Monthly Archives: July 2012

When repairs go wrong.

As you many know, I have always been a fan of fixing something that is broken if possible rather than just tossing it and buying something new.  There are so many reasons to do this: saving money (by at least delaying a purchase), throwing away less trash and just feeling good at the accomplishment.  Recently my pool cleaner was not working and rather than spend $400 on a new one, I was able to buy all the replacement parts and essentially rebuild the entire thing other than the case itself for $80, and some of you may have read about my restoration of a friends 1960’s floor lamp.  Awesome, right?

Sometimes repairs go wrong.

No big deal or big cost, but I was using my 25-foot tape measure recently to measure something damn near 25 feet long.  I should say that a 25-foot tape measure is really a 20-foot tape measure, since taking those last five feet out often results in it not going back in again.  As was this case.  No problem; I’ll fix it!

I took it apart, knowing it would need to rewind the spring in it.  I started winding it back up, checking to see if it had enough winding to pull the tape all the way in when I heard a loud SNAP, which was the spring breaking near the end.  Well crap, looks like I’m not fixing this.

What I was unprepared for was what was left of the wound spring essentially EXPLODING out of the case when I went to set it on my desk. I’m glad I was clear because the edges of the spring are razor sharp!Image

Moral of the story: Much like in life in general; we can’t fix everything.

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Fixing things…

Though I have always have been one to try to fix something that is broken before considering buying something new, my time away from work recently has caused me to look at this even more closely.  Whether it is repairing my own shoe sole when the shoe uppers are still in great shape, having my dry cleaner put a patch on my Lucky jeans where my ass has worn the them thin or getting all the parts to repair my pool cleaner, there is satisfaction for me in extending the life of something that I own.  If I can get another year out of something and delay a purchase, awesome.

This has generally been limited to my own “stuff”, though after reading an article in the New York Times about a “repair cafe” in Amsterdam it makes me wonder how many interesting and possibly useful items are sitting around in people’s home and apartments in downtown Phoenix.  Would something like that be possible here?  At the very least, perhaps I could keep my eye out for “things that need fixin'”…

It didn’t take long to find something; while visiting a friend downtown I noticed an interesting floor lamp likely from the 1960s; kitschy wooden leaves and big plastic shades meant to make it look like a multi-colored flower.  My friend had it sitting outside because it didn’t work; the wiring was gone, bulbs were out and the switch was not working properly anyway (it was one of those cool old mechanical rotary switches where one click turns on one light, then another turns that one off and other two, then a third click turns them all on and another all off).  I asked if I could take it and see what I could do.

I wish I had taken photos during the process; I disassembled the entire lamp, polished all of the brass pieces which were quite tarnished, cleaned and oiled all of the wood (being outside in Phoenix had really dried it up), fixed the nicks in the finish with furniture markers and cleaned the the shades which were caked with dust in all of the nooks and crannies.  So it was clean and looked nice, but my goal was to light this baby up!

I found the problem with the switch and repaired that, ran new wiring all through it, got some bulbs and then even put a dimmer on it (I think EVERY light should have a dimmer).  Even I was surprised how nicely it turned out:

I brought it back to my friend and she was almost in tears.  Total cost for making this huge difference?  About ten bucks and couple of hours of work to bring back a 50 year old lamp to almost original.  I felt great for saving something so nostalgic and she loved the mood it created in her small but cool space.  The best part for me was when I asked her about a week later if she had used the lamp; her response?

“Use it?  It’s the ONLY light I use now.”

And it had been sitting, not working, and getting dusty on a patio.

Mission accomplished.

The bad airplane seatmate…

It was a pretty full flight; when that’s the case, the best chance of having an empty center seat (since I tend to sit on the aisle) is to go to the BACK of the plane.  I didn’t follow my own advice and ended up with the seatmate from hell.  Where to start?

First of all, he was a big guy, both tall and wide.  Why he would choose to sit between two dudes when there were other center seats further back is beyond me.  Then he really did think his “personal item” (which was the size of a carry-on suitcase) could fit under the seat in front of him, which it couldn’t.  Fortunately for him (and possibly unfortunately for anyone needing to leave this plane in a hurry, as we were in an exit row) he was able to hide this fact from the flight attendant with his what I can only describe as bell-bottom dress pant legs.  I noticed these while he was taking off his SHOES.

You know how we often don’t mind the smell of our own feet?  Someone else’s, especially in confined space where I am trapped for the next 90 to 120 minutes.  Oh lord.

So then, he opens up and proceeds to eat an entire airport pepperoni pizza.  And then a salad SMOTHERED in Italian dressing.  Washing it down with a 32-ounce Coke.  Keep in mind this is a 90 minute flight; a airport or some peanuts couldn’t tide you over?

I thought the worst of it was over; the pizza and dressing smells had dissipated, I came to accept that I could leap over his bag if I needed to get off the plane through the emergency exit, he was done loudly slurping the last tiny drops out of his monster Coke using a straw (men use straws?) and I had successfully handed over his pile of trash to the flight attendant.  Maybe now he will sit for the last 45 minutes of this short flight?

Ah, nothing like a big meal and the gentle rocking of an airplane to help one fall asleep.  AND START SNORING LIKE A CHAINSAW.  Are you kidding me??

And we wonder why every now and then, someone goes crazy and tries to open the cabin door while in flight…

Shoot me now.

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