Some Confidence would be Handy

When I was in China, the drain in the shower blocked and after my shower, half an inch of water heaved soapily around in the base of the cubicle. I got dressed and phoned ZL – the woman who cared for the foreign teachers.

“My drain is blocked,” I told her.

“Jane?” she repeated. “Jane? What is your jane?”

“D-R-ain” I tried. “You know, the hole in the floor that lets the water out…”

“You have a hole in your floor?!” She sounded absolutely horrified. I found myself desperately defending some unsaid implication of property damage.

Eventually she agreed to send a workman over.

I have never been a handy sort of person. When I moved to Melbourne (age 23), I did a basic mechanic’s course in the evenings in the hopes that I would be better equipped to look after my car without the help of my Dad. I can tell you now that I can’t remember a single thing that I learned in the course – not even what my teacher looked like. So I was very glad when I fell in love with P and he was so capable of fixing… well pretty much anything. He once even taped back together an el-cheapo balloon-style whoopee cushion so that it still worked!

About a month ago our Robotic Vacuum Cleaner started churning out error messages faster than you could make them up. Every time you pressed the go button, it would come up with a new 4-digit error code. Last week, when P was recovering from his cold, he took Mac (the vac) out and turned it upsidedown on the kitchen table. He removed clod after clod of coagulated dust from around the wheels. He vacuumed out the brush and the filter and the dust-box. He unscrewed the bottom and carefully cleaned around the electronics inside.

Google revealed nothing useful about the collection of error codes so P just kept going. He discovered that one of the bumper sensors was broken and went out to the garage to find the previous machine. He managed to salvage a bumper sensor from the old machine and modify it to go in the new one. After further cleaning and examination he put Mac back on the floor and pressed go. It ran for about 5 minutes and then errored out again. He pressed go again. And again. And again. And eventually Mac ran and cleaned the whole house. This week Mac achieved another successful run without the technician present. P’s first-aid saved us around $600 (touch wood***).

The trouble with being so handy, of course, is that we don’t outsource much at all and a lot of P’s time gets taken up with odd jobs. One night this week, he removed the broken plastic gear cogs from our son’s racing-car toy so that it could still be played with. When our son’s little guitar got trodden on and snapped, it was P who took it out to the garage and painstakingly glued and braced it until it was better than new.

The last couple of weekends have been spent looking into adding a carport out the front of the garage. It’s horrifically expensive – just a plain corrugated iron roof and the posts and beams (with P doing the installation) have been quoted at between six and eight thousand dollars. As I said to P, it makes the Tesla seem quite cheap. An electric car is a much more technical and finessed piece of kit than a few bits of steel to make a carport. So whatever we do (we’ll probably go with the second hand materials we sourced last weekend), P will take on the job of building the thing. It’s hard to justify paying somebody else to do it.

I have a friend who is quite handy. She covers her own furniture, got a free desk for her daughter and re-painted it, does the hanging of paintings and painting of walls, fixes the cracks, changes the washers, pre-investigates the washing machine before resorting to calling a tradie in. She’s much handier than me. I listen to what she does and I think I should be able to do it too. But at the point of requirement, my confidence abandons me. Maybe it’s just because I have the choice?

Trying to help our daughter out of the shower today (the shower is over the bath), I yanked at the glass screen and it snapped at the hinge in the middle. Luckily I caught it before it hit anything or anybody. I called for help and P came running into the bathroom.

He saw the damage and groaned – another job to add to the list. I really need to do something about my confidence.

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