Friday, September 28, 2007

One Thing Lead to Another...

I’d like to blame the belt sander, or maybe the person who decided a belt sander would make a great Christmas gift for me.

I held it for the first time, absorbed its sturdy, yet manageable heft, felt its magic surge into my body. I then applied it firmly to the windowsill in our spare room, which was about the size of your average handicap-accessible portable toilet.

My office, once cluttered with thousands of papers and virtual fjords of dust, was to become the baby’s room.


Thirty minutes later, I had reduced the once ornate painted sill to a clean sheet of wood the thickness of a flattened cereal box. I had burrowed through seven layers of paint: white, mud brown, pus yellow, hippie pink, bird poop white, fluorescent green, and gray.

As I stood amid zillions of microscopic dust particles, admiring what my newfound power had accomplished, my wife appeared. I expected her to comment on my menacing muscular manliness and request an immediate trip to the bedroom. Instead, she said, “Do you think we need to be concerned about lead paint dust?”

My wife has an odd way of showing her appreciation for my hard work.

Within minutes, she was on the Internet, discovering that lead paint dust is one of the top three most evil substances in the world, the others being chemical or nuclear weapons and the imaginary film of goo that covers everything in the average public restroom.

Let me give you an idea how powerful and heinous lead is: sanding lead paint for just a few seconds can create enough dust, once it spreads through the house and settles, to provide enough material for a mediocre 500-word humor column.

Inhaling lead dust can also harm small children. Since my wife and I had ordered a small child from and were awaiting its arrival, we decided to attend a workshop on how to clean up all the lead dust I had maliciously spread through the house.

You’re not going to believe this, but lead-safe clean up requires sealing off rooms with plastic and duct tape, putting on a giant haz-mat suit, wetting all surfaces in your house with a spray bottle, setting up your expensive new vacuum with a HEPA filter, then realizing you have to disassemble everything and do it all over again because you forgot to pee first.

That sounded like too much hassle. I thought it would be easier for me to go around and lick all the surfaces in our home to make sure I got the lead poisoning before our daughter did, but my wife did not approve this plan.

She pointed out that we still had more lead-painted surfaces in high-friction areas, like doorways and windows, which would always cause more vile dust. Besides, if getting lead out of the house was that difficult, imagine how tough it would be to get it out of your body. Exorcism, animal sacrifices, colonoscopy… who knows.

So we sold the house. Which is a shame, because by the time we handed over the keys at closing, we had turned the office into a cuddly, cute space for a baby.

And thanks to my trusty belt sander, I had increased the size of the room by 20%.

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