Kent Bernhardt: Lifelong learning

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 28, 2016

I’ve always said if I went back to school for any reason, it would be to learn to do my own plumbing, electrical, and home repair work.

I don’t know what’s stopping me; I’m sure courses are offered all the time. I think I’m just afraid they wouldn’t have a dunce cap big enough for me.

Right now under my kitchen sink, forces are at work that will require a set of skills above my pay grade. The white pipe thingy has separated from the drain what-cha-ma-call-it, causing water to drip down the other pipe thingy into a carefully placed metal bowl.

Forgive me for getting so technical, but I’m sure these words are in any plumbing manual. You can look them up.

And I would love to do some creative things with the lighting in my home, but the ensuing fire caused by my incompetence would creatively light up the entire neighborhood.

I’m not alone in being home-repair challenged. Apparently, many of us roam the earth. We know just enough about home repair to turn a small problem into a large one. Licensed repairmen love us.

Once, I had an electrician in my home to repair a faulty kitchen light. He pulled the fixture from the ceiling, looked carefully at it, then looked carefully at me.

“Did you wire this?”, he asked.

Fortunately, I could answer truthfully that I had not wired the offending fixture. It had been wired by the previous incompetent owner.

“Whoever did this came close to burning your house down”, he replied.

Even I could see from the mixture of exposed wire and ancient duct tape that he spoke the truth. I also knew that I didn’t even possess the talent to wire it that badly. It would take years of training for me to reach even that level of incompetence.

When I was in high school, we had something called “Shop Class”. It was a class for people who wanted to learn basic household skills, like the ones I’m describing. It wasn’t the class the cool or intellectual kids took. It was considered an easy “A”.

But looking back, I really wish I had taken that course. Just like my typing class, it would have been a class of great benefit to me.

I did sit in on a class one day and learned to wire a lamp. It doesn’t sound like much now, but there before God and everybody, Kent suddenly knew how to wire a lamp. And he learned that skill in less than an hour!

I felt a real sense of accomplishment. I wanted to go all over my house and re-wire lamps. My brain was suddenly full of practical knowledge and I hungered for more!

I opted for a class called Family Life.   There, I learned to sew on a button, diaper a baby, make my own florescent green necktie, and bake a mean chicken tetrazzini.

Somewhere in my high school yearbook, there is a picture of me holding a diaper pin just before I accidentally jammed it into my finger. Fortunately, Family Life also taught first aid.

That’s been a long time ago, but I vividly recall the sense of pride I felt as I pulled my chicken tetrazzini out of the oven, slightly burned, but still recognizable as chicken something-or-other.

Though most of those skills have faded with time, my brain is hungry to learn them all over again.

I type better than ever these days. That skill didn’t vanish. Who’s to say I couldn’t learn a thing or two – or three – about plumbing and electrical work?

And once I master those skills, who’s to say I couldn’t learn to repair my own car?

Well, come to think of it, that would be a bit of a reach. These days, you have to dismantle half of the engine to replace a headlight.

And I don’t think I want to go there.


Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.

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