Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Forget Not that I am Handy... (Not)


I have a painful admission to make, though one that will come as no surprise to people who know me. I am not very handy. There, I said it! It hurts, but it is true.

When something around the house breaks or is otherwise functioning in a way contrary to how it was meant to function, I instinctively shy away: A heater that sits cold, a fan that doesn't spin, a roof that doesn't dissuade water, or a water pipe that works just like the roof, the results are consistent and predictable. My first inclination is to gather together my belongings, and find somewhere new to move so I don't have to deal with it.

So acutely aware of how unhandy I am that I even have dreams about this sort of thing. I once had a nightmare in which, no sooner had I moved into a new house that I discovered that, unlike what was advertised in the glossy brochure, the blamed place had no electricity! After being a man and dutifully checking each and every switch with a new light bulb and each and every plug with a “My Little Pony” curling iron (not mine!), I had been ready to vacate the premises. But then, in one sickening moment, my wife threw a breaker switch and the whole house sprang to life! I was so bemusedly chastened that I forgot all about that ridiculous curling iron, which ended up burning a hole in the carpet upstairs where I had left it plugged in.

Okay, the dream was actually fictional (especially the My Little Pony bit. It's not plagiarism, though, so leave me alone). However, it encapsulates several real realities for me (as opposed to... fake realities, I guess). First, a technical or handy challenge raises its head to leer mockingly in my general direction. Secondly, I either begin to attempt to address it, or avoid doing so out of trepidation. And finally, the Third step always plays out in one of two ways. 1) My wife leaps in like she invented kryptonite, knocks me to the side before I can hurt myself, and re-builds the entire offending wing of the house with none other than duct tape and scraps of baling twine before I've even figured out the actual problem. OR 2) She beats me to the punch on the obvious, face-palm smacking solution, which once again leaves me wondering just what my own meager brain is actually good for.

That, in a nutshell, tends to sum up my “handy” life. However, thankfully, there are times when fortune smiles upon me and I can serve a functional purpose. This either means that I got lucky, or a job arises that requires more than one person so my wife cannot do it by herself. Such a time occurred recently when we attempted to move our internet service's base of operations to a different part of the house.

Now, I have no illusions as to my abilities, but I can say unreservedly that even I could not mess up as much as the idiot who built most of this house! In one period of complete (and I would say with the assistance of too many regulated substances) insanity, someone once turned this house upside down. He added a second floor, and, in so doing managed to get nearly everything related to electrical and plumbing, insulation and roofing, absolutely dead wrong! Over the past decade and a half, subsequent owners have pecked away at the problems as best they could, pulling out wiring that goes nowhere, covering plumbing that's completely exposed to the elements, and trying to keep entire parts of the house from becoming additional swimming pools. I don't care how romantic it sounds, a second story miniature Venice is simply not cool.

Octopus strand, labeled!
But back to the cable wiring. There are no fewer than two cable 'hubs' in the house. Unfortunately, none of the actual cables to the different rooms are actually labeled, and most are not connected. They're just clumped together in a dizzying, octopus-like array. Some rooms have more than one cable conduit, while other unexpected places (like the bathroom) also got special treatment. The job of finding which of the million cables went to the room we desired to have the modem and router required TWO people! (At last, oh sweet triumph!) I went from room to room with the modem, plugging it into the cable there, while my wife would connect each strand of the octopus to the hot wire until we got a signal. In this manner, I was able to serve a function, and we were able to label the entire house!

Well, I should say, NEARLY the entire house. Of all the strands of both octopi, guess which single room did not have a member? Yup, the only room we actually needed a cable to go to. So, a bittersweet victory for the time being. Still, I will remember fondly the time that I was able to help make technical sense of our hopelessly dysfunctional house.

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