Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Mystery of the White Oak

The guys are still working inside. Even though the Noah’s ark-like deluge we suffered the past couple of weeks is over.  So I said to myself, says I, what are a couple of big, tough restoration workers doing inside during these last sunny, pleasant days of fall?  Why aren’t they taking advantage of the “warm” weather and working like crazy outside?  The anticipated completion date for this phase and a half of the restoration work is sometime in November.  I smelled a mystery…well, it was either a mystery or the forgotten tuna salad sandwich I found shoved into the bottom of my bag.  Either way – something smelled fishy.  I did what any curious Communications Coordinator would do-- picked up my magnifying glass, dusted off my copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and went straight to the Director to get the answer to my question.

The following is a dramatized version of the conversation that ensued:

CC - “Why aren’t the guys working outside?”

D - “They’re waiting on lumber.”

CC - “Oh.”

D - “They need wood with a certain moisture content.”

CC - “What exactly does that mean?”

D - Silence

CC – Silence

D – More Silence

CC – Throat clearing.

D – “Oh are you still there?”

CC – “Yes.”

D – “That’s a good question for our architects. Why don’t you email them with it?”

Clearly the Director wasn’t talking.  There was obviously more to this mystery than she was willing (or able) to fill me in on.  It became painfully obvious to me that I needed to (actually) do some work.  So I composed an email and sent it off to the Preservation Assistant at Tilly Architects, I’ll call her Agent L (L stands for Laura, I’ve mentioned her once before in the blog – I can’t believe I just told you that! It’s because I am the Communications Coordinator, and I just feel a need to communicate information all the time. Curse this gift of gab!).  I sent her a deceptively innocent email, basically asking what moisture content was and why it was an important factor for the type of lumber used in our restoration.  The truth is, I felt I was on to a much bigger plot – a planned sabotage, if you would, of the restoration project.  I had a hunch (my mother never made me walk with a stack of books on my head like the other moms did – hence the hunch).  I also had a suspicion something more nefarious was afoot at the Hill and I was determined to get to the bottom of it.

Agent L tried to pull the wool over my eyes by giving me some “legitimate” answer to my questions:  “To answer your questions, Western is working to locate the specified lumber, White Oak, No. 2 with 19% moisture content.  Finding lumber with the right moisture content for restoration projects is extremely important.  Wood with too high or too low moisture content can be either too wet or too dry, causing the wood to shrink or swell.  Since we are repairing the structural posts and studs and eventually the sill, we want to avoid a large amount of movement (swelling or shrinking) of the wood elements.”  Sure it sounded believable and apparently is technically true, but I didn’t buy it.  Especially not when I read her next line:  “Because the required lumber sizes are big (8.5x8.5, 4x4), finding certified white oak with the necessary moisture content has proven tricky.”  Right there!  Did you read it?  Finding the right kind of wood has proven tricky.  My spider senses were tingling, something seemed a little off here…her answer was too smooth, too professional, too factual to take at face value.  So I began to look deeper.

Who would benefit by extending the length of time it took to complete the first phase of work and part of the second?  Would the architects?  Would Western?  Then it occurred to me, what if this was an inside job?  What if one of our own was behind this scheme?  Could it be the Director or the Curator?  Maybe they had taken a sudden liking to being at the house by 7am in the morning, maybe they discovered how much more work they accomplished after having seven cups of coffee in a three hour time period instead of their regular four.  Or was it the Education Director?  She hasn’t made an appearance yet in this blog which is already suspicious.  Maybe she was enjoying the break from all of those fourth and fifth grade classes whose yearly pilgrimages to the museum have been suspended due to the restoration work – maybe enjoying it a little too much.  That made much more sense.  But as I know from having read a mystery tale or two in the past, sometimes the suspect is someone who appears to be above reproach, who seems to have an unassailable, airtight alibi.  Who would that be in this case?......

The List of Suspects:

Western - is their absence a sign of guilt?
This question mark symbolizes Agent L and her cohorts at Stephen Tilly, Architect - nameless, faceless - guilty? 

Maybe a certain Director has been hitting the mug a little too frequently and thinks a delay in restoration work will fuel her habit?

The classic signs of a coffee junkie are evident in this picture - but does it mean the Curator is guilty?
Perhaps someone doesn't want to interrupt her beauty sleep with real work - is the Education Director the likely culprit?

OMG, it’s me!  I’m the sinister, scheming suspect; the dastardly, daring dilettante; the maniacal, menacing….mom. 
Public Enemy Number 1

Of course, it all makes sense now.  Who would benefit the most if this restoration project was delayed?  ME!!  Because I am the blogger.  I’m the one basking in the adoration of my readers, I’m the one with all of the fame and glory. It’s so simple, and uncomplicated and genius…just….like…me!!  How did I not see this before?  And what do I do about it now that I know the truth?  Stash myself in some tiny little cell as punishment? – oh wait, already in one-- it’s called my office.  Put myself at the mercy of some warden? – that position’s filled, she’s called the Director.  No, I’ll just sit at my computer and bide my time – let the rest of the staff, the architects, and Western think all is well, I won’t clue them in to the discovery I made about me.  Then when the opportunity presents itself – I’ll flee this little popsicle stand I call Albany, cut the husband and kids loose, and head someplace where nobody will ever find me.  Someplace where the sun is always shining…I’m thinking Vegas baby, I’ve always had a hankering for sequins and slot machines.
Nooooo!  The Director just received word from Agent L – Hey (Jude) has located some reclaimed white oak just the size we need.  The moisture content of this wood is on the low side of what we need, between 7 and 8%, but by wetting the wood, Western will be able to raise the moisture content.  The architects will accept anything within a range of 15 to 24%.  Drat!!  My scheme to delay the restoration has been foiled!  So long Vegas dreams, at least until another underhanded plot is conceived and carried out.  Hopefully I will be smart enough to catch my next double-cross - as a wise president once said, ‘Fool me once...shame on...shame on fool me, you can't get fooled again.’

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