It’s time to come clean. Yes, I was once an engineer. Metallurgy was my specialty. Metallurgy is awesome, a field I recommend highly to those people who like chemistry and physics, and feel that whole interacting with your fellow man thing is overrated. Plus, as a metallurgist you get to destroy things, lots of stuff all the time, and they pay you for it. They call it destructive testing but we metallurgists really just call it Fun, with a capital F. One drawback with engineering in general, and metallurgy specifically, is that although people think, hey an engineer, he can build bridges and space shuttles and stuff, the truth is that we usually just stand there with a set of drawings and look at them and then tell the guy with the drill, “you’re off by 0.015 inches”. And then we go back to looking at the drawings some more. We hardly ever get a chance to use tools, or build stuff with our hands.
The bitter, bitter truth is that I’m not handy. Not even a little. But, I am, ostensibly, a man, and therefore it is in my nature, indeed, it is in the very core of my being that I must try and fix things. The way I see it, men were put on this planet to mend things. Usually things we broke in the first place. Even if you occasionally slice off body parts, smash appendages with blunt objects, or inhale potentially fatal quantities of paint vapor, well that’s okay. Wear your battle scars proudly. The important thing is that you were able to get that shelf put up, and it didn’t fall down in the middle of the night because you foolishly put something on it, like the Farberware dishes your wife collected since she was a little girl, because they reminded her of her grandmother.
Based on a great deal of experience, I’ve come up with some simple rules that I think might be useful to young men just starting out in life with a new wife and a new house.
Rule #1. Before you can start on any of the usual home maintenance tasks you need a toolbox. Regardless of what other men might tell you, the measure of a man is not the size of his toolbox. The true measure of a man is in the number of tools he owns, or has borrowed. A guy just starting out in life might have a junk drawer with one screwdriver, three screws, a tape measure, and a set of blades for a hacksaw, just in case he should happen to acquire a hacksaw someday. And, as time goes on, and you upgrade to bigger and bigger houses, with more home maintenance type problems, you’ll get bigger and bigger toolboxes, until one day you have an immaculate tool bench. And inside the tool bench will be a collection consisting of one of every tool ever made, nested in the finest French oak cases, lined with high density foam, so that the tools are cushioned from earthquakes and sundry acts of war. Most of these will never be removed from their protective cases, because they’re too expensive to actually use. Instead, you’ll rely on the trusty screwdriver and tape measure you’ve had since you were twenty-three.
Rule #2. No matter how simple the purported task, it will take many more tools then you originally calculated, and at least four or five hundred percent more time than planned. That job where you were going to reattach the arm on the deck chair twenty minutes before the Ohio State game on Saturday afternoon? Yeah, you’ll still be working on it Sunday night, a week later.
Rule #3. No matter how straightforward the task seemed, your plans will not work out as originally envisioned. If you thought you’d just drill a new hole and put in a wood screw to hold that drawer in place, that will not work. Somehow, you’ll manage to drill the hole at an angle that exceeds 30 degrees from the perpendicular, and you’ll use a drill bit four sizes larger than the screws you have on hand. You will have to go out to the store to get some new wood putty to fill in the hole that you misdrilled, because the putty that you stocked for a situation just like this, has dried up, and is now a wood colored hockey puck.
Rule #4. For every possible repair job, you will need to go to the hardware store at least once to get parts, supplies, and possibly to have a talk with one of the salespeople who may be able to give you an idea of what you’re doing wrong. Probably more than once. No matter how extensive or complete your tool bench might be, you will be missing something you think you need.
Rule #5. When you arrive back home from the hardware store with the requisite supplies, it will be too late to finish up the repair job today, because the light is fading, or just because you’re exhausted. And besides dinner is going to be ready in another three or four hours and it is a good idea to relax before a meal so you don’t have all those stress toxins coursing through your system. It seriously interferes with the digestion. If you haven’t previously figured out this dodge you may use it freely. My treat.
Rule #6. There is no need to call Handyman Connection. I’ve got this.
Rule #7. No, seriously, I can do this job, I just need a little more time. And some more #8 wood screws. And some epoxy.
Rule #8. No, I don’t have any issues with my manhood. I am not being overly macho. You can go right ahead and invite another man into our house, a stranger who will probably note all the vulnerabilities of our household security, and come back and kill us both in our sleep, but don’t let that worry you. Go ahead and have this potentially sinister outsider with his advanced woodworking skills come in and fix that drawer that has been broken for…no, it has not been a year and half! It couldn’t have been more than a couple of months. Yes, I remember when it dropped on your foot and we had to take you to the emergency room. It was around Christmas and that was a month and a half ago. Oh, it was the Christmas before last? And how do you know? Because it was the same Christmas I had to go to the emergency room to have my thumb reattached after trying to trim some branches off the Christmas tree. Oh, that Christmas!
Rule #9. Blame the problem on defective parts. They may not have been defective when you bought them, but they sure are now.
Rule #10. Not if, but when all else fails, as it will, epoxy glue and duct tape are your friends. Explain that it won’t look pretty, but men aren’t into pretty, we’re into functionality, and the drawer will work if you first raise it up to an angle of 103 degrees and then slowly pull it out, being careful, of course, not to allow the angle to deviate more than 3 degrees from true, or the whole thing will drop on your foot and it will most assuredly be your fault because I told you to be careful pulling the damn thing out, didn’t I?
Rule #11. The number for Handyman Connection is 1-800-555-1433. Tell them Mike referred you. Three more referrals and I get a free gutter cleaning.