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Jewish World Review
Oct. 27, 2006
/ 5 Mar-Cheshvan, 5767
Some skills are beyond repair
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not very handy not when it comes to fixing things around the house, anyway. In some situations I
can be awfully handy, like if somebody needs to know an obscure bit of pop culture from the '70s or '80s that no one has any
business remembering. In fact, every few weeks I'll get a call from my friend Bradly in Pittsburgh so he can ask me questions like:
Who was that weird character on Mork & Mindy with the flowing robe and all the imaginary friends?
In Fletch, what made up name did Chevy Chase use when he introduced himself to Tim Matheson's wife?
What was the name of that terrible sitcom with the little girl who talked like a robot?
Sadly, this talent does me little good when, say, the garbage disposal stops working. It's not like I can open the cabinet beneath
the sink and say, "Hey, did you know that the actor who played The Jeffersons' neighbor Mr. Bentley was also the guy on Sesame
Street who painted numbers on everything?" and have the disposal start right up again. Believe me, I've tried.
Instead, much to my wife's chagrin, my preferred approach to most household repair issues is to ignore them. Take, for example,
our back door latch that's been sticking lately. Sometimes the door won't open at all. When this happens I take immediate steps
straight to the side door. Were the side door also to break, I would just start using the front door, and so on. Eventually I would
probably wind up climbing out an attic window and rappelling down the side of the house whenever I needed to leave.
I understand that most men do not think this way. More typical is my high school friend Doug. While visiting recently, he noticed
our door problem and, after locating some tools I keep around purely for decorative purposes he took the door off its hinges and
began fixing the latch, all without asking permission, mind you.
Looking over Doug with the door and various latch parts splayed around the kitchen, I couldn't imagine a more alien impulse. While
staying as a guest in a friend's house I would no more take it upon myself to do household repairs than I would take out a Swiss
army knife and begin performing amateur dentistry on the pets.
My guess is that most men probably learned their fix-it skills as boys while helping out in dad's workshop. I imagine a scene right
out of a Norman Rockwell painting, with dad imparting to his young son valuable lessons like, "This is a 16 millimeter masonry drill
bit. I asked for a 16 millimeter twist bit. Next time, get it the #&$@ right!"
Just my luck, I grew up in a single-parent household where the only home repair tool my mother knew how to use was the
telephone. Every time the dishwasher overflowed, for example, Mom would snap into action by calling… the fire department. I
guess her thinking was, "Who knows more about water spraying all over the place than the guys with the fire hoses?" Thankfully, I
never got to test my theory that in the event of an actual fire, she would have dialed up Kenmore's 800 number.
On those occasions when the fire department was not up to handling our home repair needs, Mom hired a handyman. She always
looked for three primary qualifications from a prospective handyman: experience, credentials and references. If you had any of
these, Mom assumed you were too expensive for us, and kept looking.
To her credit, Mom wasn't about to hold it against a guy just because he'd done some prison time or smelled like he hadn't bathed
since the Nixon Administration especially not if a great deal on gutter repair was in the offing. "Besides," she no doubt figured,
"what could happen as long as Malcolm's at home alone keeping an eye on things?"
As a result of this lowball approach to home improvement, all the broken windows and leaky faucets of my childhood were fixed
by desperate-looking characters who appeared to have been plucked from a local Charles Manson look-alike contest.
Today, with the benefit of hindsight, I realize that if I hadn't been put off by the stench of cheap liquor and the incoherent mumbling,
these drifters might have taught me some valuable household repair skills, not to mention how to use a sharpened spoon to
fashion a prison tattoo.
Instead I barred the door to my room and watched TV, which I think may be why I know so little about home repair, whereas I
retain a wealth of useless trivia. Which reminds me: Bradly, the answers to your questions are Exidor, John Cocktoasten and
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JWR contributor Malcolm Fleschner is a humor columnist for The DC Examiner. Let him know what you think by clicking here.
10/18/06: You can't tech it with you
10/04/06: Award to the wise
08/24/06: Phrased and Confused
08/09/06: We're Gonna Party Like it's $19.99
07/19/06: Just Singing in the Brain
05/24/06: Who says you can't go home again?
05/11/06: When nightly news stories go off script
04/26/06: Cents and sensibility: A thought for your pennies
03/16/06: The day the Muzak died
02/23/06: Checkbook diplomacy begins at home
02/15/06: Today's toys: Where learning means earning
© 2006, Malcolm Fleschner