DIARY: The Palm Springs Surprise

Written by | Columnists and Letters, Lifestyle

Wade Rouse

Wade Rouse

Wade and Gary try to remain sane as their attempts to transform their new home are met with infestations and other frustrations.

“What’s that noise?” Gary asked, rustling me awake.. “That creepy, scraping sound?”

I sat up in bed and listened in the dark. It was our first night in our recently purchased Palm Springs home. “It’s just the sounds of a new house,” I said. “Go back to sleep.”
Moments later, our dogs started barking, and I awoke to Gary screaming, standing on the bed, the flashlight from his smart phone beaming.

“A scorpion!” he yelled. “It’s huge!”

I moved to the edge of the bed and on the floor — seemingly ready to crawl in with us — was a scorpion the size of a toy car, its tail curled menacingly in the moonlight.

I screamed as Gary jumped — first onto a nightstand and then to the floor. He sprinted away and returned with scorpion catching tools: a pair of oven mitts, a broom and a handy piece of Tupperware. But even after the scorpion was caught, we were unable to sleep.

The next day we called a pest control company. They seemed relatively unfazed by the scorpion issue, but ultimately discovered we had a secret “second” attic (undetected during inspection) where a rat had moved in. “You live next to a mountain,” shrugged the pest guy.

“Yeah, but we thought everything would stay across the street,” Gary said. “Like polite neighbors.”

Not long after, roaches swarmed our patio. The pest guy returned. “We’ll spray,” he offered.

In less wilderness-oriented news, we had an electrician out to install a light, whereupon he reported that much of our essential wiring had been cut to accommodate the installation of remote-controlled ceiling fans.

Trying to distract Gary, I suggested we focus on what I hoped would be more positive aspects of the redecorating process. “Let’s try to sell the furniture,” I said. We had felt like savvy investors when we purchased the home furnished. We did not realize the homeowners would leave everything — including hundreds of old towels, partially used candles, and rugs that smelled like death. Resale shops wanted none of it.

My next attempt at positivity was to turn to paint colors. We’d originally thought we could live with the condo’s existing ones, but quickly realized that the sickly shades of peach and brown were not conducive to living well. Nor were the bathrooms — which had been appointed with faux painted Grecian pillars — conducive to sanity.

It was while at the local hardware store in search of the perfect shade of orange (“Palm Springs Hermés” as it is known locally) — that Gary finally snapped like the crazy baby sitter in a Lifetime movie. Friends came to his aid when they came across him freaking out in the parking lot, but when we returned to our less-than-ideal circumstances the next day, he broke down yet again.

“What have we done?” he asked, sitting on the floor and beginning to sob like an overwhelmed kindergartner
“We can lighten the orange, sir,” the paint clerk offered.
Gary responded, “We’ve spent so much money! For what? Rats and scorpions and no electricity and stinky furniture and a condo that looks like it was decorated by Caligula — we are screwed!”

The clerk stood by awkwardly — clutching at invisible pearls. I told him to go and lighten the orange; then I sat down and took Gary in my arms.

We were clearly in over our heads. We had watched so many HGTV home makeover shows that we’d believed the interior of our beautiful-on-the-outside find could easily be transformed into the ideal California showplace. But our flip had turned out to be a flop.

When the clerk returned, he gave us an encouraging wink. “It happens to everyone,” he said. “Homes in the desert are beautiful, but they’re old. Try to have fun making it your own. Focus on the end result and look forward to all the stories you’ll tell about it one day.”

“What do we do now?” Gary whispered, his head on my shoulder. I stood and helped him up.

“We’ll do plenty of this,” I answered, giving him a kiss. Then I handed over my credit card to the clerk, adding: “And a whole lot of that.”

You can learn more about Wade’s writing — including his debut novel The Charm Bracelet, which is now available under the pen name Viola Shipman — at waderouse.com.

Have you ever ended up overwhelmed by a home improvement project? Share your story with us.

Last modified: February 20, 2018

If you liked this article, please share it with friends.