Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » June 2005 » Geeks of all sorts...

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06/26/2005: Geeks of all sorts...

And here I thought Mr. Fixit was gone by Keith Blanchard (Chicago Tribune) answers that '00 dilemma of what is a Tool-Geek to do these days?

" I used to carry one of those Leatherman multipurpose tools around, but not anymore. Why? Well, one reason's the hassle at the airport.

If you hate being bullied over nail clippers, try showing up at the gate with a 17-piece multitool featuring a saw, two knives and an ice pick.

By the time you come to your senses, you'll be at baggage-claim carousel No. 1 in Guantanamo.

But the real reason I don't carry a Leatherman now is that there just isn't all that much a man can fix with hand tools anymore.

You can't repair a PDA or a digital watch or a cell phone. All the critical parts are sealed in little compartments you can't crack open without voiding your warranty. And even if you dared, the Leatherman, sadly, doesn't feature microtweezers and a soldering iron.

The golden age of the mechanical world is behind us.

A generation ago a bent coat hanger would fix the reception on your TV; a quarter taped to a phonograph's arm would keep a skipping needle in the groove. You could reach in and unstick your own typewriter without calling tech support.

I'm nostalgic for the sound a dial phone made retracting after each number: dut-dut-dut-dut-dut.

I miss Doorbell 1.0. No custom theme songs; just an electrical jolt bluntly flinging a magnetic bar back and forth between two chimes, ding and dong.

Back then, knowing you could fix the things you owned made you their master. That new digital camera? I wouldn't know where to start ... and that means it owns me.

I hate knowing that when it breaks, I'll have no choice but to take it to the repair shop, where they'll explain it's cheaper just to replace it.

Anyway, my wife's clothes dryer conked out the other day. That may sound offensive, "my wife's clothes dryer," but there's no point in even pretending I know how to use it. In our '50s-style domestic arrangement, she does all our laundry.

The catch: When an appliance breaks, fixing it is my job.

Now, I know how a dryer works. It's basically a steel box with two things in it: a great big drum that the clothes tumble around inside, and a small motor, anchored to the box, that turns it.

The drum isn't anchored at all; it's just pinched loosely in place so it can spin freely; the motor turns it by way of a long, skinny belt that wraps around the drum, pokes through an "idler pulley" that keeps the tension constant, and loops around a cog on the motor. And that's it.

Refreshingly simple.

But there's knowing how something works, and there's knowing what to do when it stops working. I have never fixed a dryer before and wouldn't know where to begin.

So, being a modern-minded guy, I decided to Google it. I typed in "Broken Whirlpool dryer! Help!" without the punctuation, and within microseconds I had 68,500 options, from sites like applianceaid.com and doityourself.com and cheapapplianceparts.com. I was able to read the instructions online, download installation photos and have the necessary parts (about $20 for both the belt and the idler pulley) overnighted to the house. They did everything but dry the actual clothes.

And now my dryer--yes, it's my dryer now--is running like a champ. A little ironic that I needed cutting-edge computer technology to indulge my old-school Mr. Fixit side? Maybe ... or maybe I just have to start thinking outside the tool belt. Hey, think I can Google "Need Clever Idea to Finish Newspaper Column?"

And Don't forget them Techno-Wizard-Geeks either. Come in handy in this Millenium to have yer very own Wizard (or at least be on goods terms with one - *wink*)

Karen on 06.26.05 @ 01:45 PM CST

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