There's no quick fix anymore, but it makes the celebration sweeter

When all else fails, read the directions.


-- Famous last resort

I'm at the age where, if I'm not breaking down, my stuff is.

It started Tuesday morning when the car door handle came off in my hand.

My first thought was, "Wow, so this is what Superman feels like."

Followed quickly by, "Hmmm, I wonder if I can fix this?"

I soon found out the answer was no. The days are long gone when you could fix your car with something you had sitting around the house.

I sort of had a solution involving a coat hanger wire and duct tape, but my wife said it made me look like Jed Clampett and that I needed to call in professional help.

Professional help comes at a professional price.

Apparently door handles for my 10-year-old car are not common, and they had to send off to the Smithsonian to find one.

It cost as much as a set of tires, but I reluctantly paid it.

I was brooding over this when my wife asked whether I could fix the kitchen light switch.

"What's wrong with it?" I asked because the lights appeared to be on.

"They won't turn off," she said.

She was right. The double switches wobbled loosely as if disconnected.

When I unscrewed the switch cover to assess the damage, all sorts of cracked plastic pieces and copper parts fell to floor. I got my flashlight and stared in at the jumble of wires and admitted quickly to my bride that I had never, in almost four decades of home ownership, repaired a light switch.

Again, she suggested professional involvement. But, because we're still waiting for an electrician I called eight years ago to show up, I drove to the hardware store and came back 30 minutes later with something that looked like it might work.

I flipped off the fuse box switch, peered into the switch housing, checked around for any blackened or melted parts that would suggest electrical problems and found none.

I then reconnected wires to screws that seemed comparable to those on the old, broken switch.

Then I cut the power back on and carefully began trying out my new switches. It worked wonderfully.

So then I crammed all the wiring back inside, pushed the switches into place, screwed them in tightly, replaced the switch cover and then annoyed my wife for several minutes by turning the lights on and off, and remarking about all the money I saved instead of calling an electrician.

She finally got tired of my self-congratulatory chirps and said, "So why don't you fix the bicycle?"

Ah, yes. The bicycle.

You see, last month, my son had borrowed a bike from a neighbor down the road, driven it home, then watched in disbelief as the chain popped off just as he pulled into the driveway. And the next morning both tires were flat, defying repeated efforts at re-inflation.

Well, you can't return a borrowed bike if it's broken. So for six weeks it has rested on the back porch waiting for the Bike Fairy to drop by and repair it.

Because that seemed as likely as the electrician showing up (see above), and because I was still a bit smug at my light switch victory, I said, "Sure. Sounds like fun."

Well, it wasn't.

It took parts of two days to assess the challenge. It turned out there were five small pin-hole leaks in the two tires. I got a patch kit.

It also turned out that the chain wouldn't stay on because a link was partly broken. The solution appeared to be replacing the chain.

It took three store stops to find one. It took three hours to get it on. Apparently there are tools for this sort of thing, but I don't have them.

I do, however, have screwdrivers, pliers, a hammer and an angry but persistent patience.

This is what kicked in after I got it all -- tires and everything -- put back together, only to realize that the chain was about three links too long.

I started over: Deflated the tires, took them off, removed the chain, decided to read the instructions and was informed that the chain was slightly longer than normal but could be shortened with some sort of rivet tool I did not have.

Pliers, screwdriver and hammer went back to work, and 60 minutes later I was test driving it around the neighborhood. Sun on my face. Wind in my hair. Grease and blood on my knuckles.

Two out of three on the repair front.

Not a bad week to be in a fix.

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or



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