For the mechanically-challenged (like me) the term “home improvement” is a euphemism for “Hey, shut up! I didn’t actually wreck anything.”
That is not meant to imply this home improvement wizard actually did anything right or put anything together the way it was supposed to work. If I did, I promise you it was an accident. So don’t ask me to fix it if it breaks.
Here is a sampling of my less-than-stellar home improvement experience:
The locks in our house all work backwards.
Somehow, I manage to be very consistent installing locks and deadbolts backwards. They all function opposite from the way they were designed to work. We regularly have to let people out of our house after they visit because they go to open the door and find themselves locked in. Therefore I now promise to attempt to install our locks and deadbolts backwards so they actually work the right way. Then people will be able to leave our home under their own power.
Our light switches all work backwards too.
Yes, I admit it. Electricity scares the daylights out of me, no pun intended. I think it is mortal fear of electricity that makes me hook up light switches so they turn off in the up position and on in the down position. But as we’ve learned, you get used to this system after a while. It’s just everyone who visits your house that is confused.
Our toilet is frontwards, but the handles are always upside down.
Man, oh man, toilet plumbing is confusing. There are all these cantilevered handles and chains and sucker pumps and junk that is supposed to work together. Somehow when I finish putting a toilet together the handle is always upside down and the chain isn’t the right length and doesn’t pull right. You have to hold the handle down forever so it will flush. This is extremely wasteful. People like Al Gore and Ralph Nader would not approve. However Al Gore and Ralph Nader have never come to my house to poop so I’m letting my funky downstairs toilet stay like it is until I get the energy to figure it out.
Drain stoppers and sink drain ballcocks were designed by sadistic idiots. That’s why mine all work. I understand these people.
Have you ever tried to get a drain stopper to hook up with a ball cock stem? You have to reach around behind the sink drain and jam the ball cock stem into a hole in the back of the drain and simultaneously hold the drain stopper with its pathetic skinny bar in perfect position by reaching your hand up and over the sink so the ball cock bar fits into the designated hole at just the right angle. Sound confusing? You don’t know the half of it. There are a bunch of holes in the drain popper stem bar, through which you have to slip the ball cock stem bar so that the drain stopper can achieve the proper height to pop into place and actually stop the water.
This is all complicated by the fact that you have to lock the ball cock stem extender into place through the drain popper stem and its vertical beehive of holes. You accomplish this by using a flexible aluminum slat stem holder designed to bracket the ball cock stem bar through the holes in the cantilevered drain popper bar.
Of course in Australia this must all be done in reverse because we all know that Down Under the water swirls in an opposite direction from the northern hemisphere. This makes fixing an Australian drain all the more difficult. Besides, you really can’t trust those Australians because they’re the kind of people who would step into the bathroom while you’re fixing the sink and laugh at the fact that your ball cock extender is lying on the floor in plain sight. Ha ha, funny, funny Australians.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the folks who designed the whole ball cock system in the first place. Somehow the twisted logic that conceived this whole convoluted system makes perfect sense to me. They were all designed by people with no mechanical expertise. That is why all the drains in my house work perfectly.
I think I installed our sump pumps so that they bring water into the house, not pump it out.
That’s what happened the last time we got a major rain, anyway. The waterproofing company heard the alarm in my voice when I called to tell them our basement was flooding. They came out and put a new sump pump in for me and it worked fine while they were here. But I swear if I touch the thing to test it, the pump will reverse its role and suck wave upon wave of water into our sump pump hole where our gerbils will drown (again) like they did the last (and only) time they got out of the cage. See, rodents are wall seekers and the sump pump hole is next to the wall and, well, you get the picture. Kerplunk. Swim swim swim. I give up!
I think the sump pumps actually want me to fall down the hole so it can put me out of my home improvement misery. Really, people, that’s what sump pumps do.
Kitchen cabinet hardware is best installed upside down before you realize they actually look better right side up
Yes, half the handles on our hand-refinished wooden cabinets were put on backwards before I realized they each contained a pattern indicating which side is right side up and which is upside down. I switched them all in deep secrecy so my wife would not think me a dummy. So don’t tell her. She doesn’t know. Really.
Not burning your garage down does not count as home improvement, but it should.
I was stripping the last few feet of old paint off an 80-year old garage when I decided it was time to apply a test strip of paint to the underside of the outside apex of the garage. As soon as the paint went on, I knew it was the wrong color and decided immediately to take it off. For some stupid reason having to do with hours of exhausting labor and a brain not functioning at 100%, I aimed the torch I’d been using to strip the paint at the new, oil-based paint I’d just applied. The new paint proceeded to catch fire in a fine blue flame, so I jumped off the ladder and made a rush to grab the hose, which only made it half way across the yard. Thinking fast, I quickly filled a handy bucket with the running water and leapt up the ladder to throw the water at the now prodigious blue flame threatening to consume the whole garage. The water put the flame out, whereupon I slumped to the ground and lay there crying in alternating peals of fear and laughter. Fortunately none of the neighbors were home to witness this display of home improvement prowess.
I propose that my heroics in the face of my own stupidity should count as home improvement. Had I not put out the fire, we would not have had a garage to repaint. That’s definitely an improvement over what could have been a smoldering pile of charred rubble.
Bricks and mortar can be fun to do if you don’t care what the end results look like
The steps on our brick bungalow were falling apart. I rebuilt them by mixing a big batch of crunchy mortar, then sticking the bricks back together like a pile of big Legos. The end product looked like crap but I drove by that house 10 years later and the porch is still holding together. Chalk one up for the Mortar Master. Guess I missed out on my calling as a brick mason.
Killing the neighbor’s dog or cat does not count as home improvement, but sometimes it should
Over the years we’ve lived next door to many types of dogs and cats. None are really worse than the others. They all bark or poop in your garden and chase away the birds. But since it is illegal to kill pets without a pet killing permit (no one seems to issue those, but they should…it would be a great source of revenue in many communities). So we generally leave annoying pets alone. Doing away with a few of their noisy, intrusive animals would certainly have improved things around our home, but we also might have gone to jail. So we decided to leave well enough alone.
So ends the first edition of “Home Improvement Is A Euphemism. For Me, Anyway.” There are many more exciting examples of home improvement prowess to share with you. But they will have to wait until another day.
Just a word of caution. If you visit us, beware. The whole house is a booby trap.