The Village Idiot: Home is where the bathroom is

Jim Mullen
Jim Mullen

I just wrote another check to my contractor. What do I care? It’s Bitcoin money. Better spend it now before it all disappears. 

Still, I do wonder what he does with it all. His guys have been working on my house for a month, and the only thing that seems to have changed is my bank account. 

Of course, when I say they’ve been working on my house for a month, I don’t mean they’ve been there every day. I mean they were here one day, a month ago. That first day, Bob and Rob arrived, tool belts full and raring to go. They ripped apart the kitchen and the bathroom, and moved all of my appliances to the middle of the living room. The pace was amazing. They did that all before lunch.

It was while they were at lunch that I realized that I would be needing that bathroom much sooner than I thought. Like, in the next 10 minutes or so.

It slowly dawned on me that there was no way they were going to be able to put in the new shower, sink, toilet, tile and all of the other improvements I’d asked for in 10 minutes. Howard, my next-door neighbor, let me in before I’d finished knocking on his door.

“I see you’re having some work done,” he said.

Why do we say that? The work is not “done,” it’s hardly begun. Shouldn’t he have said, “I see you’re having some work started?” But then, I didn’t really want to stand on Howard’s porch having that conversation; all I really wanted to do was use his bathroom.

“Yes, I am. Do you think I could borrow your bathroom?”

“Sure, as long as you get it back to me by 4:30.” 

“Ha, ha, ha. I meant, can I USE your bathroom.”

Howard’s bathroom could really use an update. It was old and seedy, not like the modern wonder I was going to end up with: six shower heads at different heights, surrounded by built-in speakers and lights. A sink made from hammered copper. Glass tiles and modern light fixtures. There would be a fog-free shaving mirror, a towel warmer, a face mister and a soaking tub.

Still, for all its faults, Howard’s bath was clean and functional.

“If you ever want to update that bathroom, my contractor can probably do it for you,” I told him.

“My contractor just left yesterday to go work on your house,” he replied. “I had him pull out all that frou-frou stuff that was in there when I bought the place – a big soaking tub, a towel warmer, a hammered copper sink, a bunch of shower heads. All kinds of stuff. What do I need a fog-free shaving mirror for? I can just wipe the mirror off with a room-temperature towel. It just got to the point where I decided I wanted to spend less time in the bathroom, not more. I can’t tell you how much it cost to get that ‘retro’ look I have now. Do you how expensive it is to get that avocado-colored tile?”

“Yes, I think I do,” I said, thinking of all the avocado tile Bob and Rob had just removed from my bathroom this morning. I wondered why they were acting as if they had found buried treasure.

I thanked Howard and ran back to my house, hoping to find Bob and Rob busily putting my bathroom back together. That was a month ago. I haven’t seen Rob or Bob since, but their boss, Big Bob, has asked me for checks “to meet payroll” twice so far. He assures me that all of the work will be finished by the date on the contract, it’s just that one of his other clients had a “remodeling emergency.” I’m trying hard to imagine what that could be.

I said nothing, but handed Big Bob the petition my neighbors had signed and sent to City Hall about removing the port-a-potty that’s been on my front lawn for a month.

“Don’t worry about it,” he comforted me. “The zoning law says it can be there for two months.”

• Jim Mullen is a syndicated columnist. Email him at

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