Wednesday, May 31, 2000
Entry doors have personalities ranging from friendly to frightened, cheap to opulent, artsy to severe. Today my job is to remove a pair of double doors that convey neglect and indifference. In their place I'll install windowed doors, warm and tasteful.
The building is a rather ordinary 1940's-era house that was converted to an office. It's located in downtown Menlo Park, just across the street from a popular gourmet grocery called Draeger's Market.
It's a sunny day, pleasant. People are strolling on the sidewalk carrying grocery bags with french bread and lacy green carrot tops sticking out.
Normally I would order pre-hung doors. Then I can simply pop out the old casing and pop in the new. With pre-hung double doors, I could avoid all the fussing and fitting required to line up two oversize, very heavy entry doors. This time, however, the building inspector warned that if I remove the old door casing, I will be "breaking the shell" of the exterior. Once broken, he can require that the entire old building be brought up to code including all the new handicap-access rules. The inspector almost drools, imagining all the violations he could cite.
So naturally - as instructed by the landlord - I'm not going to break the shell.
I'm in public view of the street, working alone though not unobserved. Sidewalk superintendents stop, watch, move on. Construction work is entertaining; it has a basic story arc: destructive beginning, hard-working middle, satisfying end. It's visual and easy to understand. You don't get that by watching somebody work at a desk.
I like to set a rhythm, working alone. There's an intensity, a kind of hypnosis of routing, chiseling, drilling, screwing, lifting.
As I begin painting the newly-installed door, I hear "Hooray!" accompanied by hands clapping. Four passers-by, standing on the sidewalk, are applauding!
Maybe it's the paint, a dramatic cobalt blue. Maybe it's the satisfaction of a familiar plot, freshly presented. Or maybe they simply hated those old weather-beaten doors.
Whatever the cause, they've broken my shell. I'll take it, the one and only time I've been applauded as a carpenter. Thank you, Menlo Park.