I remember it vividly from many years ago. I had sneaked up to my young son’s bedroom door and peered inside. There he was, with his tiny toy toolbox, pretending to do home repairs. He was pounding away with his plastic hammer and I remember thinking how very cute he was. That’s when he spoke. “Damn it!” he shouted as he purposely hit his thumb – and then continued hammering.
I barreled through the door as if to arrest him.
“Where did you learn language like that, young man?” I asked him.
That’s when my wife stuck her head into the room. “From you, Mr. Fix-it, that’s where,” she said.
No doubt about it, I was caught dead to rights. If they ever start a hall of fame for lousy handymen, I’d be the Babe Ruth of the place. Fixing stuff is what men were put on this planet to do. It’s not easy to think of another reason. Yet, some men have no talent for it.
Not that home fix-up tasks are an everyday requirement for some. It’s hard to imagine, say, Bill Gates rolling up his sleeves to fix a leaky toilet. Maybe he could manage it, but I’ve never spotted him at McClendon’s Hardware picking up a new ballcock or flapper valve. (Fortunately for him, most computers, especially the newer models, don’t require a ballcock or flapper valve.)
But for some of us – well, me – the simplest home projects become rocket science. Catastrophic assembly and repair blunders are standard practice in my fumbling hands.
Look at the dismal record:
1 – I once bought a kids’ playground set at a big warehouse store. The package said: “Assembles in minutes with a single screwdriver.” In my case: Assembles in an entire weekend with a single screwdriver. And a hammer, wrench, router, electric drill and hacksaw, plus a torrent of cussing.
There were also dozens of nuts and bolts left over. Maybe that’s why my wife said the massive play set was too wobbly for our kids to use safely. The play set remains in our backyard as an impressive metal art sculpture.
2 – Any electrical project, such as replacing a light fixture, starts by turning off the wall switch. This is to avoid the risk of shock. Then, I walk to the main fuse box and turn off the corresponding switch there as well. Then, ALL the other switches in the fuse box are turned off. Then, I walk to the houses of our nearest neighbors and turn off their power, too. This is to avoid the risk of shock.
As an additional precaution, I place a call to the energy company to see if they’d mind shutting down the grid for an hour or two. “It’s to avoid the risk of shock,” I explain.
3 – I replaced an electric fan in a guest bathroom a couple of years ago but somehow managed to put it in backward. Now, the fan not only keeps odors from exiting, but sucks new ones in from outdoors. Smarter birds never sit too close to the roof vent.
4– Before my wife and I were married, she once dropped by my bachelor apartment and immediately recoiled over a horrible stench that permeated the entire place. “It smells like rotting food in here!” she screamed. But there was a good reason for the rotting food smell. It was rotting food. “It’s coming from the kitchen sink,” I explained. “The #@$!# garbage disposal stopped working two weeks ago.”
She calmly walked over to the sink, opened the doors beneath it, reached in and pushed the disposal’s re-set button. The disposal immediately started to run again. “A re-set button,” I marveled. “What will they think of next?”
The woman married me out of pity.
Pat Cashman is a writer, actor and public speaker. He can be reached at email@example.com.