Francesca Serritella: Temporarily out of order, permanently

Plumber.
Calling in experts doesn’t always help.

In my home, a few things are temporarily out of order.

Permanently.

I intend to fix them someday. It’s just not urgent.

But not urgent becomes never faster than you think.

Maybe if I confess to you in writing, it will shame me into doing something.

The first issue was apparent as soon as I moved in: the stair railing. The metal banister on the second floor has no bottom rail, leaving a foot-high space exposed to the stairwell.  This did not pass my dog-safety standards. I had terrifying visions of Pip chasing a toy, slipping under it, and tumbling down to the floor below.

I don’t delay when there’s danger to my dog-child.

So the first day, I taped cardboard on the lowest rung of the railing down to the floor, forming a protective base wall.  It wasn’t pretty, but it would keep Pip safe until I found a better solution.

That was five years ago.

The irony is, I took great care to decorate the rest of my apartment like a classy adult — I repainted, I put up art — and yet my cardboard safety wall remains, now with stains and dog hair clinging to the curling packing tape.

I don’t even see it anymore. I vacuum against it as though it’s an elegant baseboard.

Is denial a design aesthetic?

And there’s the practical reason — money. It would be a big, expensive job to replace the banister.

Not that I’ve really looked into it.

I did look into fixing my tub drain. It’s got the winning combination of never sealing tightly for baths, yet draining too slowly for showers. I hired a plumber, but he said it was a flaw in the installation, and the only way to fix it would be to rip out the tub and break into the marble tile to reach the pipes.

Or I could buy two plastic drain covers at the hardware store, one flat and one a basket, for about 10 bucks.

Tough call!

If it’s not money preventing me from fixing the broken thing, it’s burnout. I took forever choosing the perfect pendant light to go over my dining table. When I finally found a stylish and affordable one, I felt so proud of myself.  Mission accomplished!

I forgot I needed an electrician to install it.

Productivity is like a cellphone battery. It runs out when you need it most.

Because I’d lived without a dining-table light during my lengthy search, I had gotten used to the dim lighting.

It makes eating alone romantic.

And, let’s be real, my cooking isn’t Instagram-worthy.

So my pendant light became a decorative object, sitting at the center of my table for the next two years.

But, I know, I’m making excuses. My inclination to just live with problems instead of always taking action is one of my worst qualities.  All I can say is, I’m working on it.

Eventually.

Am I the only one like this?

Certainly not in my family. My dad’s house had a bathroom that was missing its sink for years, but it was close enough to the kitchen that we just washed our hands there.

Don’t tell the Department of Health.

My aunt and uncle have a toilet with a chain-pull flush so temperamental they have flushing instructions framed and hung beside it.

You know you’re committed to your broken thing when you post signage.

At my mom’s house, it’s the downstairs toilet.  Often, when flushed, the plug in the tank doesn’t seal and it runs continuously, spelling doom for the septic tank.

On my last visit, I was reading on the couch when my mom came in wearing her best “I’m not mad, I’m disappointed” face.  She asked me if I had used the bathroom, and I told her I had.

“Well.” She crossed her arms. “Were you rough with it?”

I shrugged. “No.”

She sighed and gave me a skeptical look.

“Mom, I didn’t do anything to it. It doesn’t work sometimes — it’s broken.”

She looked almost hurt. “No, it’s not broken.  But you know how it is. You have to be gentle.”

It sounded like she was defending a person instead of a toilet.

And maybe that’s the reason we don’t fix the permanently out-of-order things in our homes. We live with them and their quirks for so long they feel like family. So we accept them, flaws and all.

Whether our problem is that we’re cheap or a little lazy or our tank plug doesn’t seal properly, we’re trying our best.

Be gentle.

Nobody’s perfect.

Look for Lisa and Francesca’s new humor collection, “I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere But the Pool,” and Lisa’s new domestic thriller, “One Perfect Lie,” in stores now.  Also, look for “Exposed,” a new Rosato & DiNunzio novel, coming Aug. 15.

Francesca@francescaserritella.com