"I washed my hands with Lava® soap after I finished the job, just like a real handyman would."

My readers know me to be nobody's handyman. Sure, I sometimes dress the part, hoping that my threadbare work clothes might somehow set a context within which I might manage to select the proper screwdriver for once, but handiwork requires some content behind the context. I'm learning, but I seem to have started way behind on the grand learning curve of handyman life, so I doubt that I'll ever catch up. My workbench tends toward cluttered. The sloping garage floor leaves me struggling to prevent my handyman chair from rolling down and into my work table. I seem to be at least one tool short of completing any project, almost invariably finishing by ineptly applying some lame hack. Usually.

The Muse's swing-arm floor lamp went bzzzzzt a few weeks ago. I'm no electrician, but even I could tell that the light bulb socket looked kind of fried. I wasn't that surprised.
I'd earlier fixed a broken plug on the danged thing by crudely electrical taping a new plug onto the old cord, leaving an unsightly black bulge resembling a half-digested aardvark in the belly of a snake. My internal Handyman Dave volunteered to fix the thing and I moved it out to my workshop, which is actually a garage more than a workshop. I figured out how to disassemble the fried light socket and pull out the offending cord. I even attempted to be systematic, placing separated parts in some semblance of the order they would have to be reconnected.

I headed to the hardware store where a friendly clerk helped me measure out fresh cord and select a new socket and plug. Back in my workshop, I quickly found that the cord I'd purchased would never fit through the serpentine path through the lamp. The repair stalled for a few days. I tried the Home Despot, but could not find the proper gauge wire there, though two associates assisted me, so I later returned to the trusty hardware store, where I bought about twice the length of cord the repair required. I think this purchase exhibits the small way in which I might be evolving into a genuine handyman, an increasing awareness and acceptance of my inherent fallibility. If a job needs twelve feet of cord, buy twenty. I'm likely to destroy some of my supplies in trying to install them, or such has been the case thus far.

Armed, then, with the proper gauge wire, I returned to my so-called workshop to work said wire through the most convoluted channels. I started thinking it might be easier to thread the wire top down before realizing that I'd mistaken the bottom of the swing arm for the top, so though I'd invested some time threading wire through impossible-seeming twists and turns, I pulled it all out again, starting over, though perhaps better oriented this time. I later concluded that the wire would have to be worked bottom up, but even that proved impossible, at least for a while. With plenty of wire, I finally began working from the middle of the stand out, since one point offered a Catch-22 narrowing that seemed to defy threading until, by turning and turning, the cord surprisingly popped through the impasse.

I felt terminally challenged a half dozen times, working myself into successive apparently absolute stymies, but persisted in what became an ego-battering duel of wills with myself. Each difficulty arguing that I certainly am no handyman, that I should humbly take the pieces to a professional for reassembly. I continued anyway, fetching the tiny needle nose pliers we keep in the kitchen for removing fish bones, hoping that they might somehow snag the snake through the final tiny turn in the brass swing arm. I finally split the wire (hey, I had plenty to spare!) nudged the single strand around the blind turn, pulling it free with a carefully emphatic needle-nosed grip.

I disassembled the light socket three times after, amazingly, properly stripping the wire ends. The doohickey meant to support the shade needed to sit just beneath the socket, not beneath the spacer beneath the socket, to leave space for a light bulb. I found myself capable of methodical trial and error, keeping my cool in spite of difficulties. Assembling and connecting the plug almost seemed like child's play, though I visited another do/un-do/re-do loop before finally plugging in the nearly finished product to find that it worked. The "first time."

I'll take some Brasso® to the danged thing before releasing it back into the general population. I left an extra long cord on the tail to make sure it can reach an outlet without resorting to some mis-matched extension cord. I replaced my tools and strolled around the garage for a few minutes, inordinately proud of myself, not for my skill so much as for my persistence. I usually choose to abandon these curious puzzles before I've fully puzzled them out, explaining that I am, after all, nobody's electrician and probably had no business trying to pretend to be one. This time, I'm even more certain that I'm nobody's electrician, but this little project was not really an electrical project, but a small test of will. The electrical part of the effort was the easy part. Nudging that cord through four feet of mysterious and intractable hollowness of varying widths challenged me more than stripping wire and tightening connection screws.

It did not go Voooomph! when I plugged it in, a familiar noise declaring that I've incorrectly hooked up the electricity. I once semi-successfully rewired a whole basement, relying upon successive Vooooomphs! to inform me that I'd misinterpreted the wiring diagram again. I am neither an intuitive nor a knowledgeable handyman, but (sometimes) simply a persistent one. Handyman work seems perfectly analogous to rewriting a swing-arm lamp. Apparent simplicity (I could do that!) hides numerous unforeseeable complications. Knowing beforehand about those complications and how to avoid/overcome them might not be the handyman skill I so often believe a "real" handyman possesses. A curious persistence in the face of the myriad unforeseeables seems more definitive. This lamp eventually taught me how to rewire it. It spoke a strange language which seemed to presume knowledge and experience nowhere in evidence in my humble workshop/garage, but with persistence, a shared pidgin dialect seemed to emerge between us, mute save for occasional frustrated grunts and surprised giggles.

I washed my hands with Lava® soap after I finished the job, just like a real handyman would.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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