game that never fails to make me laugh whenever I call him at lunch or on the way home.

“Mr. Shurocman,” he’ll answer.

“Shurocman?” I’ll repeat. “Hmmm…Shu…roc…man…”

“Oh! I’ve got it!” I’ll say after a few seconds. “Your putting together my closet shoe rack!”

Then, we both explode in hysterical laughter, repeating “Shurocman,” to each other over and over like individuals who have marginal taste or who have been long deprived of appropriate sensory stimulation.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have called home and been connected with: Mr. Noboff, Mr. Bencher, Mr. Polenblo, Mr. Sorda, Mr. Nufredge, and Assemblyman Fitrem.

Sure, the first one’s easy — he was taking the knobs off our kitchen cabinet drawers in preparation for painting. And if you’re a regular reader — which you most certainly should be if you have nothing better to do with your time — then you will recognize Mr. Bencher as the fellow who assembled my charming potting bench a couple of weeks ago. But they get a little harder, and that’s the fun of the game — the name of the contractor du jour can’t be obvious.

Curious? You will find the explanations on my blog because it is important for you energetic readers to put forth a little effort, as it has taken me more than a couple of hours up here in my office to write this column as well print off and fill out my winning March Madness bracket. But that’s just me — Mrs. Nuhoopsfan — getting a move on because Mr. Nexprojek’s downstairs waiting.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County. Her column is published regularly in the Georgetown Times. Contact her at https://janetfrickecombs.wordpress.com.