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Kent Bernhardt: Just call me Mr. Fix-it

Give a man a tool, and you feed his handyman fantasy for a day. Teach a man to use that tool and you keep legitimate repairmen gainfully employed repairing his damage for a lifetime. -Abraham Lincoln

OK, I’m not sure Abraham Lincoln actually said that, but he should’ve. It’s just as true as other things he said.

Like most men, I have a collection of tools. I’ve assembled them throughout a lifetime of home improvement projects.

And I actually know what a few of them do.

I have the mandatory hammers, screwdrivers, drills, and even drill bits, most of which I store under my washing machine because that’s where they rolled when they fell out of my drill bit case. At least I know where they are.

I also have drain snakes of various sizes. For you home repair novices, a drain snake is a tool you use on tough drain clogs just before you call a real plumber.

Then he comes to your home, removes the jammed snake from your drain, and pours some stuff in there that makes your home smell like rotten eggs for the rest of the day.

Yes, like all men I love roaming the aisles of Lowes and Home Depot appearing to know exactly what I need. I usually don’t, but according to the man code I’m not allowed to tell anyone I don’t.

For me, shopping at Lowe’s is like looking for a bathroom in the Vatican. I figure if I wander around long enough, I’ll eventually find what I need.

Kind employees will approach me asking if they can help me. I should say “Yes, I need you to come to my home, take a look at my problem, buy the item I need, and fix it for me.” But what I hear myself say instead is “No thanks, I’m just looking.”

I’m just looking all right. I’m looking for the nerve to tell them I’m a home repair idiot.

Being home repair challenged is nothing new to me. It goes way back, really to my teen years.

Just before my senior year of high school, I had a summer job at a local produce company. The first day on the job, my boss asked me to go across the street to an auto parts supply store and borrow their skyhook.

There’s no such thing as a skyhook. But dutifully, I sauntered over to the store and asked to borrow theirs.

“Well, he knows we have them in different sizes,” the guy told me with a twinkle in his eye. “Go back and ask him which size he needs.”

I returned to my boss. “He needs to know the size you need.”

“He knows what size I need!” he piped. “Tell him it’s the same one I always use!”

Across the street I go again. “He says it’s the same skyhook he always uses.”

This went on for a few more trips until I realized I was getting the new employee treatment. I later had the pleasure of watching a few other new hires fall victim to the same joke.

We men are by nature “fixers.” We have a need to fix things, and fix them quickly. When our wives come to us complaining about the status of our relationship, we want to put duct tape on it. Problem solved.

But I confess to you today that I’m no fixer. I’m the guy who should just call someone who is. I’m not really even a tool guy. Still, I love to flirt with my fantasy, and on occasion I have been successful.

I can rebuild the inside of a toilet, and I successfully replaced a drain trap once. It held for three full days.

Still, as Andy Griffith once said, I should just “call the man” and save myself the time and agony of another botched repair.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to run to Lowe’s. They’re having a sale on skyhooks.

 Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.

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