SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
Some things are way funnier in entertainment than in real life.
Ever seen the TV show Home Improvement? The main character, a tool loving cable TV star, just doesn’t get how very bad he is at his job. Really, the only difference between him and me is that I know I’m mechanically incompetent.
I had time to think about him as my fingers healed. Boy, sure wish I was kidding about that.
My task was not to rewire the house, re-plumb the plumbing, or do a speck of spackling. No, I had only to remove my home’s storm windows. It doesn’t even count as maintenance. It’s more like dusting, another thing I only deal with twice a year.
Still, it’s a challenge, as no one is still alive from when my windows were installed. That’s why the spring mechanism that keeps most of them up failed long ago.
Remember that detail.
In some windows, I had to physically install screens. The front door screen is held in by five screws: four Phillips head, one regular head. Never mind the obvious question of why anyone thought two kinds of screws were a good idea to begin with, but at what point did that switch get made?
It’s not easy for me to find screwdrivers: My main tool kit consists of a hammer, a butter knife, a roll of duct tape, and a credit card. An old credit card, which can do things like open locked doors. If I can’t fix something with those tools, I’m better off calling someone who can.
Now the door is held in by three screws, plus two others that are stripped and holding nothing in, but look good. Maybe I should have used a smaller butter knife.
On the back porch I have to loosen four latches, remove the window, put the screen in, and tighten the latches. Except one latch wouldn’t loosen. Well, when you can’t turn something with your fingers, what do you do? That’s right: Bring in a completely inappropriate tool assist. Pliers should do it.
Pliers did, indeed, twist off the screw that held the latches in. Just the top of the screw – the rest stayed in the hole, while I stood there holding the now unattached latch.
Redundancy becomes very important in my home “repair” work. Four latches are great, but three will hold the window in. Five screws are better, but three will do the job. I didn’t even have to use the duct tape.
In the kitchen there’s a crank. But enough about me in the morning; I’m talking about the crank that opens the kitchen window. For the first time since I bought the house, I couldn’t get the crank to turn. So, continuing the theme of applying inappropriate force, I cranked harder.
With one of those noises that makes anyone wince, like Rosanne Barr’s voice, the crank turned. But the window didn’t open. That’s when I remembered that the previous fall I painted the woodworking on the outside of that window.
You guessed it: I painted the window shut. Now I had two broken down cranks in the kitchen.
Much to my surprise nothing went wrong with the window in the bathroom, although I had to prop it open with a stick due to the fact that the window is older than the plumbing … and the plumbing is labeled “experimental”.
How does one celebrate a modestly successful home maintenance task? Why, by showering off all that dust and sweat, of course. So I undressed, then realized I’d left the curtain on that bathroom window open to let the warm air in. Granted that only my head would be visible from outside, but the least I could do for my long-suffering neighbors was muffle the sound of my shower singing.
So I stepped into the bathtub, reached out to the curtain, gave it a pull, and –
Have you ever seen one of those “hilarious” TV or movie scenes where a window comes down on someone’s hands? Not nearly as funny in real life.
Apparently the curtain pulled out that stick (okay, it was a paint stirrer), which brought the window down on my right hand. I put that all together later. In that instant I knew only blinding pain, then I instinctively yanked my hand back, which didn’t work because my two middle fingers were crushed between the window and the casing. I said … well, never mind what I said, but I assure you all my neighbors could quote me verbatim.
The fingers refused to come free, and all the F-bombs I dropped made absolutely no difference. I couldn’t get the leverage to do anything with my left hand. I was trapped, in agony, standing alone in the bathtub … and stark naked.
The naked part made me decide I had to find a way out myself. I don’t have much pride, but still. So, using the adrenalin now pumping through me, I slammed my left fist upward against the window until – finally – it gave way.
I was left with some missing skin, and dents a third of the way into my fingers, embedded with white paint that I’d applied just the previous autumn. My fingers were – and I’m sure you’ll be as surprised as I was – not broken, which isn’t to say they were pleased with the day’s work.
They still hurt, whereas my pride is pretty much used to it.
The moral of this story? I guess it’s that there should be only two tools in my toolbox: A phone book, and a new credit card.