As I have said in the past, I’m an old woman. I don’t see myself as old because I can hike further and kayak longer than some people decades younger than me, but on the way to doing a volunteer project involving manual labor yesterday, I’m ashamed to admit I was considering playing the Age Card. Especially if they wanted me to paint.

We were supposed to meet at 8 am at the home of a financially challenged, disabled person to paint her home’s exterior, clean up her yard, build a porch, clear a tree that had fallen on her house, repair a rusty sliding door and garage door, etc. I was okay with all of that except the painting. I hate painting. When I arrived at the home, the first thing the volunteer coordinator said, “Great, another painter! I’ll show you where the brushes are and get you started.”

I joined a group working on the north side of the house. They’d been on the south side already, but the rain was blowing in that direction and was washing the paint off. The green ran down the wall like a scene from a horror movie. Instead of abandoning the painting, these knuckleheads had simply moved to another side where there was a tiny bit less running of paint. The work party was only supposed to be for one day, so they were hell-bent on getting it done.

The wretched dark green paint absolutely refused to cover the putrid tan color underneath. Every bristle of my brush left little tan streaks. Every stroke of the roller left a spongy green and tan imprint. The local company that donated the paint makes it like this on purpose, I’ve decided. You sell more paint that way – and the painters can charge time more for the job.

I had used their paint decades ago to cover a wooden family-heirloom crib with white paint. Coat after coat brushed over those millions of crib rungs and I could still see the wood. Finally I got some help from Pops, my deceased grandfather. He came to me in a dream and told me to use a sponge. I didn’t even know they made sponge brushes. I went to a paint store the next day and asked them, and they showed me all different sizes. Those sponge brushes are a miracle. Thanks to Pops I got the crib to be white, finally. On a later project I used a different paint, Glidden I think, a nice thick paint, not like the watery stuff I’d used on the crib, and it only took one coat. One coat!!!! What a concept.

Back at the green nightmare house, a man was on a ladder painting a few feet away. I didn’t realize he had an extension on his roller, so absorbed was I with trying to angle my brush in such a way that the bristles were less noticeable, until his roller hit me on the head and bounced on my back. “Oops,” he said. “Sorry about that.”

“Oops,” he said. “Oops.” Are you kidding me? “OOPS???!!!!” Paint got all over my nice raincoat that I’d been so careful to keep clean. I know, I know, accidents will happen, but jeepers. His wife tried to clean it off with a dry wipe rag. “You need to get some water on it,” her husband called out from the ladder. He was back up there after retrieving his roller.

“I’ve got water in a water bottle,” I said, “I’ll go clean it.” At least it would get me away from the house for a little while.

That’s when I decided to use the Age Card. I’d go to the volunteer coordinator and say, “I’m sorry,” in a feeble voice – you know, like you use when you call in sick on a sunny day so you’ll sound pitiful and the boss won’t think you’re faking it so you could play all day. “I wish I was younger and could keep helping, but I’ve got the rheumatiz’ and the bad back….”

All the paint came off my raincoat. I got my bucket and brush and moved to the front of the house, away from ladder-boy with the slippery hands. I kept painting, I don’t know why. I despised every minute of it. When we broke for lunch I thought about leaving then, but didn’t. Around 1:30, with the rain not letting up and paint running off on all sides, the boss-man told us enough was enough, but could we come back next Saturday? For crying-out-loud. Does the torture never end? Like an idiot, I smiled and said, “Sure, I can come back.”

Maybe I’ll email and use the Age Card to back out completely. Maybe I’ll use it after I’ve been there an hour or two. One thing’s for sure, I’m wearing my paint clothes. I may be an idiot, but I’m not stupid.