Thursday, August 12, 2010

The frustration of trying to fix broken thingamajigs

I have the greatest respect for people who can fix things, because I can't.

In fact, I'm a repair technician's dream. If I try to fix a $50 problem myself, it soon turns into a $100 problem after something snaps off in my hand. Then I end up at the repair shop with the broken-off piece of whatever in one hand and my own pulled-out hair in the other while sobbing incoherently. "I k-k-illed it. I k-killed my toaster!"

Usually, the repair guy takes one look at it, chuckles, holds a tissue up to my nose so I can blow, then takes a screwdriver to whatever appliance I've brought in and turns a screw twice. A bright light appears and it's magically all shiny and new again. "H-how did you do that?" I ask. "It was easy," they reply. "Now hand over a couple of your favourite body parts, a credit card with a big credit limit, a couple of blank cheques, your bank card and PIN number."

Normally, when something breaks, I just run out and buy a new one. Of course, this isn't always possible. When my computer breaks, it's an unmitigated disaster considering all the data it holds and the fact that it's a vital connection to the outside world. I'd rather have no telephone for a week rather than to lose a computer.

A vehicle, of course, is another expensive thing that can't just be replaced every time it breaks down. The same goes for major appliances. The trick is getting a repair person in as soon as possible, especially if it's a refrigerator or freezer . . . or an air conditioner in the summer or furnace in the winter.

I've had plumbers show up who just shake their heads at me, wondering how a grown man can't change a simple round rubber thingy in a tap. If the round rubber thingy was outside the tap, I could probably figure it out, but the thingy is inside the tap. Since I can never figure out how to get access to the thingy, I leave the thingy leak until I'm in danger of turning my house into an ark.

I don't want to live in an ark. I want to live in a house. So I call a plumber who comes over to fix the rubber thingy in the tap. "Very easy," he says. And it is easy. It only takes him a few minutes to install the thingy. I watch intently with the full and utter intention of learning how to change the thingy myself. Afterwards, I'm quite proud of myself because I now know how to fix the rubber thingy inside the tap!

Unfortunately, the next time the rubber thingy breaks is three years later and I've forgotten how to fix it by then.

The sad thing is, I remember thinking, "That was so easy. I can't believe I had to call a plumber. It's a cinch!" But when you forget how to fix a thingy - whether it be in your tap, on your lawn mower, your snowblower or anything else in your house, it doesn't take long to resort to the telephone book or online to find a qualified repair person.

And we all know the law of thingys needing repair. They only break on the weekend when all the repair shops are closed. That's the first rule. The second rule is that they only break when you need them the most. A lawn mower only breaks down when the grass is two feet high and the pope is coming over for lunch. (Hey, it could happen.)

An oven only breaks down on Thanksgiving when there's a turkey in the oven. Try to start your snowblower in July and it purrs like a kitten. It actually rubs up against your leg, too. Try to start your snowblower after a blizzard and it coughs like an old truck that hasn't had an oil change in 30 years, spews black smoke, wheezes and dies right there in front of you.

I really wish I knew how to fix more stuff. I should take one of those community college courses offering tips on minor home maintenance. I could probably save a fortune in repair bills - not to mention a few calls to 911.

"I realize this may not be an emergency to you, madam, but the results of (insert name of latest reality show fad) are on tonight and my television set has broken down." You'll only make this mistake once, however, unless you want to watch television in jail.

When I was a kid, I was pretty good at fixing our old television set, actually. We had a combination radio, LP record player and television . . . a big long thing that took up half the living room. I made magic with that set, adjusting its knobs just right and kicking it a certain way until the picture came back on. Eventually, though, some unnamed thingy would break and we'd have to get professional help.

Since then, however, I've lost my "fixing thingys" mojo. I just can't figure out that stuff. Whether it's the little rubber thingy on the tap, the big metal thingy on the lawn mower or the medium-size plastic thingy on the refrigerator, I'm a strict convert to getting someone qualified to repair them.

I've sent enough repair people to week-long all-expenses-paid vacations to Disney World, thank you very much. In fact, if you listen very carefully, every Thanksgiving during grace at most trades persons' dinner tables, you'll hear, "And God bless Brian for not being able to repair his thingy." This is usually said before their head falls back, their eyes snap open in an eerie trance and dollar signs literally start rolling over their eyeballs while they mysteriously chant the words "Ka-ching! Ka-ching!"

In fact, that's what usually happens whenever I call a repair shop after trying to fix something myself. They drop the telephone and yell to the kids, "We're all going to Disney World after all! Brian Cormier tried to fix something himself!"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This week's Hump Day column...

... is about my inability to fix things. Let's just say that whenever I break a "thingy" around the house, repair people get very excited.

Check out Hump Day in the editorial section of today's Moncton Times & Transcript or check online here tomorrow when it will be posted online.

Monday, August 09, 2010

RIP Oscar and Golden Globe-winning actress Patricia Neal, dead at 84

I was saddened to hear of the passing yesterday of Patricia Neal, who won the Academy Award for best actress for Hud in 1963 and who memorably played the original Olivia Walton in The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, the 1971 pilot television movie of the long-running series The Waltons. She died at the age of 84 yesterday of lung cancer.

Here is an Associated Press report on her death:

Here's a clip from a The Homecoming: A Christmas Story:

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Passing Hearts

This is a really beautiful short film from Sweden. Watch the entire thing without skipping ahead to see what it's about. You'll thank yourself for it. Very touching.