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The Plight of the Unhandy Man

Updated on April 27, 2012
March 2010
March 2010

The Plight of the Unhandy Man


Dr. Darryl Winer

Well, here I stand with a screwdriver in hand, sweating, heart beating wildly, and mind imagining my whole house going up in smoke. It seems that I need to replace the wall switch controlling my whole-house exhaust fan.

The screwdriver has a rubber handle, my shoes have rubber soles, I have thrown all of the circuit breakers in the house, I have a fire extinguisher standing within arm’s-reach and 911 on speed dial.

Now, by way of background, I’m a reasonably bright fellow with a bunch of college degrees, including a doctorate, 32 years experience in the real work world, 20 of which as a boss of a very large governmental agency, a fist full of publications (including a cookbook) and awards, the respect of my peers and the love of my family. All’s pretty well with the world, right. Not so fast, big shifter. Please refer back to the first paragraph.

Though my father was (and is) quite adept with his hands and was able to fix nearly anything, early on because he had to, and later because he liked to, I did not share his talent. Genetically, I received dad’s height, good looks and modesty. Not so much with the working with the hands thing. Interestingly, my son is just as able as his grandfather. I suppose this could be genetics skipping a generation, or more likely, he gets it from his mother. So, I passed along a dormant gene, coupled with his mother’s genes, voila, he has talent. Showing that genetics has a sense of humor, my daughter has my mechanical abilities (though she is quite an artist - which I am not.)

To explain. My mechanical talents tend towards being able to feed myself. My wife of 35 years can fix anything she can catch and lift. (On occasion, I am called to help lift - essentially acting as ballast.) Since feeding myself occupies many of my waking hours, I figured that if I liked to eat, I better be able to cook (doubly good because my wife does not like to cook). This all played out one Thanksgiving right after we moved into our new house. Colorado is known for its unpredictable snowfall, and I believed that a good sized snow blower would be the answer to the big driveway and sidewalks. I had dutifully purchased said snow blower, a gas can AND gas.

So here we are preparing for about 15 people to join us for the holiday and the snow starts about mid day. And its boogying merrily along all afternoon. It seems that the snow blower is all ready to do its job - once it’s put together. Here’s the picture, the missus, five foot nothing - looks like she fell off of a charm bracelet, is in the garage putting together the snow blower, and me, six foot two, inside basting a turkey.

I may not be adept at putting things together, but I was far too chivalrous (yeah, um hmm) to let her actually try to horse around 300 pound snow blower - powered or not -. So in a fine example of delegation, I ran the now put-together snow blower and she mashed the now cooked potatoes. We let the arriving guests assume who did what. (Until the children, above, spilled the beans. Since the visitors knew us, there wasn’t a moment’s doubt anyway.)

This, by the way, was the same snow blower that a year later when I had to use it again, wouldn’t start. In a fit of rage, I dragged out the repairman who took a look, reached down and turned on the petcock to allow gas to flow. This would be the same petcock that I turned off at the end of the previous season. Presented me with a $75 bill and his best wishes.

So now, maybe, you have a sense of why my heart is racing and I’m wearing rubber bloomers. I lack any shred of confidence that I can successfully complete even the smallest of these tasks. My definition of home repair is to make a call and write a check. Heck, everyone’s gotta eat.

Well, I didn’t get electrocuted, set the house on fire (though I checked the wall around the switch every time I turn it on), the fire extinguisher remains pristine, all of the circuit breakers uneventfully back on and, GASP, the exhaust fan works.

I told this story to a friend of mine, who is a licensed mechanical engineer. After waiting for a non-existent punch line, he’s still laughing.

I fear this incident will be carved on my tombstone.


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