Murphy loves a do-it-yourselfer

4 years ago

If you ever doubt whether Murphy’s Law is a real thing, just plan a simple weekend project. Then you’ll see what the gods of Murphydom really think of us poor humans.

Last Saturday dawned sunny and dry. It would be a beautiful day. I thought, “Hey, what a great day to stain the clothesline.”

(One wisecracking friend sniggered and asked me, “Why were you staining the rope?” No, dear readers, when I say “clothesline” I refer to the wooden frame which holds said rope.)

Anyway, I donned frayed, painty clothing, grabbed the can of stain, a brush, wads of paper towels and a stepstool. Outside, I clambered those two whole steps from the ground — which, believe me, is a real feat for a klutz who usually freaks out two steps above the ground — and started, proud that I was managing to stay upright.

Murphy didn’t wait long. He showed up first in the form of a large hovering hornet. 

I’d just made the first few brushstrokes when Mr. Hornet honed in, buzzing menacingly and wiggling his black-and-yellow-striped behind before settling on the wood right in front of my brush. Niiice. Perched precariously as I was, gripping a can and suspending a paintbrush in midair, I dared not make any sudden moves. I didn’t want to incur the wrath of the Hornet Grand Poobah and his angry hordes —  or worse, topple over and have a close encounter of the patio kind. 

Finally, I waved the dripping brush toward him, and off he sped. 

Score: One for me.  

A bit later, back on the ground, I started on the first post. Things were going swimmingly, until the second thing happened. I suddenly lost my grip on the can of stain and it plummeted to the paved patio as if launched from an upside-down cannon. I inspected the splotched patio and now-empty container with a sigh.  

Score: One for Murphy. 

To the home improvement stores I went, hunting for more stain. Of course, none of the stores I visited carried that brand anymore.

Score: Two for Murphy.

And here’s a third element of Murphy’s Law: When you are covered in paint and sweat and wearing your most threadbare of old yard clothing, you will meet someone you haven’t seen in years who wants to give you a hug.  

At last, selecting a different brand and hoping it would match, I headed back home. The color was perfect and things looked great. I finished the job, cleaned up and then stepped back to gaze at the results of a job well done.

Then I knew Murphy had won the day. 

The clothesline sat resplendent in its new coat — all but the bare length of two-by-four in the far right corner.  

So I did the only thing that made sense. I gave up and went for ice cream.

Paula Brewer is the assistant editor for weeklies, TheCounty.ME and at Northeast Publishing, a division of Bangor Daily News. She can be reached at or (207) 764-4471.