Backseat driving

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If there’s anything I hate more than a backseat driver watching my every move, it’s realizing I become a backseat driver myself in situations that involve home improvement.

Back in August of 2008 I spoke of paying someone else to do work you could do yourself. In that instance, it was some plumbing work I was perfectly capable of doing but didn’t have time to fool with inside a sink cabinet so small that a Cirque du Soliel performer would have had trouble squeezing into. This time, it’s my bathroom floors.

Like plumbing, I’m perfectly capable of doing my own flooring; in fact, when it comes to household improvement work, it’s among my favorite tasks. But I have two deadlines I’m trying to meet and just don’t have the time or desire to tear up old flooring and lay new, plus uninstall and reinstall a pair of toilets to get the job done. I’ve done all those jobs before without a hitch, but I just don’t have the time. So I felt no guilt in paying to have someone else do it.

Now, when it comes to paying others to do work for me I’m of two minds. The first is when I have no clue what the people I’ve hired are doing. I know absolutely nothing about cars, for example, so I have no more desire to watch someone repairing my carburetor than I would someone repairing my spleen. Just get it done and tell me what to write on the check, thank you very much.

But all that changes when the job is something I do know a lot about, especially when I’d otherwise be doing it myself under other conditions. In those cases, I find it difficult not to constantly check on the work being done.

When they were installing floors in my two bathrooms, I made excuses to casually stroll by the bathrooms at least a dozen times just so I could keep tabs on them. Counterproductive, really, since if I had that kind of time to stick my nose into their work every half hour I should have done it myself. And in spite of any clever chatting I did while they were working, I’m sure I was completely transparent. I was checking up on them, and they knew it.

They were good-natured about it, though – probably used to it – and pretended not to notice what I was doing. But they probably also hated it as much as I hate backseat drivers.

A.J.

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