If I Had A Hammer...
 Thursday  August 21, 1997




The Usual Suspects

I am Fix-it Guy. Hear me roar.

I called the plumber to come back to install a new faucet and it was gnawing at me all night and day. I can do this, why am I going to pay someone to do it for me? Am I that bourgeois, that lazy, that brainless? No, I'm that realistic. I always think I can fix anything, and usually I can...but it doesn't get fixed quite right. I'm a brute force kind of guy; fine detail isn't my forte. A few examples:

  • When installing a ceiling fan in the bedroom I first nearly electrocuted myself, then tore a hole in the ceiling so big I had to cover it with a decorative plate they call a medallion. I thought about patching the drywall before I learned about medallions. God only knows how bad that could have been.

  • I put a new screen on the sliding door out back. I learned that you really do have to pull that screen tight before you staple it down. Really tight. I'll do it next time.

  • I once installed a radio in a Fiat 124 I used to own. Shorted out the whole instrument panel. But the radio worked.

  • A friend and I tried to put a new clutch in my Honda many years ago. The project ended with the car on a tow-truck to a garage, raining parts all the way.
As you can see, bad things tend to happen when I break out the toolbelt.

Beth and I watch a lot of home improvement shows like "This Old House" and "Hometime," so whenever I start one of my little fix-it projects she likes to say "Just because you've watched 30,000 hours of home improvement TV, don't be under the delusion that you can actually fix anything." My attitude is usually "Hey, if they can do it, I can do it." Never mind the fact that everything is set up by master craftsmen and what we see on the screen is probably Take 43 -- I can do this stuff! But this time I decided to let discretion be the better part of home improvement and I called in the pros. But then when the pro called back to say he couldn't make it today I reverted to type.

I got my tools and laid them out in a neat, surgical line on the floor. The nanny, having seen me work with tools before, grabbed Zoe and fled. The dog hovered at the door with the loose screen, wanting to be let out. The cats disappeared. With the house prudently empty, I crawled under the sink and the battle was on. It took one extra trip to the hardware store (most of my projects take about three) and there was much cursing and grunting, but tool throwing and bloodshed were minimal. Things never got bad enough for the neighbors to consider calling the police. Probably the worst of it was not having Beth around to blame for my disappearing tools.

I'm happy to report that the only casualty was the old faucet, which was broken already. I broke it some more, but that's irrelevant. What's important is that the new faucet went in unscathed and now works perfectly and nobody got hurt. Finally, I got it right. Putting in a faucet is a lot like skiing: it's harder than it looks. But I've conquered black diamond trails at Mammoth, damn it, and I beat that faucet like a redheaded stepchild too.

I'm thinking of putting recessed lighting in the living room this weekend.





Copyright 1997
Chuck Atkins