Dangling Feet & Screws by the Pound

Nearly every winter I have had to trap a flying squirrel or two in my attic and send them packing. Fortunately, I have a walk-out attic easily accessible from my 13 year-old’s closet. When she was an infant, I went on a hunting excursion and learned a valuable lesson – Don’t walk on rafters in socked feet. Yup, I slid right off the rafter and ended up perched on a 2×10 with half of me in the attic and half of me in the family room. Two of my kids and my nephew were watching a Christmas special and all three instantly yelled, “We didn’t do it!” to my lovely wife who stood looking up at my dangling feet.image

I’m not sure if I caught the little critter on that trip, but it did force a trip to the hardware store where Hershel works. Hershel is the best. He’s a little old guy who is slightly stooped from years of hard work. He can fix anything better than anyone who comes in the store, but he is never condescending about:

  • a) your lack of knowledge or
  • b) your stupidity for breaking whatever you came in to fix.

Hershel: Morning Mark, what can I do for you?

Me: I need some drywall.

Hershel: Big project? (His eyes light up! He loves big projects – not only because of what he can sell you, but he also lives vicariously through his customers’ building experiences.)

Me: Nah, actually a really small one.

Hershel: Well, the smallest we’ve got is 4 x 8. They’re in aisle seven. Follow me.

I don’t follow and he notices.

Hershel: What’s the matter?

Me: Nothing smaller? (I look down and estimate the size of my feet, adding an appropriate amount for overage.)

Hershel knows instantly: Where’s the hole?

Me (eyes still low indicating appropriate shame): The den.

Hershel doesn’t flinch or betray just how dumb he thinks I am. Telling me how much patchwork I have in store, he leads me to drywall area and loads me up with tape, mud, sandpaper, screws, and ceiling paint.

Hershel: Once Betty checks you out, go round back. Beside the dumpster, we’ve got lots of broken pieces of sheetrock. You just pick one out and take it with you.

Me: But I really only need about four screws. You sure this is the smallest size?

Hershel: We sell ‘em by the pound. That’s just one pound – smallest we got.

I wondered what genius came up with selling a countable product by volume, but yielded to Hershel’s judgment and headed home. A few days of work and the hole was patched – good as new!

This all leads me to the 4th of July weekend. We are updating the 13 year-old’s room, making it more teen and less little girl. This necessitated a few trips to the attic to store things. You guessed it, I missed a rafter.

Can a house really be considered a home until you’ve broken through the ceiling… twice?

A trip to the store. Hershel, slowed but still knowledgeable and helpful, stood leaning against the wall as I entered.

Herschel: Hey there, Mark. What can I do ya for?

I’ve long gotten over embarrassment over mayhem and destruction I’ve caused in my home. I confidently replied: I need some drywall.

Herschel: Where’s the hole.

Me: It’s in the garage this time. I’ve got the screws leftover from the last time and I don’t need your mud and tape because I don’t care how it looks. (I look at him pleadingly).

He knows what I want, laughs, and says: Sure, go round back and get you a piece… and be more careful next time.

Bruised Bums & Holes in the Wall

Whatever happened to quality? Back in my day, companies used to stand behind what they made. Things just lasted longer. There were warranties and repair shops for TV’s and appliances instead of everything being disposable. Nowadays, we just buy things and no matter how much we pay, we expect to have to replace them in five to seven years. It’s downright sad.

Shoddy workmanship coupled with new appliance styles and colors released every few years means none of us will ever be able to keep up. In my adult life they started as white, went to black, and now one is considered below the poverty line unless they have stainless steel. They’ve got this scam perfected. When your microwave goes out, instead of getting it repaired you have to replace it. And since it will no longer match your other kitchen appliances, the broken microwave ends up costing you $4000 for upgrading the entire kitchen.

Forget that mess, I have a white microwave with a broken handle, a black oven, and stainless dishwasher and refrigerator.  I figure my cheapness gives me a wider spectrum of color in my kitchen and possibly a disappointed wife, but I refuse to give in to their madness.

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I really didn’t start this rant to vent about kitchen appliances, we took a detour there. I’m angry about specs and tolerances. If packaging says the wire I am purchasing has a tensile strength of 1200 MPa, I figure I should easily be able to get 1250-1300 MPa out of it before it breaks. Or if my pneumatic nail gun recommends a range of 90-120 PSI, I think 130 PSI will make sure the sucker holds.

So it speaks to shoddy quality that a towel bar designed to hold 4 pounds of wet towel wouldn’t be able to keep a flailing, 210-pound man upright. It stands to reason that this should have been well within the tolerance of a reasonably made product, don’t you think?

I discovered this defect after our bathroom was rearranged for our new cat’s needs. The bath mat was not returned to its proper place and my wet foot slid out from under me upon exiting the shower. I desperately grabbed the towel bar only to find what inspector number seven did not. It wouldn’t hold when tested and tumbled down onto the cold wet tile alongside of me.

What is this world coming to when manufacturers don’t care about quality anymore? I tell you what it’s coming to:  bruised bums and holes in the wall, THAT’s what this world is coming to.

It’s a darn shame…