Crying is all right in its way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do. So said CS Lewis in The Silver Chair. And I was close to tears last night in OBI, the local hardware megastore, as I tried to pick lights for the new bathroom. I didn’t want anything I’d have to clean, so recessed lighting was the way to go. Due diligence revealed that the world is moving from halogen to LED, so that narrowed down the choice considerably. Too much so, as the lights I wanted weren’t in stock, and there was no time to drive to the next town to check if they had any.
Of what was on offer, I couldn’t decide how many I’d need for a 2×3 m ceiling with 1 sqm of that taken up by the shower. Six wouldn’t fit in any discernible pattern. Five would look odd. Four wouldn’t be enough. I took the ‘phone a friend’ option as if my millionaire status depended on my decision. He said 6. But admitted that he’d be on the hooch and that his math figuring wasn’t as sharp as it might have been otherwise. There were vague mumblings about ratios …
So I checked the larger light fittings and had it narrowed down to two but one looked too disco-like and the other came with a warm bulb and they didn’t have a cold one in stock. God be with the days when a lightbulb was a lightbulb and all you needed to be concerned about was the wattage.
Why the rush? Well, the boys are putting up the ceiling today (I think) and needed to know if holes had to be cut. Yes, they could do it later, but it would be easier to do it before they hung it. It has be to suspended because the house slopes left and nothing is straight any more. The archway is slightly off, too, with the apex more right that left, indicative perhaps of the way the world is currently leaning. But it’s an old house and crookedness is part of its charm. That doesn’t faze me.
I could have waited and let the lads work that little bit harder, but consideration kicked in. When the good Lord was making me, He took his eye of the measurement tube and gave me too much consideration – so much that it paralyses me at times. I’m way too concerned, not about what people think of me (I’m too old to care much about that) but about inconveniencing them, about making their lives more difficult. Forget the fact that I’m footing the bill for this work – that doesn’t seem to matter. You’d swear I was working for them and not the other way around. Such is my lot.
Mark Twain reckoned that he must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes [him] as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up! That’s not usually a problem. Most of my life’s great decisions have been spur of the moment, many of which involved my moving country or changing job or buying a house in a Hungarian village. But lately though, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to make up my mind about anything. I’ve come to the conclusion that I have a fixed quota of conscious decisions that I can make in a day. The subconscious ones, like what to wear or when to have a coffee or what to work on, they’re all doable. It’s when I have a choice that I need to live with – like what kind and how many lights I need for the bathroom – those are the limited ones.
Yesterday, it was plugs, radiator positions, and whether or not to have a central ceiling light in the new study. And then the tiles. The helpful lady on Monday (helpful enough to warrant me planning to drop by with a box of chocs as a thank you for being so patient and helpful) forgot one salient detail: they had to be ordered and won’t be here till next week, which puts my finish by date back by three days. And I have visitors coming Thursday. I need that bathroom.
I’d paid for the tiles. They’d been ordered. A refund was out of the question. I couldn’t go pick them up as that wasn’t allowed (they’re Italian tiles but are in the country at an undisclosed location). They couldn’t ship earlier either as they distribute to stores around the country on a fixed schedule. FFS! I said I’d eat the cost and go somewhere that had tiles in stock and choose more (although I was dreading the thoughts of having to make more decisions). The room fell silent. Such wasteful extravagance was unheard of. But they didn’t know me well enough to know how I obsessed I get when I get something in my head. Finally, they said, that as the order for the floor tiles had gotten lost in the wash and they’d not yet been paid for, we’d go pick some out tomorrow and at least have a working toilet and tiled floor for my guests next week. The wall tiling could be done daytime, but in the evening, they’d have somewhere to pee. I’m telling you, this consideration lark killing me. Decision made.
I reckon my limit is five conscious decisions before I’m all decided out. I know this, because after the bathroom light was sorted (one square recessed block of six LEDs in a chrome setting), I tried to choose a post box. A simple enough job you might think – the box slit had to be street facing with the keyed door at the back. The colour didn’t much matter as the gate needs to be painted at some stage and it could all be done together. But faced with a choice, I couldn’t decide. The Lewis tears were surfacing again. I couldn’t do it.
I did my best Rosemary Smith impression driving home, taking all my frustrations out on the gear box. I wondered, not for the first time, how such a capable, independent, not unintelligent woman can be broken so easily. I’d never make a spy. I didn’t have the energy for self-beratement. I was too tired to care. So I did what I do best: I ate yer woman’s chocolates. I’ll deal with the guilt tomorrow.