The 5 Stages of Reconstruction

Hermit CrabMy home is a solace from noise. There are no screaming children, no loud music and no reason to explain grammar rules to anyone. It’s perfect.

So when a neighbor renovates or reconstructs, I take it as a personal attack on my quietude, sort of like when General Zod and his creepy pale companions apprehended Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

Unfortunately, living in a flat in the Czech Republic means that the infiltrating sounds of flat reconstruction are a fact of life. For some reason, Czech people need to redo something in their flats every year and it always means extensive drilling, hammering, men in overalls and a tango on the borderline between sanity and insanity.

Or maybe it’s just me.

In any event, over the last week I have been sent on a vision quest of overreaction and aggravation that would otherwise be relegated to radical Republicans and Creationists. I decided to treat it as experimental research and have come up with the following 5 stages one goes through when forced to deal with a neighbor’s reconstruction.

1. Denial

8 a.m. My eyes are opened by a gentle sun coming through the window. I switch on the coffee and lounge in bed with a book to start the day. I am achieving Nirvana. However, I am plucked from this realm of pleasure by a deep rumble growling in the wall behind me. As if on cue, all of Earth’s known power tools erupt into a symphonic cacophony. There are jack hammers, drills, a drum sander and, I swear, someone just hitting a pipe with a metal baseball bat.

I stand and observe the wall in confusion. Denial enters my brain; I say: “This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening.” But it is happening. I may or may not hide in the closet.

2. Muttering

My morning appropriately ruined, I lock down in the office to write while the floor beneath me vibrates. I spend the next few moments pacing the flat and muttering to myself in a manner best exemplified by imagining Mr. Bean speaking in tongues. The cat, using her feline instinct to predict danger has found solace in a plastic bag under the couch. Somewhere in my quiet peeves, I find that I am jealous of her.

The Muttering Stage is dangerous because of its extremely close proximity to, and forewarning of, Stage 3.

3. Anger

Or more accurately, Rage.

As some people are gifted athletic ability or blue eyes, my hereditary gifts include rage. It came along with high blood pressure, an inability to understand Twitter and a predilection for complex carbohydrates. This is complemented by my borderline alcoholic Irish genes and the fiery impatience of my Italian genes. Yes, ladies, I am single. Rage is immediately exacerbated by loud, unwanted noises, being forced to wait longer than .03 seconds in a queue and broccoli on pizza.

After stewing and pacing around the house (Stage 2), while building up an explosive tantrum, it finally comes out of me with a rabid anger that hasn’t been seen in Europe since that fat French actor became that fat Russian actor.

The benefits of the Rage Stage are that it leaves me totally exhausted and as a result I slip into a torpor-like state, which is conducive to insight.

4. Vision

I settle on the couch, bury my face in a pillow and become one with weaved upholstery as I search for my spirit animal to guide me to vision. When my kitchen appliances are singing to me and the chairs start playing Yahtzee, I know the avenue to vision has been opened.

On the way I am granted tidbits of insight. Today’s meditative query: Why are the Czechs always involved in some form of flat reconstruction? It’s true, too. I can’t count the times I have heard from students, friends and colleagues, “We are reconstructing our flat/house/kitchen/bathroom.”

My spirit animal (a hermit crab) comes to guide me. I take his claw.

As he guides me along, the answer to my question comes: Historically, it’s the first time an average Czech would ever really be able to do reconstruction. During Communism renovating or reconstructing your flat would have been seen as an enormous indulgence. It would have led to suffering the bitter envy of your neighbors and might have led to being reported to the Secret Police. And as most people dislike being tortured this was a bad thing. A pathological avoidance of calling unnecessary attention to yourself was the primary goal. Even if a person had disregarded the huge risk of renovating their own house, the money probably wouldn’t have been there.

Hermes the Hermit Crab (no shit) pinches me on the butt. I awake.

5. Acceptance

Having come to terms with the situation, I do what thousands of other Czechs do when they are brought down by life’s many philosophical foibles and daily calamities. And as I sip a beer and the waiter brings me a Becherovka, I become one with the issue and realize that my plight is not so bad. I jot down notes, watch the sky go from blue to gray and wonder how exactly I am going to get rid of a hermit crab who is smarter than me.

  1. #1 by Gabrielle Piccari Luongo on March 11, 2013 - 3:20 pm

    I love your spirit animal. Fantastic. Also, the point of communism keeping a couple generations from enjoying individualism is a great thought for achieving peace in this situation.

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