House Proud – Which Switch Is Which? The Toronto Sun

Every home has its own personality and quirks. A wooden floor squeaks. A drawer whines as it’s pulled open. And who hasn’t heard someone say, “Just jiggle the handle” with regard to a toilet flush? 

Perfection in one’s castle would be boring. And attaining and maintaining the perfect home would be expensive and never-ending. You’d almost have to quit your job and take it on full-time.

In my own home, there are a few oddities. Some we have taken care of with a sense of urgency, others we have simply let lie — and the difference depends on how much of an imposition they create.

For example, our main-floor bathroom door will slowly creep open as you watch helplessly from your perch on the porcelain unless you’ve shoved it hard enough to hear a loud click. Fortunately, it comes to a stop after only a couple of centimetres — but you don’t know that the first time it occurs.

That particular door is very sensitive to temperature changes and swells or contracts with the seasons. Fixing the problem permanently would require a total door replacement, and we’re simply not prepared to take that on right now. So we try to remember to warn those unfamiliar with the door’s personality that they risk a public function unless they click the door closed.

There is a collection of four light switches at one end of the hallway and just a single switch at the other. This has caused a lot of unexpected confusion for guests who have tried to turn on the light for the bathroom that’s located next to the switches. (It’s the same loo with the quirky door.)

After observing our niece flick with frustration on Christmas Day, we decided it was time to end the mystery. Actually, being asked to fire up my label maker and create a few tiny stickers is a rare delight that I savoured. I marked the three functional switches — fan, bathroom light and hall light — but the fourth switch appears to do nothing at all. Its purpose remains unknown — and that’s another quirk we have agreed to overlook.

To us, these are minor inconveniences that aren’t likely to cause anyone real harm or distress, so we live with them. But I’ve visited homes where more dangerous oddities are left as is and wondered what the owners were thinking.

Once I took a shower in the house of an acquaintance who had kindly offered me an overnight stay while I visited their city. I was instructed to use a bathroom that had been recently renovated and told that the shower setting was already “perfect.” The inference was that I wouldn’t need to adjust the temperature.

It turned out to be too hot for me, but when I slid the lever toward “cold” I was blasted with scalding water. Someone had installed something incorrectly, and hot and cold were opposite to the way they were marked. Instead of fixing the problem or telling an unwitting guest about it, the homeowners were apparently hoping I would simply accept that the setting was “perfect” and not touch the lever. Repairing the problem once would have been better than hoping it wouldn’t be discovered every time a visitor arrived.

There’s frugality and then there’s risking someone’s health and happiness because you’re cheap or lazy. Nails sticking out of a floor, slippery tiles in an entryway and loose steps to your front door are all dangerous enough to warrant taking care of right away. A light switch that’s a bit confusing … well, that’s really a judgment call. I suppose it all depends on what you can live with. Or perhaps on how much you enjoy playing with your label maker.