Dad said, “Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.”
I’m quite “thrifty,” and I surprise myself with my ability to “make do” with what I have, but I often wish I had a better memory to remember the “methods” behind the “making do.”
We bought our home in May of 1977. The previous owner sold us an old rickety table, a shovel, an old barbecue, an old lawn mower, and a few old tools for $60. The rest of our tools were accumulated over the years as my husband (a Caltrans landscaper) found them on the shoulder of the freeway or in the landscaped areas. We never had the proper tool to complete any home improvement project, so I learned to “make do.”
We don’t have central air and heat in our home. When we bought it, it came equipped with one window air conditioner in the master bedroom (now my office). I was pregnant with our first child when we moved in, during a hot Sacramento summer, so I lived in that bedroom until she was born. Our neighbor, Harry, helped us install a deadbolt lock in the window so that an intruder couldn’t remove the air conditioner and get into our home.
Several years later, we expanded our 2-bedroom, 1 bath home into a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home with a family room. We added another air conditioning unit in our new family room. The new bedroom became the new master bedroom, and the old master bedroom was turned into a kid’s bedroom.
At some point the old window air conditioner in the kid’s bedroom had to be replaced. The new air conditioning unit was slightly smaller than the original, which meant the deadbolt lock didn’t align with the hole which Harry had drilled originally. Harry was getting old, and we were trying to use him less and less for home improvement projects. If I was really stumped on a project, I would go next door and pick his brain, but I tried not to involve him in strenuous labor. So when the deadbolt lock no longer fit, and we didn’t have a drill to drill a new hole, I decided to “make do.”
At this point I need to back up a little bit for some background. A couple of years after we moved into our home, I discovered some old window screens in the garage, which were a very odd size. They obviously didn’t fit any of our windows (or so I thought). Later that evening, I was sitting in my living room and realized that the large window in our living room had two side pieces which looked exactly like the window screens I had found. I had lived in our home for two years and had not even realized that our living room windows were meant to be opened. They had been painted shut. I ran to the garage for a screw driver and a putty knife, and I spent the next several hours chipping 30 years of paint off the windows so I could open them and get fresh air on a hot evening.
Okay, back to the air conditioner and the unusable deadbolt lock. Since we didn’t have a drill to make a new hole for the deadbolt, and since I had to weatherproof the window anyway for maximum efficiency, Danny and I had a conversation and brain stormed a solution. I decided to caulk the window shut around the air conditioner. After caulking it, I got out my trusty glue gun, and glued around the window. Each time I painted the bedroom, I painted over the caulking. I just left the old deadbolt in the window, but the window was actually secure from intruders by caulking, hot glue, and several coats of paint. I “made do.” That was about 1986 or 1987.
The problem is, Danny and I both forgot about our brainstorming conversation, and we forgot that the deadbolt wasn’t locked. We made decisions on the assumption that the deadbolt was locked. Years down the line we replaced all the old windows in the house with double-pane vinyl windows–except the window with the air conditioner–because we wanted the kid who was living in that room safe from intruders, and we couldn’t put a deadbolt lock into a vinyl window. I actually remember showing a window salesman the lock on the window to see if he had a solution so we could replace that window. He didn’t notice the deadbolt wasn’t locked either! He didn’t have a solution to locking a vinyl window over an air conditioner. So we didn’t replace that window.
Yesterday our car thermometer registered the outside temperature at 121 degrees in our driveway, although the “official” temperature (downtown) was 106 degrees. The window air conditioner died. We bought a new window air conditioner this morning. After spending 30 minutes looking for the key to the deadbolt (which I finally found on my key ring), and another 15 minutes trying to unlock the deadbolt, I realized that it wasn’t locked. I have been carrying the key on my ring all these years to lock that stupid unusable deadbolt!
Today was spent chipping old caulking, glue, and paint off the window, and installing the new air conditioning unit. This was quite tricky because the old window is on its last legs. I’m not sure which is worse, the lack of window glaze to keep the pane from dropping out, or the abundance of dry rot. We will be saving our pennies for a new vinyl window which apparently, they’ve finally figured out how to lock over an air conditioning unit. In the meantime, Mr. Caulking and Mrs. Hot Glue are my best friends.