I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I have the mechanical aptitude of an eraser, which means I also suck at analogies.
Maybe I have the mechanical aptitude of a stick. Not a stick that someone chooses from the forest floor and then lovingly sharpens into an effective tool, but the type of stick you’d normally walk over. The second type of stick is the kind you pick up out of necessity. It might be good for smacking rabid cave bats, or — more likely — it will disintegrate upon impact revealing a totally rotten core.
What I mean is, I’m kind of, sort of, mechanically disinclined. I can fix basic shit. And by basic shit I mean anything that takes less than 15 minutes and/or has a well done “wikiHow” dedicated to it.
Putting together a piece of furniture? On a scale of 1-10 I’m a nine.
Unstopping a drain? I’m a five.
Fixing something electrical? You’ll find me in the corner of the room sucking my thumb and sobbing softly.
But, this lack of knowledge about household repairs or the fact that I don’t even possess a basic set of tools does little to dissuade me from trying.
For example, several months ago I ran over, with the lawn mower, an electrical box that once powered a pump that fed a koi pod in my backyard. (Some of you remember my koi pond tribulations from Facebook. Those of you who do will receive a HadaFewBeers gold star in the mail in the coming weeks.)
After the lawnmower incident, not only did our koi die of suffocation (or whatever is the opposite of suffocation if you’re a fucking fish), but our house kept losing power when it rained. Five drops of rain would fall and BAM, I’d have to reset the breaker. It was maddening, but I was too mechanically daft to put two -and- two together. It took an electrician exactly five minutes, having never been to my house before, to diagnose the problem.
I live here and was just utterly baffled by what was causing the blackouts.
I bring all of this up because a while ago when I returned from three weeks on a business trip, I discovered the American Forces Network signal coming into our loving abode was fucked up. The video was choppy and the sound cut out every few seconds.
It was clear to me that the dish had become misaligned during a storm.
Had it been up to me, I would have wished the American Forces Network a fond farewell and tossed the whole thing– satellite dish, receiver, remote control and associated wiring — into the trash. I’d have been happy to never subject myself to another AFN commercial. But my wife, she still found the weekly line up of, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, So You Think You Can Dance and, I cringe, Desperate Housewives interesting.
Maybe AFN provides invaluable information and quality programming to service members and civilians stationed overseas, or maybe it’s the number one cause of boner cancer, I don’t know. I’d happily dump it all for one good dose of late night European television boob-o-rama marathon.
But the wife likes AFN. Using my craptastic mechanical diagnosis abilities (I pressed the signal info button on the remote) I discovered the signal strength was only one (on a scale of 1-10). It had been seven the last time I checked (which was when it was installed so god knows what it was when I left) and one was just not cutting it.
Despite having worked directly for and with AFN for years I had never actually touched an AFN dish. Well that’s not true, I’d touched them, but I’d never actually done anything more than load and unload them into my car. I might have once, in Italy, helped a friend install one.
The extent of my assistance consisted of drinking her beer, handing her a wrench and saying “Yep” a lot while channeling Hank from King of the Hill.
So clearly, I was overqualified to absolutely make a bad situation worse.
That following Saturday, with a beer in one hand, a wrench in the other and a recently downloaded iPhone app that allegedly helps align a satellite signal, my overinflated ego and I went out on to the balcony where the dish was mounted.
I could totally do this.
And actually I could. The app kind of worked, the iPhone compass worked, the internet gave pretty good instructions, all I needed was a tiny bit of help in the form of a “watcher.”
I don’t know how satellite dish alignment normally goes, but in my house it went like this: Dagmar sat in front of the television while the satellite signal and strength menu was on display; I moved the dish back and forth; she hollered the results. As soon as I loosened the bolts securing the dish to the patio railing the dish became completely misaligned and both the signal and signal strength values became zero.
Apparenlty, the dish was barely aimed at the satellite when I started, so when I loosened the bolts holding it in place, it was no longer pointed at the satellite at all. What I needed Dagmar to do was for about 30 minutes intensely watch a screen that would likely not at all change and report back to me that nothing had changed all the way up until something did. I move the dish and she has to yell at me, almost every minute or so, “nothing yet” unless the signal did change and then she needed to yell that at me.
My wife has a higher tolerance for shitty TV signals (and shitty TV shows) than I do. She couldn’t quite grasp the logic of what we were doing. Sure, the signal sucked but it worked right? Also, she knows me and likely figured that barring a professional satellite installer showing up, a shitty TV signal was better than my attempting to do anything about it.
For a solid five minutes she dutifully stuck to it. But, having been married many, many years, I could tell that after about five minutes she wasn’t really paying attention anymore. As the minutes passed, her replies to my, “Any signal yet” query were met with decreasing enthusiasm .
Well, fine I figured, it’s not exciting watching an unchanging menu on a TV screen while someone asks you over and over again if anything’s changed. Finally, though, she just stopped answering all together. This I understood to mean success!
I tightened the bolts on the dish and walked back into the house to revel in my accomplishment when I find my wife’s phone abandoned near the TV. She’s in the laundry room separating the dark clothes from the whites (she’s totally racist). Her response was that aligning the dish was\10oring.
As for the TV, there was no picture at all. This really pissed me off since I felt as though I was on the precipice of a successful repair. This could have been my saving grace. I could have been a hero. But alas, Dagmar (and I say her name with a growl here) was too darn busy and too darn bored to give a shit.
Fine. My response was to leave the dish unaligned for a week. No Dancing With the Stars, no The Voice, no TV at all. Hell, I’ve said it before, I don’t watch the damned thing. I get my news from my computer/iPhone. And if I did watch TV programs I’d watch online.
If she didn’t care I didn’t care. I put the wrench away and deleted the satellite finding app.
It was kind of a tough week for her. Every day I heard about it. I pointed to the vast ocean of DVDs we own, or the library of books downstairs. I handed her the iPad she had to have a few years back and showed her how to navigate to this or that site. But nothing would satiate her.
The week passed, slowly. Well, slowly for her.
The following Saturday I decided to tackle the dish issue again. This time her responses to the question “anything now” were fast and loud. Every single time I called out, she cheerfully reported back. Half an hour later, the signal was on money.
For once I was right. Suck it married life, I was right. It felt good and it will be trotted up during every argument we have in the future. “Oh yeah, well maybe I was wrong about that thing I did that day, but remember that day in 2014 when I was right? Well in your face!”