Simply, a shingle is a piece of waterproof material. Overlapped with other shingles, it forms a covering that allows water to run off a roof.
In researching shingles, I was alarmed to find that there is a venereal infection that goes by the same name. At first, I thought the medical condition might have some connection with the overlap and nail variety. However, a glance at a medical encyclopedia disabused me of the notion. When I read that shingles is a gruesome affliction having to do with nerves and blisters, I panicked. I slammed closed the encyclopedia and ran precipitately from the library, abruptly ending my investigation.
It is well known that a book can pass along the symptoms of whatever disease is under investigation. I have been fortunate in not yet manifesting symptoms of shingles.
I am expecting an outbreak any day.
Shingles (not the disease) are made from a variety of materials. Many people like the look of cedar shingles or the durability of clay. For my money, the only shingles are fiberglass shingles. They are cheap, economical, inexpensive and don't cost much. If that were not enough to recommend them, they are more durable than cedar (author's note) and easier to apply than clay.
The only demanding decisions regarding their purchase are determining color and finding the lowest price. About a month before I was projected to begin roofing I thought I had both problems solved. Robin and I saw a circular from one of the local hardware stores advertising shingles. We went shingle shopping. I was determined to take advantage of the price break as there is only a sale on shingles every other week.
Before we left for the store, I tore a small corner from a shingle near the edge of the existing roof. I did not want to damage the waterproof integrity of the house and wished to maximize the portability of the sample, so I made my sample small enough to fit into my shirt breast pocket.
Armed with a swatch of the old roof we descended on the roofing section of the hardware store. We went from pallet to pallet, tearing a corner piece of paper wrapper to reveal a sample of each color shingle. I held out the swatch and Robin compared. With colors like "autumn harvest" and "Tallahatchie River red", I knew I would not be able to pick the color by name. (If I had named the shingle color I held in my hand, it would have been "brown". Robin would have called it something like, "deep forest cedar in winter".)
After an exhaustive search, we finally found a stack of shingles that matched. It rested beneath a sign in barely legible magic marker - "Close out! Rock bottom prices! No Refunds, No Exchanges!"
"Is this all they have left?" Robin asked me.
I looked around the yard and did not find either a salesman or another pallet bearing the name, "chocolate mocha (with the cream sucked off)".
"Looks like this is it." I patted the pallet.
Robin counted the bundles. "There should be enough."
"Good thing, if this is the last of the color matching our roof..."
Needless to say, we bought the shingles. While loading them into my truck bed, I accidentally tore the paper from the top of a bundle. It revealed more than just the corner of the shingle we had used to make our initial comparison. I was horrified; the fiberglass chips in the shingle were varied in hue. Some flaps on the shingles were light brown; others were darker. When I thought about it, I realized that the shingles on most roofs were variegated.
Were these shingles really the same color as the ones I already had on my roof? A twinge twisted my small intestines.
I turned my back to Robin; I did not want her to observe my consternation. I took the swatch from my pocket and held it next to the revealed shingle. I did not feel reassured even after I found that the sample matched the darkest area of the new shingle.
I should have tried to return the shingles at that point, or at least gone home and made an immediate comparison. Should have...I hate returning anything, it is particularly embarrassing to return a close-out item just as you are loading it. To avoid any wifely gibes, I resolved not to say anything to Robin and to hope for the best. I would wait until I had an opportunity at home to compare the new with the old shingles.
Robin and I got the shingles home in two trips. We stacked them in the garage. I intended to compare the shingles at my first opportunity. However, because of my wife's constant surveillance and my own laziness, I ended up putting off the comparison until the last possible moment.
When I finally got around to working on the roof, I hauled a few new shingles up a ladder and flopped them near the existing part of the house.
I was dismayed, but not shocked to find that they did not match the old roof. It seems only the lightest tone on the old roof matched the darkest tone on my new shingles. I sat on the peak and placed my chin in my hands.
The sign at the hardware store had indicated that I could not return the shingles; they were a close-out. I could not buy more to do the entire roof in the new color; there were no more. I did not want to buy all new shingles.
I stared out at the street that meanders past my house. I wondered if anyone could see the roof from the ground. It was then that I had a brilliant thought. I reasoned - if no one could see the roof, then it made no difference that it would be two different colors.
I eagerly climbed down the ladder and trotted out to the road to investigate my hypothesis. Well, the shingles could be seen from the road, but only if the prospective viewer stood at a certain spot and rose on their tippy-toes. It was good enough for me.
I decided to go ahead with the "mocha" shingles.
As I worked on the roof, it seemed that the entire neighborhood took a turn standing on the one spot that had a view of my roof. If this scrutiny was not disturbing enough, everyone shook their heads and made obtuse observations. To each of these people I explained that the sun would fade both colors of shingles so that they would finally be the same color.
When Robin took her turn on the viewing spot, she registered her displeasure at the two-tone roof. I told her the story about the sun and fading colors.
Robin can tell when I am simply making things up for the sake of my own convenience. Yet on this occasion she had mercy on me. She pretended that there was a chance I might be right. So I completed the two-tone roof with her blessing.
Now, every day when we go out to the mailbox, she points out to me the two-toned roof. She is certain to ask, "How long do you think it will take for those shingles to fade together, Dear?" Sometimes I wonder if perhaps her mercy had another purpose.
I just grit my teeth and look forward to the day when those shingles have worn out. Then I'll go back up to the roof and put on a new layer of shingles. Next time, you can believe, I'll make sure they are all the same color.