All Thumbs

NOTE: I wrote the below several years go. When I had a home. And a wife. And my son didn’t live two hours away. Thanks for reminding me.

  I love Home Depot.

    Honorable Mention:  Lowe’s. 

    It is there where I am at one with my guyness.  Blissfully adrift amongst pressure treated lumber, parquet flooring, and stainless steel widgets, I feel much more at home than at, say, Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

    It’s impossible for me to emerge empty-handed from one of these do-it-yourself nirvanas.  Sure, it may be an item I’ll only use once (like that PVC saw…which I only used…once) or a “you never know” purchase like that 4X4 sheet of fiberglass-reinforced sheetrock, but I feel it’s my solemn duty to contribute to the local economy…and to the myth that I actually know what I’m doing.   

    While I’m not the Inspector Clouseau of Handymen, I’m not exactly Bob Vila, either (or, for that matter, Lou Vila, who lives in a box under the overpass).

    Through painful trial and error, I’ve learned that water conducts electricity, pipes freeze in the winter, it’s not a good idea to “slide” a console TV down a flight of stairs, and it ain’t real smart to burn plastic wood in the fireplace.

    I guess you could say that my motto is, “If it’s still smoking after you turn the power off, get the hell out of the house!”

    Since we live in the country, you can imagine how out of control our crime rate is.  After all, those rabbits can’t possibly be up to any good, the owls give me the creeps, and I just don’t trust those damn crickets.

    Still, my wife thought it would be a swell idea to get a motion detector.  If only to prevent raccoons from stealing our empty pizza boxes or the gophers from hot-wiring the cars.

    Well, since any excuse to go to the hardware store is a good one, off I went in search of one of those modern marvels of home security.

    Three hours later, I returned with a wood-burning set, an extension ladder, a rubber mallet, the “Family Pack” bungee cord set (incidentally, what kind of “family” shops for bungee cords-the Mansons?), six cans of Fix-A-Flat, a gallon of Gorilla Glue, and 20 rolls of Flex-Seal tape. 

    And a motion detector.

    Minutes later, its contents were spread out all over my kitchen table.  I meticulously cross-checked the master inventory:  four 2” metal screw thingies-check, three plastic wire nut whoozits-check, one metal plate gizfotchy-check, one rubber gasket thingamajig-check, two lamp holders-uh, oh…

    Back to the store.

    Two hours later, I returned with the parts I needed.  And some anti-freeze, Monkey Grip, and something called Crack Filler.

    After pulling my new extension ladder out of the garage, up I went to start wiring in the motion detector.

    Minutes later, after getting up from the ground, I went downstairs to pull the outdoor lighting circuit breaker.

    After several hours of twisting this, wiring that, and filling the air with all sorts of Anglo-Saxon expressions of goodwill, I finally achieved success.

    Restoring power, I ran back and forth under its sensor, making chipmunk sounds for effect.   After noticing the light coming on when called for, I pronounced it a job well done. 

    While I inspected the job, my son (who had wandered away from his X-Box when he heard a chipmunk) stared at the underside of the brightly-lit detector. 

    “Hey, Dad, what’s that written on the underside of the sensor?”

    Deciding to eschew (French for “disregard.”  Or “atchoo.”  Which doesn’t make sense) the ladder, I squinted my eyes at some squiggles written on the plastic. 

    “Oh, that?  It’s probably Chinese for ‘Use only 60 watt bulbs’ or something like that.  Don’t worry about it.”

    My testosterone at maximum level, I could conquer the world.  I confidently strode into the house, thumped my chest, and announced to the womenfolk that I was Conqueror of Darkness.

    “Here,” my wife flung a pork loin my way and pointed at the grill, “now you can be Lord of Fire.”

    The motion detector did its thing for several weeks.  It could spot the movement of the smallest of critters, energize its halogen lamps, and instantly bring the driveway to near-solar intensity.

    Our property became an impregnable fortress, secure from wanton acts of nature.  And, if called upon, could be an emergency airfield.

    Last week, though, we had a rainstorm to match all rainstorms.  Streams overflowed, gutters choked with sodden debris, cars stalled in flooded intersections, and our neighbor, “Frank the Drunk”, started hauling pairs of zebras and ducks into his bass boat.

    Oh, yeah, and our motion detector stopped working.

    Initially refusing to shut off, even during the day, it was merely tricked by the gloom of the storm.  Or so I thought.

    But, when the sun finally came out and we needed sunglasses, the light still refused to turn off.

    Seeing that, I thought that somehow the designers of the thing hadn’t taken torrential downpours into account.  Obviously, water had gotten into the whole shooting match and shorted out the wires.

    Of course, since I’m not exactly Marconi, the thought of WHY something that was shorted would still WORK never crossed my mind.

    Armed with an industrial size tube of waterproof silicant, I once more ascended my ladder to remedy the situation (this time I shut off the power).

    After coating all possible openings with the waterproof goop (of the motion detector), I descended the ladder making sure I didn’t go crashing into the garbage cans, forcing a visit to the local ER.  Re-energizing the circuit, I returned to inspect my work.  Voila!  The lights had gone off!

    Mentally exchanging high-fives with myself, I put everything away and proceeded to fix lunch (OK, cookies, Totinos, and a Diet Coke).  Once it got dark, we’ll just see how good of a job I did!

    Well, darkness came and went.  And, the motion detector worked as well as a clock made of cheese.

    Perplexed, I figured I’d have to take the whole thing off, dry it, and re-install it.

    Balancing precariously on the ladder, I twisted the sensor and grimaced as a cascade of water rolled down my arm into my armpit.

    That figures!  Cheap Chinese, Japanese, whatever, piece of crap!  What frikkin’ genius thought to put the controls on top of the sensor so rain can just roll right in and fry the thing? 

    As I was mentally spending my refund after I returned this hunk of junk, I noticed the words that my son had pointed out as I was congratulating myself a few weeks ago.  Words that were printed on what I thought was the underside of the sensor.  Words that, when turned the right way, clearly stated:

    “THIS SIDE UP.”

    Ooops.

    Back to the store.

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