Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Great Office Beautification Plan

I walked into the office the other day to find all the pictures off the wall and furniture moved around in the “middle” rooms. This was my first clue that big changes were a comin’.

On and off for the past year we have been in the midst of an “office beautification” project that started with the copy room and eventually progressed to my office. And now, apparently, it’s the middle rooms’ turn.

This is not a bad thing since the carpet and wallpaper in the office have been around for about 30 years. And don’t tell anyone, but there may even still be shag carpeting upstairs. Maybe that explains why the new guy has been dressing like Austin Powers.

Thankfully, I was on vacation when my office was redone. Sure, I had to spend a couple days ahead of time packing up my files and desk paraphernalia. But it was oh so nice to come back to what looked like a brand new office. And I kind of like not staring at gold foil printed wallpaper every day. The only downside is that I can’t attach paper to the walls with thumbtacks anymore, so I have to search through folders on my desk to retrieve important information. Not fun for a visual person who can’t recite the office address without looking at a cheat sheet. Sigh.

So the plan for the next phase of the project was that someone would be in this week to remove the wallpaper in the two middle rooms as well as my bathroom. And then over the weekend, wall prep and painting would commence as well as carpet reinstallation.

But while my boss was standing there telling me his plans, he started picking at the wallpaper. He started pulling and a large section of paper came easily off the wall. So we looked at each other and then back at the wall – and then we both started pulling wallpaper off in a mad frenzy to see which of us could rip the bigger sheet of paper off in one pull.

We’re not competitive or anything, are we?

Eventually we tired of the “fun” so we washed our hands and went to our respective offices to get a little real work done.

But after spending some frustrating minutes on the phone with a vendor who didn’t seem to understand the importance of communicating the status of a project, I went into the bathroom, closed the door – and ripped a whole section of wallpaper off the wall. Hey, a new way to relieve stress. Who knew?

We continued to pull more paper off the wall throughout the day whenever boredom struck – or we didn’t feel like dealing with recalcitrant vendors – and managed to remove about 80% of the paper covering the walls.

I figured that the guy who was hired to work on this project lost a chunk of change. I imagined he intended to spend an entire day taking the paper off the walls before prepping them for the painters. Oh well. If he’s being paid hourly, I’m sure he’ll stretch it out. And if he’s being paid by the job, well, we did him a major favor, didn’t we?

This experience is far different from the first time I was asked to help remove wallpaper. I was 10 years old and we were visiting our cousins in Michigan. One cousin and her husband had recently purchased an old farm house and wanted to remove the wallpaper. What cheaper labor can you get than little kids? All you have to do is promise ‘em a burger. Throw in an overnight sleepover and make it sound like a big adventure and they’re all in. So we were handed some sort of scraping tools and were presented the wallpapered wall.

And suddenly that burger didn’t seem like all that big a deal.

What I remember about the experience was that it was not fun. Well, other than the fun I had whenever I got to hang out with my cousins. We scraped and scraped, but only managed to free little slivers of paper from the wall at any one time. And underneath the part that we cleared? Another layer of wallpaper. And underneath that? Newspaper! Someone glued newspaper to the wall!

I had my first lesson in futility that night. I just so didn’t want to continue because it seemed too gargantuan a task to a mere 10-year-old. I wondered what they used to put that stuff up in the first place – cement?

I clearly recall vowing right then and there never to put up (or take down) wallpaper again. Ever. Yep, my little 10-year-old brain decided at that very moment that wallpapering was bad and painting was good.

But I have to admit, it was kind of fun yanking the wallpaper off the walls in the office the other day. I’m guessing they didn’t use cement to affix the paper to the walls 30 years ago. No, I’d say it was more like Elmer’s Glue Stick.

So I’ve amended the vow I made when I was 10 and my new plan is to only remove wallpaper from walls if Elmer’s Glue Stick has been used to put the paper up. After all, it’s a great stress reliever.

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