Before I explain how I was forced to learn more than I ever wanted to about flies, I must tell a story about Bob Swamp.
I don’t really want to write about Bob Swamp, in fact, I have avoided it for nearly a year, but I can avoid it no longer. Bob is not his real name and no, I will not describe him. He is not scary. He does not have a giant fly head.
When I was buying my little house, I had the idea that putting in a large, accessible bathroom was very important. I have almost elderly parents, who might need a bathroom in my house to be something less than an athletic event space, and really, it could do nothing but improve the value of the little house to offer bathroom hospitality to all. These were ideas that led me to Bob Swamp.
He was the only contractor in town who could be bullied into returning my calls, and when he learned my budget he offered to do the job for $1000 less. We bonded on discussions of the things we had in common; I have parents, he has parents. The problem was the things we did not have in common, Bob was on the very cutting edge of the verge of retirement and I am never going to be able to retire. Bob doesn’t care about the job any longer and I care a lot about not feeling robbed.
The written quote arrived as $2000 over budget, which is not the same $1,000 under budget if I am doing my math properly. Bob was busy, he said, so many big jobs, he said, cannot possibly fit this in the schedule for less, he further said. Had I not hired him then, things might have gone differently. Maybe I would have actually been robbed instead of merely feeling robbed. Maybe the flies would never have come here.
Bob sent his B Team to do the demolition and his D Team to do the finish work. How do I know this? Because the demolition team did nothing extra and the D Team was nothing but extras: extra time, extra worry, extra evidence.
Traumatized persons have a harder time than the average homeowner when it comes to having unknown men galumphing through the house. I was angry all the time about it. I tried to be gracious, offering water and minimal things, but once they left the back door open, I was just angry that it wasn’t over yet. We moved in and the D Man was still in my basement. Not every day, of course. Every day might have meant he would finish the job before it ran six weeks over schedule. This guy. I don’t know what his Damage was or is, but he made several basic errors that left me feeling robbed.
It wasn’t until later that I realized the shower head was not secured, a small issue. There is a dip in the floor where shower water pools, a fairly large issue when you have one job in setting a floor. The last thing I noticed is the small detail that horrifies perfectionists everywhere:
At the time of the final invoice, there was one minor point I had to address with Bob. There was no vent. Now I have had bathrooms that did not have an exhaust vent, but I have never seen a modern bathroom without any ventilation at all. Bob might have been embarrassed that he didn’t notice this himself, but he immediately blamed D Man. There was a duct right there, he said. D Man didn’t do the fix as Bob suggested, of course, but put in a vent that may not connect to anything. He also put in an exhaust vent.
It’s fine, I thought. The bathroom will be much like a cave that stays at fifty-five degrees regardless of the season.
Look, it’s fun to complain about all the things that go wrong, but to be fair I should mention that the team did a good job of finding fixtures during a shortage and picked out agreeable materials without asking me. Gold Star, take my money, get out of my basement.
No one has made regular use of the bathroom yet. It hasn’t mattered that it is chilled at all times. Not too mysteriously, the cat will go in there to shed fur, because there is nothing so attractive to a black cat as a white surface, and a white room is downright irresistible.
Over the summer, I noticed that Damage Man had drilled a hole in the house to install a sort of exhaust pipe. Any rodent would be charmed to investigate this open pipe, I thought. Nearby squirrels agreed, but they were busy with more attractive upper level entrances at the time. Surely there’s a geegaw that will cover that pipe, I thought, and added it to my list of novel home improvement items to forget.
This is the scene that forced me to become an amateur entomologist. While I was forgetting to block the tiny door into my basement, and the squirrels were forgetting to exploit it, a squadron of flies began their assault. Yersis announced the swarm. Was she exaggerating? No, she was not. Dozens of house flies buzzed in the basement.
Did you know that flies are drawn to light like moths? Mine were. They lined up in docile little formations to watch the sunrise together. Disgusting.
Did you know that flies will starve and die in a matter of days if you just shut the door to your big white bathroom? Now you do! They may be cannibals, but they are not effective cannibals. Don’t worry, I could be mistaken about the starvation. Maybe the sight of that tile gave them teeny little fly aneurisms, instead.
The time had come to find the geegaw which would screen the little creeps and any bigger creeps that might be drawn to the invitation of Damage Man. The geegaw I found for the temporary fix was just odd enough that it took an hour of wandering in two hardware stores and the consternation of three different clerks. One guy suggested I cinch a lint trap over the pipe. Sure. No.
As I jammed the little screen thing into the pipe, there was a discovery that meant the inevitable second trip to the hardware store, or third trip, who’s counting? While it’s unclear what exactly the pipe leads to, it was clear that light was very visible around the pipe. Lots of light shined out like a big bug beacon. I could see the bathroom ceiling from the outside of the house. Even a dingus homeowner who is not mechanical would conclude this is not normal.
This is not normal.
Five dollars and five seconds of effort and the bug beacon is off. Some of the foam is even helpfully branded as Bug Blocker or Pest Perturber. One can buy it with confidence, even though it feels like spraying icing into your walls, it’s going to do the job. I’m pretty sure.
What a magical Halloween!! I have had a sudden grove of poisonous mushrooms in the yard and a room full of fly carcasses.
The demon in the attic is another story.
If you enjoy these posts, there are several ways you can encourage their continuing appearance. Free content ain’t free when you have to pay for electricity and coffee here in the little city. There is a whole book you can buy. Real people say the nicest things about it. Personally, I recommend starting at Chapter 6. 16/17 Wishing Shelf readers said they would recommend my book to a friend, so it’s being enjoyed by people who like their friends or who have friends who like 19th century hijinks. I can only imagine Mr. Seventeen would put it in a pot hole. Jawohl!!
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The cat gets plenty to eat these days, even the things she should never eat, like tape and ribbon.