Why I Don’t Do Home Repairs

I have two universal rules: everything takes longer than you think; everything is harder than you think.

Presented for your consideration: about three years ago, the bracket connecting my garage door to the garage drive train pulled right through the top door panel, so I did a temporary repair using a piece of drilled metal, two washers, and two bolts. About two weeks ago, I noticed the top bolt of the temporary repair was coming loose, so tighten it up. This is a two person job: someone has to be inside the closed garage holding the nut fast with a pair of pliers while someone else is outside tightening the bolt. So I asked my wife for help. Yesterday, she agreed. This was at 4:30 in the afternoon.

We need to make this a permanent fix, she said, by backing the bolt with rubber or some other substance that will grip the nut and prevent it from slipping with the motion of the garage door.

Sounds good. Do you have such a substance?

No, but we can use a piece of the double sided tape that we used to put up some insulation inside the van.

Sounds good. Where is it?

It’s in a plastic bag.

Uh oh.

Everything I own is in a plastic bag, either WalMart or Goodwill. When an item is purchased at either location, the item is extracted for its use and then put back in the bag, or other items are placed inside the bag so we won’t forget where they are. The bag is then left at the location of last use…until another identical bag containing an item related to the prior used item is placed either alongside or on top of the original bag. Two things then happen: both bags are moved to a convenient location containing other bags while the newest bag is placed within arm’s reach, and/or all the bags are moved hastily out of the way because another project has taken precedence, such as a temporary repair of a garage door. Think of it as compost mixing.

Okay, where is this particular plastic bag?

It’s in the garage, she said with great certainty.

Search begins. Forty-five minutes later, search is expanded to include the basement, the kitchen, the upstairs attic room and a room so filled with cast off and mystery plastic bags that I fear to enter it. No luck.

It is another universal rule that you can never find anything when you want it, unless you put off the repair for at least six months, when you will stumble across the needed item while searching for another needed item. The danger there is you will have forgotten what your original intention for the just-found item was, a danger made more fraught the older I get.

Drat, she said, I guess we’ll have to go out and get some more double sided tape.

This, of course, is the main reason why I have thousands of plastic bags containing hundreds of duplicates of the same item because the more immediate solution to never finding anything when you want it is to go out and buy some more double sided tape, or setting cement, or lag bolts, or whatever the eff it is I need right now. It’s like the China syndrome: the bags grow exponentially, heading for critical mass until you do something to interrupt the cycle. Like refuse to go out and buy more double sided tape.

No, I said, the heck with that, we’ll find the tape in six months and do a permanent repair then. Meanwhile, let’s just tighten the damn thing.

Now it is 5:30.

I grabbed two chairs, the headband light (think miner’s headlamp without the helmet), two different sized Philips screwdrivers, one needlenose,one regular plier. I set one chair inside near the door and pointed out which of the two bolts was the offender, gave her the headlight, stepped outside, closed the garage door, made sure we could hear each other (Can you hear me? Yes!) stepped up. Got it? What? Do you have it? Have what? The nut. What? Nut! Yeah, I got it, what are you doing?  Okay. I go at the bolt with the Philips.

Turn and turn and turn and turn and turn and…

Are you turning it?

Yes! Are you holding it?


Are you holding it?


The nut! Are you holding it with the pliers?

Yes! Why aren’t you turning it?

I am turning it! Do you have the right one?

The top one, right?



Yes! Can you see the bolt turning?


Hmm, not tightening. Must be stripped. So I stepped down and asked her…three times… to open the garage door and she did and detached my retinas with the headlight. Three times.

Examination of suspect bolt verified it was, indeed, stripped. So, into the house and down in the basement to fetch two canisters of various machine screws and bolts with their matching nuts. Haul both back out, select bolt and nut combination…hmm. It appears they are not as matched as the label indicated. After a bit of bolt and nut comparison, I found one that would fit through the drilled metal and also had a nut that fit. Okay, let’s do this again. Chairs set, tools grabbed, helpers positioned, door opened then closed, up on the chair, stick the bolt through to the waiting nut…

It’s too short.

Three more requests to open the garage door followed by three more retina detachments and pouring of the entire canister contents of bolts and allegedly matching nuts on the floor and a frantic search through them. Too short, too big for the drilled metal, stripped, no matching nut…voila! One bolt that fit all criteria, with one matching nut. I gave the nut to her. Do not, for god’s sake, drop this.

Chairs, tools, openings, closings, tightening…it works! Eureka!

It is now 7:30.

Hey look! She holds up a plastic bag. Inside is the role of double-sided tape.

I nod. Remind me in six months. And go in the house.

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