My way bypasses the muss and fuss of the ‘right way’

Burt's Eye View

There are two ways to do anything — the right way, and the way it gets done when my wife isn’t watching.

This is why I waited until Terry wasn’t home to repair the curlicued support rails on the back porch. If she’d caught me, she would have made me brush and polish all the metal before buying uniform sized and shaped screws to piece it back together the “right way.”

Instead, I took 20 seconds to root through the old peanut butter jar of odds and ends for a handful of assorted screws, a couple nails, a pin from a watch band, broken tweezers and a petrified twig. Bam. The job’s done and the end result is the same — a solid railing.

Yet Terry never catches on to the reasonableness of my way.

Once, she asked me to hang her new towel rack. I reached for my hammer and a box of nails.

“What are you doing?” she shrieked.

I looked at the hammer in one hand. The nails in the other. Then at her. “Is this a trick question?”

She flicked a thickly folded paper until it fluttered open into something about the size of a road map of the western United States. “Don’t you think you should read the directions first?”

I looked at the hammer I held in one hand. At the box of nails I held in the other. Then at her. “It is a trick question, isn’t it?”

She snapped the accordioned directions. “There are no hammer or nails involved. Did you even look at the hardware packet that came with the rack?”

All these trick questions were giving me a headache.

She sat me down and read the directions aloud. In both English and Spanish. Then we had to wash down the wall, take measurements, pencil in marks, fit the rack together according to some complicated set of rules, use the attached screws and other hardware, and gently fasten the rack.

It took four hours. Only because I refused to paint the bathroom and re-tile the floor first, which apparently was part of the “right way.”

My way with the hammer and nails and no directions would have taken three minutes tops and the results would have been the same — a towel rack would be attached to the wall. A lot more securely, too.

We can’t even install a room air conditioner without first washing the windows and sills inside and out. Why? The project takes 20 times longer and the air conditioner ends up working harder because with the protective coating of dust and grime scrubbed away, the sun’s heat rays scream through the windows.

Terry insists that the bed must be made every morning. Why? Now we have to undo it every night to crawl back in. The “right way” creates extra steps both in the morning and at night. But we do it anyway.

If Terry’s in the room, I make the bed the “right way” — readjust the bottom sheet; pull up and tuck in first the top sheet, then the blanket; square off and smooth the comforter into place; then position all pillows just so.

If Terry walks out of the room, I cut out the nonsense and flap the puffy comforter until it covers everything, twisted sheets, knotted blankets and all. My way takes mere seconds and the results look just the same.

The “right way” never is quick and efficient. But to please the one I pledged to love and honor, I do things the “right way” anyway. Until she looks away. Then things get done. That’s my way.

— Cole is considering calling his next book “Getting it Done the Quick and Ugly Way.” Offer advice at or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.