Friday, August 30, 2013

Repair Dispair

As a church musician for the past 30+ years, I've developed  heightened dexterity.

My mother, an RN who would know these things, would often look at my beefy hands and comment that they reminded her of "surgeon's hands," given the extreme muscularity that developed over years of practicing scales, hymns, choral accompaniments and Bach toccatas.

Not to mention typing. Writing for a living has also made me fleet of finger.

Why, then, am I such a doofus when it comes to tools?

I have exactly 0 ability with a pliers, wrench, socket set, hand saw, drill or screwdriver.

This deficiency is a major obstacle as the only male in a house of women. Well, there's Parker, but he doesn't even have the opposable thumbs needed to pour his own kibble (which may be a good thing!).

I am, therefore, the go-to guy when things go awry in the house.

Which was exactly the case when our front-load washer went on the fritz last night. Of course, this happens at 10 p.m., with a load of sopping clothes inside and an energy and patience reservoir on low, considering my workday and the late hour.

I never quite grew up with the fix-it mentality. Dad was incredibly adept at this kind of thing; the engineer in him loved puzzling out a problem and working through a solution: a washer here, a shim there, a spritz of 3-in-1 oil for good measure. And voila!

Unlike a lot of sons who hover at their dad's side offering to help -- or a least watch -- I was #3 in a line of three brothers. Any view of what was going on was routinely blocked by two other heads and four other hands (more capable from being older) ready to assist.

I've picked up a lot of things on my own, though. I've managed some low-level plumbing repairs around our house, deconstructing and replacing the float-lever on the toilet, for example. Electrical projects scare me just a bit, but I've replaced outlets and switches without frying my hair.

Car fixes? Not so much. I can change a flat, re-fill the windshield washer reservoir and work jumper cables. That's about it. Early on, I remember changing the oil myself, but I now leave that task to the professionals -- it's messy and inconvenient and disposing of the used oil is a pain.

Tech? Eek. I've kept our computers running thus far but currently am having network issues associated with a new router.

Fortunately, I have resources.

One of our longest of long-term friends is a help-desk guy for a major, local financial institution. He's terrific for diagnosing over the phone and walking me through to-dos.

And I've gotten a lot of help along the way from YouTube, which, if you can weed through the useless but funny cat videos, does have good home-repair info, all demonstrated for we who are truly hapless handymen. I fixed a door that wouldn't 100% catch by watching some Bob Vila-type go at the misaligned trim with a drill held sideways, widening the receiving notch until it successfully grabbed the latch.

But this front-load washer train-wreck is proving to be a major hurdle.

YouTube had a few suggestions, like cleaning out the drain pump, a task I successfully managed last night, despite my reduced mental state and a continual challenge of sloppy, smelly water. Plus the fun of working wet with a plugged-in appliance.

And I thought I had it.

Until it became clear that I didn't.

Luckily, I can continue to use my manual dexterity.

Dialing a repair-dude does take a bit of finesse with the fingers.

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