Who doesn’t love a good ol’ weekend project, right?
When I lived on my own in Glasgow, I obviously ended up doing a lot of things I never really thought about before. Tiny fix-it-up projects around the house. Sometimes they were easy. Sometimes I called my BFF Margaret and her boyfriend Tim to help me, because Tim is good at like, everything.
And sometimes I was just an idiot and decided to take on the challenge.
Take, for example, my mouldy flat.
Now, my flat was inherently damp. And it was lacking things like an extractor fan in the bathroom, which the contractors told me was essential if anyone wanted to keep living there healthily. But I also discovered that the bathtub was leaking, which is why the one wall in my living room (which shared a wall with the bathroom) was so mouldy.
And since my leasing agency sure as hell wasn’t going to help me (the useless bastards), I decided to at least try to take matters into my own hands.
I could see exactly where the main leak was: one corner of my bathtub had no caulking left on it, so water was going directly into the wall. I had seen my dad do tons of caulking during numerous home renovations, so I figured I could at least pretend that I knew what I was doing well enough to patch the problem temporarily.
But first I needed caulking.
As you may know, when you’re in a big city in Europe, you can’t just go down the street to a big box store like Rona or Lowe’s or whatever the hell they’re called; those stores either don’t exist, or they’re so big that they have been built on the outskirts of town, where there’s room for them. In Glasgow, going to IKEA is like going to the airport. You can even take the same bus there. It’s like an exciting field trip, only then you have to haul everything back on public transit and walk multiple blocks with a full-length mirror under one arm and a laundry drying rack under the other.
Where was I?
Oh right, caulking.
So I took a poll of my Glaswegian friends, and I learned that I could buy caulking at a “hardware store.”
Guys, a hardware store in Glasgow is not what a hardware store is in Canada.
When I say “hardware store,” most of you are probably picturing Rona or something similar: a big store with aisles neatly labelled things like, “bathroom fixtures,” “outdoors,” and, “paint supplies.”
I got directions to a “hardware store” from one of my friends, and I was both terrified and amused by what I found.
First of all, I had to take the bus into Anniesland, which is a mildly sketchy neighbourhood whose streets are mostly lined with bookies. I was watching out the window for my stop, looking for this so-called “hardware store,” and when I saw it, I knew I had found the right place.
It was a hole in the wall, located underneath a train bridge. It had one giant piece of cardboard in one window with “HARDWARE STORE” written on it in permanent marker, and another giant piece of cardboard in the other window that simply said, “FIREWORKS.” You couldn’t even see into the windows, because they were lined with the most random assortment of items ever: Tupperware containers, flashlights, packages of loose leaf paper, mouse traps, starter fluid, cleaning products, you name it.
“Great. That’s not scary at all.” I said to myself as I made my way to a crosswalk to go to the “hardware store.”
There were two old guys having a serious chat when I walked in. It must have been a really serious, manly chat, because as soon as I stepped into the store, the entire place went completely silent. I looked around and smiled at the man behind the counter, hoping no one would stab me for having breasts and daring to set foot in there.
“Awright?” He said, before turning back to his conversation and completely ignoring me.
I was fine with that, because in all honesty, I didn’t really want to tell this guy I was looking for caulking. I could find it on my own. And I did, eventually, after sifting through the tight, cluttered aisles of the “hardware store.”
I bought it and got the hell out of there.
When I got back to the Nightmare Flat, however, and started trying to caulk the bathtub, I realized that I had forgotten something crucial: a caulking gun.
There was no way in hell I was going back to the “hardware store.” I decided to improvise. I cut the tip off the caulking and squeezed the tube with my hands. It worked. I breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t a massive job I had to do; I could definitely make this work.
I got a good chunk of the corner of the tub caulked, but as I neared the end of my project, it became harder and harder to squeeze the caulking out of the tube. I didn’t want to give up, though – I was so close to done, and I thought I might be able to solve my mould problem. I couldn’t stop now!
So I squeezed the tube harder.
“COME ON, LIFE! THROW ME A BONE!”
(My internal thoughts.)
I squeezed the tube as hard as I possibly could.
The bottom of the caulking tube burst open and caulking exploded all over my shirt, arms, and hands.
(My external thoughts.)
Here’s something you should know.
Wait, let me rephrase that.
Here’s something you probably know, that I didn’t.
Caulking’s made out of silicone(?) or something, and it is insanely sticky, and if you get it all over you, IT’S NOT COMING OFF.
I grabbed a hand towel I knew I would have to sacrifice and tried to rub as much off as possible. I managed to clean up the globs of caulking, but there was a horrendously sticky film all over my hands. I tried to wash it off with soap and water, but the stuff is water resistant (THAT’S WHY YOU BOUGHT IT, ANDREA!!!!) so it didn’t budge.
(My external thoughts, louder this time.)
After much panic, some rage-tears, and a minor mental breakdown, I managed to use an entire bottle of nail polish remover to get the caulking off my hands.
Luckily, the bathtub looked fine.
And of course, I would later discover that while I stopped most of the leaking water, the damage had been done. When the contractors came to fix my bathtub and removed the front panel/cover thing, the entire underside of the tub and the entire wall of the bathroom were coated in toxic black mould.
Lesson learned: Sometimes you just need to call in an expert.