Country Roads: Mr. Fix-It he’s not
The day the Lord handed out mechanical skills I thought He said botanical pills and I said, “No thanks, I don’t need any.”
I have three brothers; all three are handy with a set of tools. They didn’t turn down a good thing when it was offered.
My frustration with things mechanical was renewed a few days ago when I had to replace a shear pin on my snow blower. I knew what had to be done and I knew how to do it; I just couldn’t get things to work like they should. What any of my brothers could have accomplished in less than 15 minutes took me more than 30.
I remember an incident nearly 25 years ago when I tried to install a lower radiator hose heater on my son’s car. Any good mechanic could have done this in 15 minutes… 20 tops. I spent a couple of hours fooling around with the stupid thing and only because of sheer stubbornness did I complete the job.
My first mistake was to wait until the latter part of a Saturday afternoon to begin the project. By the time I was elbow deep in anti-freeze and knee deep in trouble the store where I had purchased the heater was closed. They had sold me the correct size heater; the hose, however, wasn’t original.
After struggling far too long trying to fit a 1.5” heater into a 1.25” hose, I gave up. I ended up buying another heater ? a 1.25” model ? at another store. It fit perfectly and within a half hour the job was done and I had cleaned up my mess.
Scrubbing my hands with Lava soap, I realized that had I taken the car to a professional my fingers would not have been skinned, my back would not be aching and I wouldn’t have to worry if the neighbors had heard what I had called the car in my garage.
Back in the early ’70s, I recall, I was short of cash and the family sedan needed an oil change. Doggone it, I thought, any dummy should be able to change the oil and filter. Down to the discount store I went and bought the oil, a filter and a cheap filter wrench.
With pride and optimism, I slid under the car and attempted to remove the oil drain plug. “Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” I mumbled as I tried unsuccessfully to loosen the plug. Well, maybe this was threaded just the opposite, I thought. I turned to the right. It moved. I continued to push and soon it was turning easily. I soon learned that it was turning easily because I had stripped the threads by turning it backwards.
I remembered seeing oversize drain plugs at a parts store once, so I jumped in our other car and went to fetch one. I thought I had given the salesman the right information, but when I turned in the oversize plug it didn’t seem to fit right. Soon it, too, was turning freely in its stripped threads.
With considerable embarrassment I called the service station where I normally had my cars serviced and explained my predicament. I’m sure it took all the professionalism they could muster not to laugh at me when they came to tow my car to the station.
The repairs cost only double what an oil change and filter would have cost in the first place.
Each time I do something like this I think I have learned my lesson. Unfortunately, time heals most wounds and before you know it I’m trying to save a buck again and get myself into deeper doo-doo.
While living in Sioux City we remodeled a bathroom. I was doing pretty well until it was time to tear out the old sink and install a new vanity and fixtures. I had to call a plumber to mend my mistakes.
I had purchased “do-it-yourself” fixtures, however, and naively began the installation on my own. Several hours later I called a co-worker that was handy with tools and would fix anything for a couple of beers. I picked up a six-pack before he arrived.
An hour and four beers later he had the fixtures nicely installed.
I have learned what I can do and what I can’t do with a set of tools and I rarely venture into a project with which I am uncomfortable.
In the future if you see me with a scowl on my face and a Band-Aid on each finger don’t ask.