Friday, September 4, 2009

Made in the Shade

Okay, I’m ready to laugh about it now, but only just now. And the time between now and the last wound suffered has been only a few days. So I may ramble on a bit, just to give you fair warning.

I’m smiling only because I’m amazed at how such a simple straightforward project as purchasing suitable coverings for two small windows, can turn into a screenplay for a new Pink Panther movie. Perhaps I’m overstating the case, but I swear that the comedy of errors surrounding this home improvement task would make Tim the Tool Man’s Top Ten List.

Our home faces the west, and well, since the sun sets in the west, we had to do something about the windows. We installed wood shades over the square windows and that worked well. But over the study window and over the front door were two “eyebrow” windows that would require specialized treatment.

My wife steadied the stepladder as I climbed, tape measure in hand to garner semi-precise dimensions for “close-enough-for-government-work” pricing estimates. These openings weren’t oversized, but every evening from late spring through early fall the brightness from the sun made it nearly impossible to navigate the kitchen; and the heat it generated made it unbearable in the study.

We took these measurements to several stores where blinds and shades are sold and one sales associate after another showed us our choices and tallied up the cost. I think it should be required for builders and sellers to disclose just how much it costs to properly treat an eyebrow window. At the prices we were quoted the word “treat” was inappropriate. I consulted my Thesaurus and found more appropriate terms such as, extravagance, indulgence, delicacy and luxury. This search led me to other words like doctor, nurse, cure and heal.

Our original thoughts were to have matching wood blinds custom cut. I’ve shopped for used cars that cost less. Seriously, are there people out there who actually pay thousands of dollars for something to hang in the window collecting dust? I guess so.

After several days browsing through decorating magazines, we settled on the idea of a shade. A window covering made of a durable material formed into cells that fan out from the bottom center of the window similar to a Chinese hand fan.

The look of this window treatment was pleasurable, but not extravagant, delightful but not luxuriant (yes, more Thesaurus words). And the price was more “general practitioner” than “specialist”. So we set the appointment for the installation expert to come and take exact measurements of our two windows.

Three days later I met the installer who not only took exact measurements, he also taped thick brown butcher paper over the openings and cut templates for the manufacturer to use when making the custom cuts. He left and the next day we returned to the store to place the order.

The sales associate called out the price and I actually smiled as I handed her my credit card. After consulting the computer she said, “Your shades should arrive in two weeks.” Okay, I thought, two more weeks of the heat and the sun spotlighting our dinner preparations. And we left the store.

Three weeks later (yes, that’s 3) the store called to let us know that our shades had arrived and that we needed to schedule installation. Four days later (yes, that’s 4) I met the installer who admitted, “I’ve never put these kind of shades in before. But hey, how hard can it be?”

Four hours later (yes, that’s another 4) the installer was leaving and I was on the phone with the store complaining that the shades for which we had waited an extra week were cut at least two inches short in all directions. How could that be? I mean the installer had cut an exact template of each window. I watched him do it myself.

We were assured that the re-order of our purchase would be made immediately and that we could expect delivery in three weeks.

Four weeks later (yes…) our new shades arrived. The installer came out five days later and we now have shades to cover the two eyebrow windows. The whole process required just over three months, numerous phone calls four installer visits and I now know why they call it window treatment. In the end, the windows get treated better than the customer.

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