Sunday, July 19, 2009

Why I'll stick with keyboards

One of the enlightening experiences of being unemployed is having to fix things, since you can’t afford professional repair work. Which is why I have a paper towel glued to the gearshift of my Jeep.

It looked like a miniature Don King, the cottony tufts of Bounty flapping in the wind. I took off what I could with scissor, scrub pad and fingernail, but there's still a cap of textured white fuzz. A tiny Anderson Cooper is my co-pilot.

I would remove the tissue shreds altogether if I could find a way to melt Krazy Glue. But I know I’ll end up with nothing but the metal shaft of the shift, the rubber completely eaten.

That’s a real possibility for someone like me, who’d probably be invited to help with the refreshments if neighborhoods still held barn-raising parties. I lack whatever gene helps people deduce what end of a hammer to use. And then there’s knowing which pole of the nail to strike. Though I understand that using words like “pole” when talking about a nail is indicative of my deficiency.

Yet when the rearview mirror inexplicably disconnected from the windshield one day, I had no choice but to page my inner Bob Vilas. It was clear that the adhesive holding the butt end of the mirror to the glass had simply given way. How tough could it be to glue it back on?

So off I went to what has to be one of the last remaining five-and-dimes in America. The prices no longer fit that descriptor, but the wares definitely do. You can get everything from newspapers to prescription drugs, dried flowers, plumbing supplies, toys, cigarettes, notebooks, and even snacks. Best of all, there's no employee trying to make small talk by asking what sort of project you're doing, a la Home Depot.

I walked out with a bottle of Krazy Glue, almost swaggering with confidence. The glass was meticulously cleaned, as was the part of the mirror that would be affixed to it. The glue went on, the mirror was pressed against the windshield, and voila!, the problem was resolved.

For about six hours.

Out came the Krazy Glue again. Surfaces were virtually sterilized again. The two parts were joined together again in glued harmony.

The repair lasted four hours that time.

Clearly I wasn’t using enough glue. After the ritual cleaning, I held the bottle of adhesive in one hand as I brushed some both on the windshield and the mirror’s butt end. I was so focused on covering every inch of the to-be-joined surfaces that I didn’t noticed I’d mindlessly tipped the bottle. Out poured the fast-drying glue, covering the gearshift and the console between driver and passenger seats.

Thinking in a flash, I grabbed a paper towel and sopped it up.

Hence my one-car tribute to Don King.

That led to the equivalent of waterboarding for a non-handyman like myself: Going to hardware store and asking for advice. My part always goes something like this: “Screws are the ones with the threads, right?” “When you say ‘hammer it in,' you’re talking about having nails, right?”

It was frustrating, but deliciously satisfying in a second analysis, to discover that the experts’ Rear View Mirror Affixing Kit—and I kid you not, there really is such a thing—worked no better than my Krazy Glue.

Finally, I did what I always do in such situations: Surrendered the project to my wife. She could work at Home Depot, she has such natural aptitude for such things.

Rather than buy some fancy adhesive, she picked up what remained of some sealer we’d used to patch a our pool. She slathered it on, slapped the mirror in place, and declared, "Let's have lunch."

That was eight days ago. And it’s still holding.

Clearly the Anderson Cooper proxy is very pleased.

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