“You’re a man! Fix that thing!”
Nate Owens can’t fix things. And the only saving grace is that things can’t fix Nate Owens either.
I’m convinced that I missed a vital bionic implant somewhere that should have given me the ability to fix things. The ability to repair anything, or at least repair it well, is beyond me. It’s too bad too, because at some point men became known as being the “fixers” of the world. It’s why I secretly dread owning a home. If the furnace breaks, I don’t know whether I should hit the carburetor with a flathead screwdriver until the hard drive falls out, or if I should just drain the oil, replace the u-bend, and adjust the EQ. My usual solution is to do nothing until it breaks completely, and then pay someone else to fix it while I feel compelled to stand and watch.
But there are times when my strategy of hope-it-fixes-itself just won’t work. A couple of weeks ago our lawnmower gave out on us. To be fair, I brought this on myself. Our lawnmower is really more of a mulcher. It likes to grind things up, but it’s not a big fan of throwing them very far. If I wait too long to mow the grass I end up with lovely straight lines of cut grass when I’m done. It’s great when it rains and my yard looks like a rice paddy, but it’s less great when I need to mow again, because I continually have to angle the mower up to clear the blades so I can continue making those important little piles.
On this particular occasion the piles had gotten rather big, and our mower decided enough was enough. In protest, it gummed up and promptly quit working. I cleared it out and pulled the starter cord. Obviously the cord was in on the joke, because it broke by the handle then retreated quickly into the engine, where I swear I heard it laughing at me. You see, machines are like dogs and toddlers: they can sense and exploit weakness. Clearly my lawnmower knew who it was dealing with.
Of course I wasn’t even close to being done. I thought about leaving the lawn half-mowed, but that would be embarrassing even for such a lawn-impaired man like me. So I borrowed one from our neighbors, who have been kind enough to loan us their mower several times before. Suffice to say, this is not the first time a lawnmower has died for us. The problem is that it’s getting harder and harder to find a good lawnmower for $35.
After finishing the lawn I went back to our garage, where I had taken my slightly-broken mower. I’m not sure what I expected to see, but watching too much Doctor Who had led me to hope it had regenerated into a younger, better-looking lawnmower. Unfortunately no such regeneration had taken place, perhaps because it hadn’t absorbed the Time Vortex, but had simply snapped its starter cord, hardly a fatal wound. In fact it seemed like an easy fix. It wouldn’t be too hard to buy a new cord, look up a video on YouTube, and fix it myself. I resolved to fix it that afternoon.
Two weeks later, I sat down with some basic tools and my tablet to finally vanquish my fear of fixing. But alas, it would seem that our mower was not forthcoming with its secrets. I was able to locate the bolts that would let me open up the starter unit and replace the cord. The problem was that the bolts didn’t use any kind of tool I knew about. I called my neighbor over, and he suggested that it might require an Allen wrench. I knew this wasn’t the case, because I have a set of Allen wrenches and I am sure my lawnmower took this into account. He suggested that I could pull out the entire starter unit and “get at it from underneath”. I wasn’t totally sure what he meant, but while I may not subscribe to the male cliché of fixing things, I do subscribe to the male cliché of not admitting when I don’t understand something.
I’m not sure if it was my attempt to remove rusty bolts with a pair of pliers, or the realization that I was removing the gas tank that made me stop what I was doing. This was insanity. Surely there was someone else who could fix my terrible mower for me. So I started to put bolts back in, when my fingers slipped and dropped the bolts into the starter unit, the one sealed by the Forbidden Bolts of Mystery. It was at this point when it became obvious that the lawnmower had won. I stacked the rest of the pieces on top of the mower and wheeled it into the garage, where it still sits like a gas-powered tree stump.
It really wasn’t a very good lawnmower in the first place, so replacing it seemed like the way to go. We drove to Sears and selected a modestly priced lawnmower that, unlike our current model, didn’t look like it ran on crystal meth. The shopkeep stood there and recited a litany of instructions on how to properly maintain it. I have every intention of doing these things, but I’m still a little scared to use the new mower, like a teenager who’s afraid to be himself around an attractive girl. I also really should move the old lawnmower from the garage if I’m going to keep the new one there. I don’t want its sense of humor rubbing off on the new guy.
photo: dasqfamily / flickr