If they don’t find you handy, you’d better learn

by Mr. Sheehy

Before we bought our home, the building inspector told us we should fix the drain pipe running out of the washing machine, because it was angled incorrectly. “Okay,” we thought. “That doesn’t seem like we should be calling a plumber for that.” But what are we supposed to do about it? When I see a drip I instinctually call a landlord. Fixing a drain – that part under the sink that runs into the mysterious recesses behind the wall – seems beyond me. And so we asked a friend, who saw the job and declared it so simple that he bought the pieces himself and came over tonight to fix it during the ten minutes before dinner, while we griddled a few pancakes.

What was the magic tool for the job? A hacksaw. And as I watched him to learn how it was done, I discovered that this work was about as delicate and complex as cutting down a Christmas tree.

The more we have people over to work on our house, the more I realize how people get drawn into being their own home-repair workers. Why would I pay someone to cut a chunk of PVC pipe with a saw and glue on a new connector piece – a series of steps less complex than the Construx I played with as a kid?

And so now I’m tempted to tackle the garage door’s broken spring, the “I only stay closed and you have to keep your toe on me to keep the water going down” drain in the bath tub, and the garbage disposal’s leaky something or other (I haven’t figured that one out yet). They’re all small projects, and I know they should be no big deal – and they are no big deal to most people, but one must remember that this comes from the guy who vowed to call someone else to do it, becuase he’d rather spend his life reading good books than tinkering on a house.

But reading good books doesn’t pay like it did in my dreams, and now I’ve reconsidered. Plus, I am inspired by the simplicity of the endeavor. The home-fix-it guy’s strategy is this simple: “Open ‘er up, and remember how you did it, so you can put it back together.” Of course, even that simplicity is more complex than it appears. It’s that part about putting it back together I’m not so good at – like the bicycle I opened up and cleaned one time. A week after disassembling it, I carried a clean wheel, an open hub, and a pile of ball bearings to the shop and paid to have someone else put it back together.

In the end, to gain the inspiration I need, I look to my examples – my children and my students. There’s Ellen, no clue exactly how the world turns or how large the universe is, explaining to our dinner guests that “It got dark! And now the sun is out for the people on the other side!” She doesn’t understand it all, but she’s Child laboreager to test out and share what she does know. And of course, Annie is the same way, willing to tackle any step we let her come near, bounding up or down at full speed, and then turning to head the other direction as soon as one is achieved.

My students are the same way, opening up a blog or a computer application and firing away without fear. They encounter frustration and often declare how much they hate computers, but they do not quit, and they do not put the laptops back on the shelf. They plug away and get it right, eventually.

And so, I suppose, will I. Eventually, after a few years of cloudy understanding about piping and home ownership, where I feel I’ve achieved a great feat of handyman activity by installing a doorstop, I may not tense with frustration at the sound of a drip.


Image Citation:

Original image: ‘Construx helicopter – The innards‘ by: Jeremy Stanley

Original image: ‘over and over again‘ by: scott