Barry Smith: Irrelativity |

Barry Smith: Irrelativity

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

I got a new iPhone!

Since it’s brand new, I thought it deserved a new case. I got the kind that’s extra sturdy and shock resistant and has a clear cover to protect the screen. The case even comes with a little cleaning cloth so you can wipe off the iPhone screen before putting the protective plastic sheet on it.

What could possibly go wrong?

According to the directions, even the tiniest dust particle will create a bubble between the cover and the screen – so I wiped and polished and wiped again and carefully laid down the protective plastic. I used the (included) mini-squeegee to smooth it all down, and it looked pretty good. Except for that one little bubble in the corner. One tiny, tiny little bubble. I could see the fleck of dust underneath, the little bubble-raising culprit. Ugh. I debated for a minute. Is it good enough? Who’s gonna notice? Let it go. Move on. No. No, I can do this!

I lift the corner of the plastic and, using the little wipey cloth, I reach in to dab out the solitary speck of dust.

But the wipey cloth is full of dust particles from wiping the screen! And now they’re stuck to the cover. Where there once was one, there now are many. Many many. I wipe again, a bit harder, as if that’ll somehow help.

(This is the final boarding call for the Making It Worse Express. All aboard!)

The cover is now saturated with dust. I peel it off, run it under the faucet and then wipe the whole thing with a paper towel, essentially dooming myself to an iPhone screen that looks like I’m constantly running some kind of Messed Up Screen App.

And all of this happened – from totally fine to completely, irreparably screwed up – in less than 60 seconds.


The very first step in our renovation project was to rip up the carpet. We hoped this would reveal the beautiful, 100-year-old wood floors hiding underneath. We were two thirds right. The floors were 100 years old, and they were wood. They were also hacked, gouged, water-stained (I hope it’s only water), patched with plywood and just generally abused. Some areas were coated with many layers of ancient, thick, lead-filled paint. Everyone we talked to about these floors agreed that they were a lost cause. What a shame … they’re just too far gone. Too much work to save.

But Christina and I decided, against all outside advice and wisdom, to refinish our floors. We’d put in the time and effort and elbow grease, we vowed. Whatever it takes, and however long, we’ll do it.

And we did. We sanded and scraped and rented big machines and heat-gunned and pulled out nails and spent hours and hours and hours on our hands and knees to get these floors to a somewhat OK place. My brother, Bryan, patched up the places that needed it, doing a good job of matching new wood with old. All told, we spent 200 hours getting these floors ready for the big finish.

Two hundred hours! And not 200 easy hours, either. At one point, Christina announced that she’d rather live in a hut than work on these floors for one more minute. I couldn’t think of a good counterargument.

But we did it!

Almost … just one step left. The applying of the urethane. The final detail finish. The make-or-break moment. The home equivalent of putting on the protective iPhone cover. Only with much, much bigger stakes. Gulp.

My detail work incompetence isn’t exclusive to small electronics. Early on in our renovation project, Bryan retiled our bathroom and left me to do the grouting. I totally screwed it up. How can you screw up grouting, you ask? Simple. Just let me do it. I had to spend hours grinding it all down so I could start over.

I am SO not the person for this job. The sanding and scraping was fine, but oh … the fine details are just not my thing. And this final urethaning, well … it may sound easy enough, but I researched it online, and apparently things CAN go wrong. Really wrong. You can end up with a splotchy, ugly floor – all that work for nothing. You can get bubbles on your floor, just like on the iPhone – of course you can. You can get brain damage from breathing urethane fumes. You can even, no kidding, accidentally set your house on fire!

But, you know … no pressure.

Next time: Barry learns the hard way that urethane is not edible. See more at

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