Why I Am Not Handy Around the House

4 Feb

I have always wondered why I am not very good with tools. When it comes to tasks around the house, I am definitely mechanically challenged. Worse yet, I cannot bring myself to hire professionals who know what they are doing, until the situation becomes critical. Reflexively I have bizarre unrealistic expectations regarding the expense, knowing that this is the act what will finally drive us to the poor house. All this neurotic thinking drives my wife crazy.
I would like to blame my father, at least in part. Like many people who grew up during the depression, he believed that you should be totally self-reliant. Only the Vanderbilts and Astors actually hired people to work for them. Dad was also the one who always talked about being driven to the poor house. I was always scared to death of going to the poor house, although I don’t think I ever actually saw one. Hiring craftsmen was a foolish waste of money, perhaps even un-American, and a sure rod to the nebulous poor house.. My father was a good electrician, and he thought he could do any sort of skilled work. He couldn’t and neither can I, although that strong expectation is still present.
I never had the same relationship with tools as my father. He would get furious when he found his best screwdriver rusting away in the pile of dirt where I left it. It was probably the same feeling I get when I see my son using one of my books as a coaster.
I’ve analyzed the situation and have identified four main factors that account for most of my ineptitude in home repair.
1. Lack of Adequate Tools. Yes, it is a poor workman who blames his tools. But since I am a poor workman, I’m entitled to this excuse. I never have the appropriate tool. But since I always purchase the cheapest tools possible, (imported ones on sale at the discount store) even if I have the right tool, often it is of such poor quality that it doesn’t function properly. A related problem, of course, is just finding my tools in the first place. If they aren’t laying in their usual location, in a heap on the garage floor, I’m in trouble. “Now where is that wrench, I ‘m sure I left it in a pile of dirt in the backyard on Saturday.”
2. Task Transformation. No matter what the job start starts out to be, it always mutates into some other task I must complete first. If I’m not looking for some tool, I’m trying to replace a crucial part I’ve manage to break or lose. I must spend at least 95% of the time looking for lost screws, sockets, or patience. Just replacing a switch cover can turn into an endless quest to the hardware store, beginning with trying to find my lost car keys, wallet, and watch and then stopping for cash, gasoline, and Prozac before I even get to the store.
3. The Hemorrhage Factor. A third major stumbling block is the bloodletting that invariably occurs at some point during the project. I’ve managed to injure myself with wrenches, tire tools, glue guns, and assorted sharp objects. This distraction leads to the obligatory trip to the emergency room for the embarrassing explanation and requisite stitches, tetanus shots or neurosurgery. Even minor injuries take a great deal of time. “Where is that peroxide. I know I left in the backyard last Saturday when I was fixing the fence.”
4. The Humiliation Factor. Perhaps the most important obstacle, this involves trying to avoid telling other people the idiotic things I’ve already done. For example, I hate taking my car into the shop and hearing the mechanic say “Hey who tried to tape this engine together and what’s this coat hanger doing here. You shouldn’t mess with this stuff. You could hurt yourself.” Good advice, but I already hurt myself ( see factor #3).
And I don’t like explaining to the hardware store clerk that I need the spare part because I stripped the threads or dropped the spring down the drain. “Gee I don’t have any idea what happen to it. It was that way when I got there. Maybe one of the kids messed with it.” That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
I suppose I could go to the community college and take some courses in home repair or see a therapist for a few sessions, but that probably cost so much I’d end up in the poor house.

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3 Responses to “Why I Am Not Handy Around the House”

  1. Dekla February 13, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    A really nice blog.

    Greetings DEKLA

  2. SC Listing Service June 3, 2010 at 9:27 pm #

    Funny story…how about this one WE WERE STAYING at a country resort and became friendly with the handyman. “My neighbor has a nice little cottage for sale, case you’re interested,” he told us.
    Despite its run-down appearance, we fell in love with the place and bought it “as is.”
    The day we moved in, our new friend dropped by. “You got a good buy, ” he admitted. “Cottage needs some work though. Roof leaks, plumbing’s shot and the well runs dry in the summer.”
    Dismayed, I retorted, “Why didn’t you tell us that before we bought it?”
    “Weren’t neighbors then,” he replied.

  3. Terry Stawar June 4, 2010 at 2:04 am #

    Great story!

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