Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Repairs

I am having a new door and transom installed at my house, and in doing so have totally handed the reins of this project to some "real men" that know how to operate tools. This is in the best interests of all parties. My long and checkered past with home improvement has been well documented. The kitchen sink that suddenly became an electrical hazard (despite having no electric lines anywhere near it). The poorly painted hallway. The slightly off kilter door jam. I could go on, but you get the idea.

When the door sales guy said, "We'll have our installer take care of this in a week. You'll just have to put the door knob on.", I nodded my head in agreement. "Of course I will install the door knob" my nodding head said. "This will be just one of the many insignificant little projects I knock out in around an hour around the old homestead. I'll probably do that door knob right after I come upstairs from my workshop." I appeared to be just one of the guys, talking about guy stuff. In reality, it's like he said to me, "We're going to drop off some timber, and we'll need you to build a clipper ship in your backyard. Make it about 70 feet long, two masts, with about six cannons on either side, OK?".

It's not like I haven't tried. It's just that I have no aptitude for this sort of thing, and I realize it. It first became apparent when I was around 13 years old. My friend Robert had a broken bike, and when you are 13 that's a real crisis. It was like having your car stolen with your wallet and ID inside. You were effectively out of the game with no bike. Yet, this wasn't Robert's only issue. The real issue was Robert was one of six kids in a family that could only afford two bikes. As the bikes were "everyone's", they were cared for by "no one". If the brakes gave out on Scott, he sure as hell wasn't going to fix it. Let Richard find out about it tomorrow as he screamed down Walnut Creek hill. Assuming Richard doesn't get completely maimed, maybe he'll fix them before good old Robert tries to peddle away from the garage. In a way, it mirrored why communism failed in the USSR, but let's not get too heavy handed here.

Robert's bike was getting a complete overhaul by myself and a mutual friend of mine. We were much, much older, so we could be trusted with such a delicate repair. Our experience and savvy would carry us through this project. (I think we were in 7th grade, and Robert was in 6th.) We probably spent 2 hours taking everything off his bike, and then putting it back on. At the end, Robert's bike appeared to be once again in perfect working order. There was plenty of back slapping going on all around. That's when Robert noticed a few parts still laying on the garage floor. "What are those?", he asked. "Useless parts!", my friend replied. We were all so intoxicated in the moment, why would we question why some totally inept kids put together a bike more efficiently than those slackers at Schwinn?

It became evident what one of those useless parts was for when Robert popped a wheelie as we headed down a small hill on our celebratory ride. I recall with a vivid clarity the look on Robert's face when he realized his front wheel had fallen off and rolled into the drainage ditch, leaving him with just his front forks in the air. Another bad turn of luck for Robert was they had just days ago "tar and chipped" the neighborhood. This was a practice used where a giant truck sprayed tar down the road, and a dump truck followed behind dumping small pieces of gravel as a way of cheaply resurfacing a road. The road became like the worst dirt road you could imagine, with a surface of tiny sharp rocks. It was an unforgiving surface, one that had claimed many knees and elbows amongst our peers.

I don't know if Robert thought about how horrible that surface was, or if he just couldn't control his bike anymore. One second he was riding next to me, and the next he disappeared screaming into the drainage ditch. The sound of the accident was impressive, as was seeing the aftermath. He handled it like any little man that age would have; he ran home screaming in pain and shock. As we fished the horribly twisted wreckage from the ditch, it was maybe the first time I faced the reality that my "fix it skills" were limited at best. I became gun shy around tools, and later manufactured maybe the worst hurricane lamp in Fairview High School shop class history. My "chest of drawers" later that semester made me a laughingstock amongst the cigarette smoking shop burnouts. I had to cut my losses and get out.

While it may take some creativity to explain why I need to have the installer put that doorknob on, I feel up to the task. Maybe I'll just leave the doorknob conspicuously by the project area. "Do you want me to out this on for you?", he might say. "Why sure! That would save me a couple minutes, and since you're already there, why don't you just knock it out.", I might say. I'll use my tone of voice to convey how much I wish I could be involved in the project, but Gosh Darn It, I have to sit here on my computer and do pesky spread sheets. He will understand my dilemma, and maybe even feel a little sorry for me, unable to get down to it and work with my hands. Perhaps I may even walk over when he's almost done and inspect his work, keening my eye looking at details I don't even slightly understand.

While this is clearly no way to live, it's the life I am destined for. To follow another path would be untrue, and probably just flat out risky. You don't believe me? Ask Robert. He knows.


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