Every Home Repair Show I Ever Happen To See


The show starts with some upbeat music, cheery stuff that keeps threatening to have a tune. The credits dissolve to Jeff, who’s wearing a blue shirt along with his tool belt. “Hi there,” he says, “And thanks for joining us for another episode of Fixed In A Jeffy. We’ve been working for the last several weeks on a lovely ten-story single-family dwelling in Naugatuck, Rhode Island, and we’re going to continue not listening to those spoilsports at the historical society who say it’s Connecticut. Let’s check in with Jeff and see what he’s found.”

They cut to another Jeff, who’s got a red shirt but lacks a tool belt. He says, “This lovely building, with a footprint of nearly 120 square feet, was originally built in late 1886 as a cotton distillery who saw potential in the Pawcatuck River and didn’t know where they were. It was rebuilt as a different cotton distillery in early 1887 and again in 1893 by people who had a knack for assembling these things. During the Second World War employees in this facility put strands of the finest, strongest treated wool across the Norden bomb sight until the War Department caught them. We’re hoping to convert it to fit a small family like ours.”

The first Jeff says, “And there’s some real time pressure here. We’ve only got about a week until the owner gets back and probably picks some kind of fight with us. So let’s take a peek at a home in Eddie Foy, South Carolina, which much like Jeff’s here has got walls.”

There’s a musical interlude and the show comes to another Jeff, who’s got a green shirt and doesn’t care who sees him. This Jeff steps into the two-story hall with cats running up and down the stairs. “Homeowner Jeff has been gutting this absolutely gorgeous room, and it turns out to be because of a common mistake made the last time the house was renovated. Can you tell us what that was, and how many people are making it even without looking?”

Homeowner Jeff, wearing a white collared shirt that’s got two nonconsecutive buttons undone says, “We were experimenting with a nontraditional wall covering. We hoped to cover from floor to ceiling with a sparkling red lycra and that didn’t work at all. In the first place, cats would leap at the walls and get stuck, and then they’d be angry at whoever un-catched their claws. Un-caught their claws. Unclawed their catches.” Other Jeff slaps his shoulder, breaking him out of this loop. “We could have lived with that, but we also got joggers. Non-competitive, of course.”

The first Jeff (third of that name) nods. “Of course; this isn’t the badlands. Still, you don’t want flocks of joggers coming through and breaking up your private community space. Still, it begs the question — ”

The first Jeff (the first one) cuts in, smiling, but not meaning it. “Now, Jeff, we’ve talked about this. You mean to say this raises or asks the question. Back to our recorded segment from South Carolina.”

The third Jeff (the third one) nods, on tape. “You’re right of course. This raises the question, why lycra in the first place?”

The fourth (second) Jeff says, “We got there by a very interesting path and let me share the story with you. But first, I want to show you something.” He opens the door and they walk through a dissolve cut to the bottom of the driveway. “I designed my own mailbox so that it would look like an obscure dolphin called the melon-headed whale. You just slip a piece of paper in here — ” and he does, “And a little flag pops right up through its blowhole!” Which it certainly does.

Jeff (one of them) nods, saying, “Thank you. That is a creative and distinct way to comply with no currently known postal regulations.” A cat races out of the open door, leaps up the left Jeff, and lands on the flatbed of a truck that’s puttering down the street, which carries it out of sight. “I think some of this might be useful to you up in Vermont. Jeff?”

They return to the second Jeff. “Now, we’ve talked about this. Vermont and Rhode Island are radically different places, what with being represented in completely separate divisions of Lechmere’s Department Stores back in the day.” The camera pulls back to reveal he’s standing in front of the air conditioner unit behind the house. “So. We’ve found something alarming back here that isn’t just a repeat of the hornet incident. Join us for next week’s Fixed in a Jeffy when we look into that, won’t you please?”

Yes, I suppose that I shall.

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My Short-Lived Million-Dollar Idea


So it struck me that I had a great idea for a quasi-reality TV show, in the vein of those shows on the Boring Channel where a camera crew descends on a house or apartment or restaurant or whatever, rips everything out while host hollers at the owner, and has brand-new everything put in so the house or apartment or restaurant looks like every other one of its species on the Boring Channel. In this case, though, we’d go in to some piece of software that does something useful, but that has a horrible user interface, rip out the interface and replace it with something that’s actually been thought out and can be used by people to do what the software’s good at.

And then I remembered: nobody knows how to make a thoughtful user interface anymore. We just muddle through terrible experiences until we get used to the exactly one way we can get this software to do the one blasted thing we want it to do anymore. Then they update the software and that way goes away. So we couldn’t even put in a new interface after all.

Then, too, I realized the cinematography problem. When you tear out and rebuild a home or business at least you have great scenes of wood and metal and plastic getting ripped out by teams of handy men who look much more competent than you, and you get to see pipes and wires and old insulation and stuff. That’s just good TV. Computer programming, though, that’s nothing but people in sweatpants typing. In your older generation of programmers they also swap Monty Python quotes so worn down that only homeopathic traces of humor remain in them. In the younger generation, I don’t know what they over-quote. Steven Universe or something. It’s hard to come up with something more intensely boring that isn’t one of those Scandinavian TV channels showing eighteen hours of felled tree trunks streaming down the river.

All that’s left is having the host hollering at some computer-software company owner. That’d be fun, all right, but I can’t see that getting the kind of ratings the Boring Channel demands. Maybe some streaming media company with tighter budgets and lower distribution costs would bite. No way to tell how to get in touch with one, though. All their contact information is hidden on their web sites.

Pliers, Sure, I Know Plenty of People Regretting their Wanton Plier Purchases


We’ve needed a crescent wrench from time to time. Not too often, I’d say about as often as most people need a crescent wrench. The thing is we haven’t had one, and that’s forced us to non-crescent alternatives, such as using pliers, smacking the thing we needed to wrench with a small blob of a mysterious putty-like substance (which does nothing but feels good, and uses up some of that mysterious putty-like substance), or in extreme cases, lying down in the street and waiting for traffic to run us over rather than deal with the wrench problem.

Anyway, my beloved was at the hardware store and, having had enough of this, bought a three-pack of wrenches: one medium, one large, and one chipotle extra-crispy. And now is worried that we have too many crescent wrenches. “Fear not,” I said, “nobody has ever woken in the middle of the night and cried out `We are ruined! We have too many crescent wrenches!”’ So that’s largely settled the matter.

Except. How the heck do I know something like that? The world is big and complicated and all the more so when you’re trying to get to sleep. How can I fairly claim that nobody has been so busy with crescent wrenches that it hasn’t destroyed other, non-wrench-based, aspects of their lives? I feel like I’ve been cheating to speak with such confidence.

Around the House


I don’t want you all to be too intimidated by my general handiness but in the last couple of months I’ve done all sorts of useful stuff around the house, including fixing plywood boards to other pieces of wood with nothing but an electric screwdriver to help me, and getting some stuck window screens un-stuck and storm windows put in their place. It’s got me feeling pretty good about all this. I’ve reached the point that I’m doing enough handy stuff around the house that I worry I haven’t got enough safety equipment so people who glance at me doing stuff know I’m serious. Oh, I’ve got safety goggles and work gloves, sure, but what if a fire should break out? Shouldn’t I be carrying a little fire extinguisher around?

No, of course not. If I managed to set something on fire while getting the screens out of the window frame it would be because I was showing off somehow, and I would deserve the fire damage that resulted. I don’t think it’s even possible to set window screens on fire just by taking them out of the windows, at least not since they ended the production of “Lucifer” grade screens soaked in white phosphorous and prone to exploding into flame when they’re just called harsh names. The modern safety window screen needs to be struck against a piece of sandpaper to burst into fire, and that’s easily protected against because I don’t remember where we left the sandpaper.

Not Since I Pried The Stuck Window Open


I don’t truck much with stereotypical guy behavior. Mostly that’s because the stereotypical guy behavior is to select something that could be done and to then do so much of it that someone breaks down in tears. Thus we get bad-movie marathons, hazing, nuclear brinksmanship, pun cascades, contests to drink the entire bottle of hot sauce in one gulp, comments sections, World War I, middle school, and other deeply problematic parts of society. I don’t need that.

However, I admit that I do too have to carry all the groceries in with one load or know the reason why. (It’s because we have three twelve-packs of soda cans.) Also I spent a lot of Sunday staple-gunning tar paper to wood, and feel much more confident that I could go into Home Depot, stride down the aisles as if I knew what I was looking for, and just buy anything at all I looked at and even have the clerk ring it up by saying “So, whadda I owe ya for that anyway?” It’s a heady feeling.

In Which Our Rabbit Explains Windows To Me


“You’re making an awful noise,” our pet rabbit said, in his most scolding of tones.

I stopped swinging the rubber mallet and let go of the putty knife. “Yes, I know, but it’s for a good reason.”

He poked his nose between his cage mesh, almost close enough to nibble at the knife’s handle. “I don’t think you understand. It’s you and you’re doing that thing where you make noise.”

“I’m sorry, but there isn’t another way I’m going to get this window open.”

“Windows don’t open,” he said, and crossed his paws together. “Hasn’t anyone ever explained that to you?”

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Basic Dishwasher Repair


Is your dishwasher not draining properly? By properly we just mean is it taking all the water which gets put into it, and sending it back out again, with reasonable speed. We aren’t concerned with how stylishly it does the draining, or even whether it’s complying with all relevant state and local regulations, although that might be important in the long term. By the long term we mean after the subpoenas have been issued. By issued we mean to you. By you we mean not necessarily you; it could be someone much like you, such as a friend or sibling.

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