I don’t like using tools. I don’t really know the difference between a socket wrench and a monkey wrench. When I’m forced to use a screwdriver, I have to repeatedly tell myself, “Righty tighty, lefty loosey.” I don’t own a stud finder or a level, my hammer is as old as I am, and I have no idea why they are called Allen wrenches.
More to the point, I find Home Depot to be a very unsettling place. Every time I have to ask a question of one of those employees, clad in their Oompa Loompa aprons, I know they are looking at me with utter disdain as I attempt to explain my dilemma using charades. Words don’t suffice, because I am incapable of using appropriate terminology that they would understand. Therefore, they inevitably recommend a 3/4” something-or-other and send me on my way. Before I get into the checkout line, I swing by the battery and lightbulb aisles, because I at least know what I need there and that feeling empowers me.
When I get home, of course I find that I needed the 1/4” something-or-other instead of the 3/4” something-or-other. I have to return to the land of broken orange promises, and the cycle, vicious in nature, continues. Before I know it, I still don’t have the right-sized something-or-other I need, but I have 400 extra batteries and lightbulbs.
As a homeowner, I do find that the requirement of being handy does rear its ugly head every once in a while. A few years ago, I found myself having to buy some pretreated lumber to replace some broken fence pieces. I had to use a saw and everything! It worked out surprisingly well—thanks to my neighbor who actually did all the work but allowed me to take the credit for it.
Generally, though, I have never met a home improvement job that I haven’t been willing to pay someone else to do. We have the best handyman ever, even if he commits extortion every time he stops by to fix what I can’t. And when our esteemed handyman does do whatever home improvement project is required, I stare at him in awe—perhaps uncomfortably so, from his vantage point—with a reverence I’ve never had for another man in my life. He does the job, takes our money, and drives away in his manly van as fast as he can, vowing never to return to the house of uncomfortable stares. That is, until I beg him to do so when the next issue arises.
So, one night, several months ago, my son came upstairs and nonchalantly exclaimed, “There is some water on the bathroom floor in the basement.”
I went downstairs, expecting to see wet footprint remnants from the bath recently run for the kids. What I found was far more water than I expected.
“Dude, you said a little water was on the floor,” I told my son. “You didn’t tell me there was a river down there!”
He shrugged his shoulders and went to his bedroom to play on his Nintendo DS.
My wife and I stood there, watching water flow out of a pipe behind the washing machine. This pipe had several hoses and other thingamajigs going into it, connected to various important manly products, like the dishwasher and the humidifier. My wife’s bright idea was to turn off the washing machine, surmising that it might be responsible for the issue. I, instead, engaged in a rousing edition of the mannequin challenge, paralyzed by fear of this watery dilemma I was facing.
After we cleaned up the basement Nile, we did a little research and discovered this pretty cool thing called a stand pipe. This pipe is responsible for draining a variety of water-using home products safely out of the home. Sometimes, the stand pipe becomes clogged and can’t do its job. To address the problem, my wife called a company that specializes in correcting this very common household issue. My initial reaction was perhaps less helpful than hers. I was ready to call a real estate agent and put our house on the market.
I wish I could tell you that I’m ashamed of my behavior or that I’m willing to change and become more adept at being a fixer of things. I can’t, however. Our handyman has been talking about retiring in the coming years. I’m seriously entertaining the idea of hiring him and his men just to go about proactively fixing everything in my house, regardless of whether it needs to be repaired. Then, by the time things break again, his son will be old enough (and hopefully entrenched in the family business) to take care of issues that arise.
I mentioned this idea to him just last week, when he was doing something in our house that required a tape measure and level. He laughed it off, of course. However, when he caught my uncomfortable stare, I think he knew I was serious.