This dad is householdly challenged

By Anthony Buccino

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The trick to taking off the front of the drier is knowing where and which screws come off. This can be quickly learned by watching the repairman when he comes to put it back together after the first time you do it.


The past 19 years have been full of exciting challenges as my hammer and I boldly went where no handy daddy ever ventured to trek. With it and my trusty ton of tools we sallied forth plying pliers, drilling bits, shoving shovels, shinning shingles, leading leaders and downing downspouts * you name it, we faced every challenge this old house threw at us. And then some.

There was the truckload of topsoil the nursery delivered that I and a borrowed wheel barrow trudged from the front driveway to the back yard. Of course, the fresh topsoil would help the grass grow green and luscious. And the aerated soil would be good for the worms I might someday take fishing.

How long it took to move the topsoil from the front driveway to the back, no one to this day remembers. Some storytellers will tell you it was delivered one late Saturday and miraculously was clear of the driveway on Monday morning in time for the wifeís car to be driven cheerfully to work.

Believe what you want, as I remember it, the topsoil was spread across the lawn and bag after bag of grass seeds were sown into the loose earth. Then, as fate would have it, four straight days of rain washed all the topsoil to oblivion and the yard looked pretty much as it had before the truckload of topsoil was delivered from the nursery -- except for the extraordinary amounts of mud tracked into the kitchen by man and Labrador retriever for a month of Sundays.

When a tree limb was resting on the roof of the house, I lugged out the 6,000 ton aluminum ladder that has always been chained safely to our fence. Slamming it into the gate, the ladder dented and tore the plastic coated wiring that can stand hurricane force. I guess no one told the manufacturer about handy dads. Swinging the ladder past the gate and into the brittle asbestos shingles, I was able to chip away a large enough chunk to see what is underneath those crisp old shingles.

Placing the ladder at the foot of the front steps I carefully began to lift it, then it jumped the curb and took out one of the electric sidewalk lights. But, at least I did not drop the 6,000 ton aluminum ladder. Thatís not how much it could hold, thatís what it seemed to weigh.

Another try at hoisting the ladder showed that it reached just a foot or so short of the roof and gutter. No problem, thatís what the raggedy rope hanging in my face is for * you pull it like this, and nothing happens. Itís supposed to slide the ladder to make it longer. But this one must have lain in the rain too long to slide.

Fixing the ladder was simply a matter of lowering it once again to the ground and then squirting gobs of oil at every place where the two pieces of aluminum ladder met, then scientifically kicking the ladder while saying those magic words they teach in handy daddy school, and voila, the ladder is sliding like an eel through margarine.

Once the ladder was in place, it was a matter of walking the albatross sideways along the gutter to where the tree branch rested on the roof. A quick, yet slick, scoot up the ladder with trusty saw and tools, and, in short order, the limb was free from being attached to the tree. It promptly fell like a ton of firewood to the ground, bringing with it the wires connecting our telephone to the house. Fortunately, it was Sunday and we werenít expecting any calls.

With all the outside projects taken care of, it was time to check the chit list to finish off the inside projects. I quickly recalled that my wifeís Aunt Zita knew of someone who knew of someone who never washed her clothes unless she was in the house. As I recall, the womanís washer hoses broke and flooded her basement. Either that, or the lady never leaves her clothes drier on because she read that someone elseís drier caught fire because of built-up lint in the exhaust hose and vent.

That was good enough for me to move the drier vent to the top of the to-do list. This would be a snap because Iíve done it at least a couple of times in the dozen or more years weíve had the drier. Mostly I remembered that the first time I took the drier apart, not only were there extra screws leftover, but it wasnít the back of the drier that was supposed to come off.

The trick to taking off the front of the drier is knowing where and which screws come off. This can be quickly learned by watching the repairman when he comes to put it back together after the first time you do it.

Of course, this is an ideal time to remind you that you should never tackle anything like this unless you: absolutely know what you are doing; cannot find any one of your useless friends who knows how to do it; it is a Sunday night; you have plenty of insurance on yourself and your house.

We have two choices when it comes to cleaning out the drier exhaust vent. We can visit the hardware store and spend a few bucks on a new hose, pull out the old one, install the new one, tighten the clamps, and weíd be done.

But since it is after nine on a Sunday, we break out the old vacuum cleaner, slip on the nozzle and peel off the cruddy old exhaust vent, and start vacuuming. In an hour or so the dust bunnies are everywhere and being tracked from there onto the burgundy carpet.

The exhaust hose safely in place, and the master handy dad cleans out the lint trap so the drier will again have years and years of safe, clean operation. A shove here, a twist or two there and the drier is back right where it was before anyone suspected the lint from the vent hose could stuff a TV pillow.

Rambling Round, Inside and Outside at the Same Time by Anthony BuccinoAs handy dads throughout history have learned, once theyíve finished a project, the true test is not until the appliance is once again operating as it did before the handy dad did the right thing and fixed the damn thing himself.

It is usually at this point that I call my old pal Sal LaBruzza. No, we donít know him that well, but he knows where we live. ďIíve been here before,Ē he said as I led him down the basement. Heís the guy who comes over all the time to get the gas drier running again * this time, after I show him the dangling yellow wire that connects nothing to something that looks like spaghetti. He makes a trip to his truck, orders the part and comes back in a few hours and fixes it one-two-three with a snap and a click.

Meanwhile, Iíve got my toolbox with me, but I canít, for the life of me, find that chit list anywhere. Maybe Sal used it to check out the pilot light?

©  1997 by Anthony Buccino

 First published as ĎThis handy dad is householdly challengedí in Worrall Community Newspapers on Jan, 16, 1997

From the book Rambling Round, Inside and Outside at the Same Time

ANTHONY'S WORLD

Anthony Buccino


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New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards.

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