One Thousand Words on No More Yellow Walls

Ten years ago, I went to work for the non-profit arts organization that I currently run.

When I started, the organization was in the midst of a big renovation project. The theater had no seats the day I interviewed for the job. Have you ever seen a theater with no seats? It’s a very strange sight, almost like you took away the room’s reason for being.

They also had just moved the box office/administrative office to a small space just off the lobby. Before that, everything was run in an office across the alley. They could see the theater, but couldn’t touch it.

The office is ten by ten, or maybe twelve by twelve. Certainly no bigger than that. And it is painted a bright, sunshiny yellow. With fourteen foot ceilings, that’s a lot of yellow.

It might have been painted such a cheery color because before becoming our office, it was the home of the city’s Recreation and Park Department. That tiny little office held four people and desks, so it needed happy walls. It probably kept them from killing one another.

After we moved in, the walls slowly got filled with autographed show posters.

It’s a nice way to display our memorabilia, and there’s not much cooler than a signed rock concert poster, but there was no thought involved in how they were hung.

They weren’t hung by year or by size. The Aimee Mann poster from 2006 was hung next to the Neville Brothers poster from 2002 and the Joe Bonamassa poster from 2009.

There were posters over the door, from the desks to the ceiling, on either side of the clock. It was a riot of colors and designs.

And to top it all off, posters started randomly falling off the walls. We’d come through the door in the morning, and Great Big Sea would be on the floor. The next day it would be Keb’ Mo’.

It was like our own private reality show. You never knew who was going to be kicked off the wall next.

Our office started to resemble a mouth with missing teeth. Poster, poster, poster, blank spot, poster, blank spot.

Then one day just a couple of months ago, I had enough. I was sick of looking at the posters and I was sick of dodging posters on the floor.

The space is small and although we have one less person in the room then the Recreation department did, it was hectic enough without chaos on the walls too.

I climbed up on my desk and the posters started coming down.

There were two problems with this. First, most of the posters that remained on the walls were put up with some sort of super tape. And it’s a very old building. So when I ripped the posters down, plaster came with them. Or at least a chunk of that bright yellow paint.

Second, some of those posters had been up there for eight or ten years. And we’ve never been very diligent about cleaning. So after they were all down, you could still see their outlines on the walls in the dust.

The office went from looking chaotic to looking like a hovel.

My original plan was to hire someone to paint the place. I thought it would be nice to close for a weekend and come back to a beautiful freshly painted office.

But then I hired someone to paint the lobby bathrooms. I should have known based on my experiences with “Crappy Contractor” that I shouldn’t hire contractors. I don’t have the knack for it.

The guy I hired to paint the restrooms was the son of a friend of my mother’s. And we shared a birthday, day and year. So I thought he would be fine. After all, he’s a Leo.

He did do nice work, but it took twice as long as he said it would and went over budget enough that I couldn’t afford to have the office painted.

Plus, I didn’t have the time to leave the office empty for a month while he worked.

So we’ve been living with ripped, dirty walls. Until today.

This morning, five employees and one husband met to paint the office at long last.

It wouldn’t have taken any time at all if we hadn’t needed to empty it first. You accumulate a lot of stuff in ten years.

Plus, we have those fancy L shaped desks that come in pieces and have screws holding them together. My desk also has a partition and a hutch on top of it.

And we have two big file cabinets. The kind that hold three rows of files.

None of the desks would fit through the door without taking them apart. And the file cabinets were too heavy to move without a four wheel dolly and at least three people.

Once all the furniture was out, we had to clean. You also accumulate a lot of dust in ten years. I can’t even explain how much dust. It was disgusting.

Finally we started painting.

There had been a lot of discussion about what color we were going to use. One woman wanted to stick with yellow. (I used my executive veto on that one). The box office guy wanted a bright color, like purple.

And everyone who walked into the office and saw the paint samples on the wall had a different opinion.

We ended up with a pretty blue green.

It took the six of us seven hours, but we got it all painted, the carpet cleaned and the furniture put back in place.

There are still boxes of stuff sitting around everywhere and the computers aren’t set up yet. We ran out of trim paint so the back of the door hasn’t been painted and there are few spots of paint on the carpet.

But it’s clean and the walls have a fresh coat of paint. No more dusty poster outlines, no more peeling spots, not more yellow.

I feel absurdly accomplished.


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