Thursday, October 19, 2023

Falling numbers

Picture it: Sicily, 19—wait, that’s someone else’s story. This one begins when I moved into my house and decided something was missing. I did something about it, that eventually reached its end, and a new solution was needed. Then, nature intervened—and I’m glad it did.

Not long after I moved into my house, I decided it needed a more prominent house number. There was one of the letterbox that was clearly visible, but I thought anyone—mainly couriers—coming to my house would be looking higher, up toward the house itself, and not necessarily at my letterbox.

Sometime after the first Covid Lockdown, I was at a local home centre looking at house numbers, and I saw a solar-powered lighted one, so I bought it and installed it. To attach it to the brick veneer on my house, I needed a hammer drill, which I didn’t have, so I used double-sided tape to stick it to the brick.

At the time, I thought it looked really nice. I was getting together with family a lot at the time, and when I drove home in the dark, my number was quietly glowing and welcoming me home. Back then, there were only two houses on my side of the street, and there were vacant lots on either side of my house. On the other side of the street, all the houses had the main bedrooms on the street side, so no matter the time of the evening or night, the houses on that side of the street were always dark. My little house number was a bit of cheerful light in the midst of all that cold darkness.

Sadly, the battery in my lighted house number failed fairly quickly—and then briefly resurrected itself before giving up the ghost completely. To change the battery, I’d need to somehow get the thing unstuck from its spot, and I was worried that would rip the paint off. Shortly—as in, very shortly—after that, I noticed rust was spreading fast on the unit. It clearly was a write-off, and there was no point in changing the battery.

I then went back to the home centre and bought an ordinary—unlighted—number that I thought was big enough to read from the kerb. And then I did nothing with it.

I hesitated to switch the numbers because, again, I thought that if I tried to remove the old, dead lighted number, the tape would take the paint of the brick. I thought about ways to remove the tape, or to loosen it, but I did nothing. And the old thing kept rusting more and more (a bit like me, I suppose).

Yesterday, I went outside to check the mail, and when I turned back toward the house, something caught my eye: I realised the old number was gone, and then I saw it had fallen off the wall. I picked it up and saw that the metal back had rusted so badly that the paint—which is what the tape was stuck to—had come off the metal (see the photo above). I touched the tape, and it wasn’t sticky, so I think the tape failed and the paint completely separated when the unit hit the ground. There was still a little bit of tape stuck to the wall (with a bit of paint also stuck to it).

After my discovery, I looked and the new number—which I bought a long time ago—more closely and saw that it must to be mounted in holes, and that it doesn’t have any flat areas for tape. Did I mention that I don’t have a hammer drill?

I decided that my choice was to buy the drill I need (I’d probably use it again?), which is expensive ($140 for a battery one like my other tools, or $60 for a cheap-ish, but not cheap-est, corded one; it’s the chain store’s own brand, which the cheapest isn’t), or I could buy a different house number (I liked others) that includes adhesive strips (usually 3M/Scotch brand, though they’re not expensive if I need to buy some), for half the price (or less) of the corded drill. That’s the option I’m leaning toward at the moment, not merely because of cost, but also because of my ongoing uncertainty about what I want long-term.

The real point of this story is that I think it’s incredibly funny that the thing that’s held me back from swapping the numbers—the old one being stuck to the brick—took care of itself. I guess you could say its number was up (you’re welcome). On the other hand, my days of putting off the project are also numbered. I’m here all week.

The photo up top is the back of the formerly lighted unit with tape still stuck to it, and the paint formerly attached to the back laying askew. The hairy bits on and around the strip of tape at the top are actually spider webs: I found the former owner still hiding against the wall.

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