It is perfectly straight?

Is it perfectly straight? Only the level tool (or someone’s “squinty, judgy” eyes) can tell. (Photo: M.L. Bruny.)

By Mary Lynn Bruny

My youngest son Nick called me in a huff after he and his girlfriend moved into an older so-called “remodeled” apartment in CA. They had only seen pictures online; it wasn’t until they moved in that they saw their actual unit.

“I mean, it looks good on the surface if you don’t look too closely,” he huffed. “But everything is just done, well, kind of crappy in terms of quality.”

What he was really calling to kvetch about was the laminate counter in the kitchen. He was ticked that the end by the stove was not parallel, but instead it was cut at a crooked angle that left a large gap in front.

“Who would do this?” he asked in a snit. “Because of this ‘professional’ not doing a decent job, everyone who rents here has to live with this eye sore.”

“Hmmm. Do you think most renters would even notice this?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but of course I do because of you,” he replied. “You and your squinty, judgy little eyes. I’ve inherited them.”

That may sound like a harsh assessment from an offspring, but I took no offense. He is spot on about my small eyeballs, their squinty nature upon entering a room, and the resulting judgment that I may find about some deficiency. Despite not being able to remember the name of a person I just met 30 seconds ago, I can spot quality issues in home construction almost immediately. I have an uncanny ability to know when something is a few degrees off level or not plum. I cannot not see inconsistent grout lines, crooked tiles or bad paint lines. And let me tell you, this is not a blessing; this is a curse.

You can imagine how this skill has “endeared” me to my family members and all the construction folks I’ve worked with over the years. God forbid my husband should hang a picture on his own without a level. He knows it may be only two degrees off, but I will see it and it will bug me like a horrible itch that needs to be scratched until it is hung correctly – meaning perfectly level.

When I was younger, an older man with a window coverings firm came to hang several privacy half curtains in our home. When he was done, I told him unfortunately I thought they were all a wee bit crooked. This comment elicited a huff and an eye roll from him. Then he explained to me (like I was an annoying child which, granted, I perhaps used to be), that he measured from the floor, and he was 100 percent sure all the curtains were level.

“Perhaps the floors are not even,” I suggested. “Let’s just see what a level says.”

Of course, the level tool indicated that every curtain was a bit caddy wonk. As one would expect, this man did not greet this news with enthusiasm nor relish redoing the work. Matter of fact, he had the same look on his face that my husband used to have in the early years of our marriage when I pointed out that something he constructed was off. “Gratitude” is definitely not the word to describe it.

But perhaps now I can pass this mantle onto my son. Maybe now I’m old and wise enough to accept living in a slightly crooked world with less stress for those around me. Hmmm. I wish I could be this way but I doubt it. I’ll just have to wait for my squinty little eyeballs to stop working so darn well.

By Mary Lynn Bruny. Mary Lynn writes about local real estate and home-related topics. Contact her at [email protected]. To read previous The Lighter Side articles, go to