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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Before You Go: ‘Home Improvement’

CRL's John Gray rolls up his sleeves and gets to work.

I wouldn’t have made a very good caveman. Back then if there was a problem, like say a leaky cave or a hole in the wall caused by a hungry T-Rex, you couldn’t just dial up the local repair guy and have him buzz over in his Flintstone’s-mobile to fix it. And, of course, there were no hardware stores for tools and supplies; it was just a man and his wits. Yeah, I’d of been dead inside of a week.

February is the home improvement issue for CRL and I speak for everyone who knows me when I say they hope and pray every month that if something goes wrong in my house that I’ll ask a professional to help. The phrase, “Oh John, you’re not really going to try that yourself,” is often heard from those dearest to me. It usually involves projects that could lead to me cutting something off or, you know, exploding.

It’s my own fault I can’t do a darn thing. I had a father who was great at fixing stuff, but every time he’d ask for help, one of two things would happen. I’d ask him if I could go watch “Gilligan’s Island” or I would stay to help and when he asked me to hand him a Phillips screwdriver I’d give him a bathroom plunger and say, “Is this it Dad?” It’s at this point he’d pat me on the head and tell me to take a ‘three hour tour’ with the Skipper and Mary Ann.

By the way, did you know they call it the “Phillips” screwdriver because it was invented by a real guy named Henry Phillips from Portland, Oregon? Yep. He came up with the idea, got the patent and then everyone copied his work and stole the credit and money. Kind of like the place you work, right?

Too bad his name wasn’t Henry “Snuggerdoodle” because then you’d have sweaty, burly auto mechanics named Bruno yelling to a co-worker, “Yo, get me a beer and a Snuggerdoodle!”

Once you grow up, you have to at least pretend you can do things around the house. The most important lesson I’ve learned is when you are buying something and the salesman says, “And for just $20 more we can put it together for you,” do it! I remember putting a gas grill together many years ago. Who knew a tiny grill could have so many parts. I took it out of the box one Saturday morning in July and wasn’t done til Labor Day. When I was finally ready to cook my woman dinner like a proud caveman, I put the grill right against the house and accidentally melted the siding. Who knew the backs of those things threw so much heat? “Honey, why do the hotdogs taste like burnt plastic?” Oh, it’s a new brand, Ballpark Vinyl.

I can’t go to the big box stores to buy things because I start to hyperventilate. Too many aisles and choices and not enough brain cells in this little head to differentiate between PVS and ABS (those are types of plumbers pipe).

Once I asked for CVS and they told me it was out the front door and two blocks down. Incidentally, I still haven’t figured out why plumbers don’t wear belts to keep their pants up, but that’s a subject for another day.

Heck, I can’t even choose paint colors without causing a back-up. Can you tell me the difference between Avid Apricot, Honey Maple and Sandy Beach please? All real colors by Benjamin Moore that look exactly the same. I once bought paint and the salesgirl said, “You want this flat? The finish.” I responded, “Well the walls are flat and I do plan to finish so, duh, yeah, let’s go with flat.” She hit me with one of those little sticks they stir the paint with.

You can’t buy nails individually. I learned that the hard way. Went into my local True Value and told the guy I had a huge project and I’d be needing some nails. He took me to the nail section, grabbed his gloves, a bag and metal shovel and said, “How many pounds?” I told him I just needed two. Nails, not pounds. Two nails. “But since you put on the fancy gloves let’s go nuts and give me four nails.”

I swear to you he just handed me the nails and told me to go. There’s an old saying, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” In my house we have a saying, “If it can kill you don’t touch it.” I won’t even walk near the electrical panel and there’s a Frisbee that’s been stuck on the roof for six months now, because Lord knows I’m not going up there. I’m useless around the house, but I’m okay with it. My inability to even work the vacuum helps employ so many people in my community and that’s a good thing. Besides, in the grand scheme of things words are my tools anyway.

So for those do-it-yourselfers out there, please know you have my profound admiration if not perspiration. I’d like to continue this conversation, but I’m looking at the ceiling and noticing a little condensation, so with great determination and acceleration I will seek navigation to a destination where they can remedy this situation. At the risk of regurgitation or alienation of you, my reader, I can only add that before there is outright dilapidation I will find someone with the proper education and dedication to handle this consternation. Ya think maybe I need a vacation?

Just do me a favor. If you send a plumber, can you tell him to please wear his belt and don’t forget to bring his Snuggerdoodle? Thanks.

John Gray
John Gray
John Gray is an Emmy-winning journalist and writer. In addition to his 32 years of television experience, John is the author of three children's books and two novels. He is married with three children. He and his lovely wife Courtney have five dogs, three of them are rescues with special needs. They make their quiet home in Rensselaer County.

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