Discover more from Exploding Unicorn by James Breakwell
There’s nothing more powerful than water. A single tiny leak can sink a ship or rot away your entire house. That’s when water does its work slowly over time. Blast that same liquid through a high velocity nozzle and you have one of the most destructive forces on earth. I love my pressure washer. It can wash away dirt. It can strip paint. It can cleanse your soul. If a gentle splash of holy water can give you a blessing, then a sustained torrent from a pressure washer can blast away all sins, past, present, and future. It never hurts to have a little (or a lot) of forgiveness in the bank for upcoming misdeeds. With the right nozzle, hell itself could be washed away in a single afternoon.
I’ve had a pressure washer for a few years, but I don’t get it out nearly as often as I should. It’s sort of like owning a jet ski. Both machines exist solely for entertainment purposes. They’re also a lot of work to get set up. For a jet ski, you have to hook up a trailer, drive to a lake, and back it in. Afterwards, there’s probably some other sort of maintenance because water is awful and tries to destroy all it touches. The pressure washer isn’t quite as much work to get up and running, but it’s close. First, I have to hook up the hose, which is always an ordeal. “Righty tighty, lefty loosey” is never as universal as I hope. Then I have to find electricity. Our house was built without any exterior outlets. Honestly, I’m lucky it has outlets inside. Old houses are cool until you try to run a water cannon that can shoot down a low flying aircraft on knob and tube wiring that was built to handle a maximum of three lightbulbs. My solution is to run an extension cord from our enclosed back porch. Knowing this limitation, I bought one that can stretch halfway to the moon. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. It’s more like a quarter of the way. The final challenge is to weave the cord and hose through the yard and over the fence in a way that will prevent animals from interfering. The pigs have never shown a propensity for chewing wires, but they have demonstrated a high affinity for chaos. I can never be sure of what they’re going to do. That’s the way they like it.
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This weekend, I put in the effort to get out the pressure washer for the first time since spring. I wasn’t sure if I’d get around to it. Pressure washing all the things was just one item on the infinite to-do list that comes with homeownership. I sometimes wonder what people in apartments and condos do on their weekends. Do they just relax and enjoy life? How do they live with themselves? Pressure washing is an endless job since there’s always something outside that’s dirty. That’s where dirt lives. The interior of my house is dirty, too, but that’s a lost cause. There are four kids and one of me. Plus, I can’t use the pressure washer indoors. I could have solved nearly all the problems in my life by living in a barn. I only got us halfway there by buying pigs. I prefer cleaning up the yard because it’s less depressing than fighting the creeping entropy inside my non-barn house. Outside, my main enemy is moss, which accumulates slowly for years before I suddenly decide it’s a crisis worth battling for an entire Saturday. This weekend was that tipping point. The best emergencies are the ones I artificially inflict on myself.
The fence needed to be saved from the green menace. But first, it needed to be rescued from a truck. One of the pickets had a big chunk missing in the middle. No one witnessed the damage happen, but I have a theory that’s also the truth because this is my newsletter. Based on the height of the impact, a big truck with a hitch backed into it. Some men feel compelled to buy the largest vehicle humanly possible, likely to compensate for other deficiencies. That seems like a failed mating strategy. If you’re that bad at handling a truck, I have to assume you’re equally bad at everything else. Only draw attention to your truck skills if you’re not the kind of guy who accidentally breaks fences when backing up. Either this particular motorist was so unaware that he simply drove away without ever knowing that he backed into something or he was a coward who didn’t want to stick around and pay three dollars for a new picket. I was left to clean up his mess. Men are the worst.
Thankfully, no animals escaped through the gap. The culprit behind the hit-and-run managed to break a section with a secondary wire fence inside. This wasn’t an oil tanker scenario where I added extra layers to prevent a leak. I was just trying to grow some bushes inside the yard and got tired of the pigs eating them. The extra protection meant I was able to sleep at night knowing my animals wouldn’t escape. I dozed a little too soundly. I didn’t get around to fixing the fence for months. Anything worth doing is worth doing much, much later. Procrastination isn’t a vice; it’s a way of life.
I hoped that replacing the picket would be a mere speed bump on the way to pressure washing the fence. Five-minute projects have a bad habit of taking all day. At least I didn’t have to run to the hardware store for building materials. I still had spare pickets left over from when we built the fence. They’re in the messy basement that’s the source of a hundred percent of the anxiety in my wife’s life. She can handle work, kids, and even me, but that extra clutter one floor below the earth will be the eventual cause of her nervous breakdown. I ran the extension cord and pulled out my drill that I use twice a year. I quickly discovered that fence section wasn’t at the default picket length of forty-eight inches. For those of you in metric countries, that’s like seventeen kilograms. The top of the fence was almost even, but the ground underneath it climbs and slopes because nothing on my property can ever be straight. Getting the replacement picket to the right length would require a single cut. I was overwhelmed. I had to retrieve yet another tool from the basement, this time a table saw. I also had to make a single measurement. Naturally, the tape measure was nowhere to be found. It’s the tool I use the most, and thus the one that’s the most likely to go missing. Like an uncooperative cat, it only surfaces when you don’t need it. I ended up using the ruler on the side of a level since we only have the most precise instruments around here. I measured once and cut once because of my firm belief that old sayings are usually wrong. I got the length close enough, but I attached it in the wrong place. The gaps on either side of it weren’t even. Then I looked at the rest of the fence. None of the gaps were equal. I dealt with this obvious flaw for fifteen years by never pointing my eyes in that direction. Cleaning up the fence was the wrong approach. I should have been trying harder to pretend it didn’t exist at all.
I was already too far in to take the obviously correct approach of continued neglect. With one fresh picket in the row, the rest of the fence appeared older and dirtier by comparison. After an hour of work, I had made the situation noticeably worse. I pushed on. I hooked up the pressure washer and prepared for fun. Instead of aiming at the fence, I detoured to the parking slab next to the backyard. I’d tried to weed it over the summer and nearly destroyed my hands in the process. I am a delicate flower, unlike these weeds, which are hardy invaders with roots that reach the center of the earth. They were no match for the pressure washer. I set the spray on its zero degree concentration, which turns the water into a solid beam that can punch through steel. Then I went up and down the slab, blasting the cracks and all that dwelt in them. There is now a void in space and time where those weeds used to be. The splatter was considerable. I looked like a one-year-old who dove headfirst into a chocolate smash cake. I was filthy, but an area of concrete no one ever looks at or comments on was clean. That’s what really mattered.
Then I finally got to work on the picket fence. I switched the pressure washer off apocalypse mode so I didn’t slice the wood in half and got to work. It was immensely satisfying to strip off the moss row by row. It made me wonder why I don’t take out the pressure washer every day to enjoy myself. I don’t need Netflix or an Xbox. I just need water fired at unsafe velocities. When I say “unsafe,” I mean it. I tried to spray the mud off my legs. Let’s just say that was a mistake. On an unrelated note, I discovered a new way to remove body hair. Contact me if you’re sick of shaving.
I planned to only work in the backyard for a few hours. I started mid-morning, and before I knew it, it was getting dark. I put in a full work day for no pay. My compensation was pure joy. By the time I gave up for the night, the fence was immaculate and so was the parking slab. The cleanliness was an illusion. I only cleaned the outside of the fence. Like many other objects in this world, lumber is unfortunately three-dimensional. On the outside, most of the fence is hidden by bushes, but on the inside, all 240 feet are visible. That will take many, many more days to pressure wash. I’m looking forward to it. Spray on.
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for now. Catch you next time.