THE EGRESS WINDOW
The windows on the second story of my house were built high off the floor. Children under ten must stand on a chair to get a view of anything other than a soffit and two feet of overhang.
I designed my addition with no knowledge of the regulations governing building, architecture or engineering. I decided I did not need any training in these fields because I could simply examine the way the original builders had done the same or similar jobs. Since I intended to make the addition conform exactly to the existing structure, I thought it was safe to design the bedroom window to the same height as the old ones.
Many months before building my window opening, I found on my blueprints a small notation made by the plans examiner. Next to my window drawing, it said, "egress window". I thought, "That's a nice name for it," and went about my business. It did not occur to me that this scribbled note might mean that my drawing had the wrong size window and that this window was not close enough to the floor. When I framed the window, I naturally built it to my original specifications.
When the framing inspector came to look at my work, she took note of my wrong size window along with fifty or so other discrepancies. At the time, it was just one more thing to fix. As I had not yet bought or installed the windows, expanding the window size was not as laborious as it might have been.
To make sure the window met code I lowered the sill a full foot below the requirement. I cut into the frame I had recently built and the sheathing I had recently applied. I replaced several boards and patted myself on the back for getting the job done expeditiously.
When Robin saw the new opening, her mouth hung open in imitation of its new size. She leaned against the opening and demonstrated, though not in graphic detail, the hazard this low window presented in her mind.
I poo-pooed her safety concerns, pointing out there would be glass and a window frame to prevent any precipitous falls. She was already upset that the new window would be lower than the windows in the other bedrooms. She liked less the idea that the low window would prevent her from setting furniture in front of it.
Although the code prevented the window fitting precisely her desires, Robin was determined to get it as close as possible. She demanded I make the window smaller.
Having rebuilt the opening once I was not in the mood to rebuild it again. I
stomped on the floor and made my usual protest about her being free with my labor. It did not help when she offered to give me a raise from 38 to 39 cents an hour if I would change the window opening.
I told her I was not going to surrender on such an important matter for an extra one cent per hour. Besides, she owed me back pay for several months work. She had not paid me anything since the project's inception.
As a compromise, we decided I would change the window opening and she would pay me back wages. There was one qualification to payment: I had to subtract what I had spent on tools. (She thinks tools are toys and should be taken out of my hide along with anything I spend on my motorcycle or my collection of sports blooper videos.)
I spent the next day raising the opening and anticipating how I was going to spend my back-pay. Even at 38 cents per hour, I figured it would bankroll into quite a bundle.
When Robin returned home from work that day, she inspected my work thoroughly. She was pleased. The smaller window diminished the offense to her sense of aesthetics and safety.
Seeing her obvious approval, I held out my hand and tapped my foot as a reminder that she had not yet upheld her end of our bargain.
She produced her coin purse and slapped the back-pay into my open hand.
I gasped. After subtractions, it came to $1.57.
"Want to take me out to dinner?" she asked.
I dumped the change into my pocket and mumbled, "I need a new trade union."