Because life is a series of edits

Man School

In Arts, Technology on August 8, 2008 at 7:42 am

We’ve had both an electrician and a carpenter working in our home this week; early next week comes the plumber. Both have been very professional; both have known exactly what they’re doing. All we’ve done is try to stay out of their way, which has been as much of a challenge as anything.

Let me make a confession: no intellectual, theological, or spiritual teacher even comes close to intimidating me as much as a man gifted in the mechanical, technical, and vocational arts does. I am not worthy. I am so not worthy.

Bob (and his son, Jason) spent a day-and-a-half addressing our electric needs – everything from rewiring old and exposed knob-and-tube wiring to putting in ventilation fans in the bathrooms to running power to places we needed it to replacing the out-of-date fusebox with an up-to-code circuit board. Maybe it’s the risk involved (i.e. taming electricity for a living) or the fact that all the parts are new and shiny, but I was impressed with their work, especially since it looks to come in under budget.

Dave is a general contractor with a great sense of humor who is building a huge wall of built-in bookshelves for us in the front room. Though he says the key to any good construction/repair job is having good tools, I reminded him someone has to have the knowledge to use them (at which my 7-year-old – who loves helping on projects of any kind – smiled and tried to hold back a laugh, as she knows Daddy has neither). Dave says he knows us “book guys” on sight, and reminded me that new bookshelves tend to attract more books. I told him that meant job security for him. He laughed.

Bob and Dave remind me of Tubal-Cain, who the Bible records in Genesis 4 as being “the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron” (and who must have been pretty handy with them as well). I make the joke that the only thing I can do with a tool is lose it; these guys have great tools, sure, but the way they handle them is an art, as is their creativity in making needed repairs to an 88-year-old house. It’s fascinating to watch (which we all did yesterday while Dave started installing bookshelves), not to mention inspiring as well.

In fact, after Bob installed the special outlet for our electric dryer, I was so inspired that I attempted to switch out the previous owners’ washer and dryer (which we had been using) with our more energy efficient pair. It took over an hour, flooded a third of the basement, and (as is always par for the course with me) required doing everything twice to get it right, but I did it. I even remembered to turn off the gas so the house wouldn’t explode. I’ve been doing laundry non-stop ever since, I’m so proud.

When we lived in Colorado, my friend Derek was just as gifted as any professional: he could fix anything (only he never charged us for it). When “we” were working on a project, about the only thing I was good for (other than providing a cold beverage and some classic rock) was cleaning up the mess, which I usually did real-time just to have something to do. Derek would always shake his head and tell me to wait until we were done, but it was what I could do, so I did it. Insecurity manifests itself in many ways.

Though it’s not meant as a slam on me or anyone else inept in most things mechanical, Derek has a dream to start what he calls “Man School” – a series of weekend classes to teach guys how to do “man stuff”: oil changes, basic plumbing, some carpentry, etc. I think it’s a great idea and would think about enrolling by extension, but I’m too afraid I’d flunk out. I told Derek I need the vocational version of Man School – the “shop class” of shop class, if you will – but I’m not sure what the syllabus would include for that. Finding (and remembering) where the water shut-off is? Navigating your way to/through Home Depot? The basics of changing a light bulb?

Maybe I’ll just teach the “clean up” course at the end.

  1. I’ve always wanted to take a community college course on that kind of stuff… especially related to car care… I just hate walking into a mechanic with that big ol’ target right on my chest, which looks even shinier when you have a few kids in tow or, say, are 8 months pregnant. I’d at least like to have a hint, or a whiff, that the BS is starting to fly in my face.

    Both my dad and my step-dad have always been handy with this kind of stuff, around the house, under the hood, and I suppose ‘cuz I was a girl, it never occurred to either of them or to me to follow them around the house for free lessons.

    So, if you ever hear tell of this “Man School” starting up, count us in.

  2. Good idea for Derek. Having heard several Derek tales over the years, I’d bet he could pull it off pretty well.

    On the other hand: what fun that you’re getting so much progress made toward settling in and making the place your own! I can’t wait to see it the next time I/we come to St. Louis.

    Our place is coming along, too– the new space upstairs should (hopefully) be finished by late September/early October, so it would be super to have y’all come for another visit after that. No pressure, or anything…

  3. Craig, we are so alike, it’s scary. We’ve even caused similar household disasters. (I flooded the bathroom when trying to put on a new toilet seat.) (Don’t ask.)

    I would totally enroll in “Man School” with you. Maybe together we could bring the curve more toward our direction.

  4. Okay, I just can’t help myself.

    This makes me laugh. I was raised by a man much like you. I mean light bulbs were even a problem in our house growing up.

    It has been so strange to be married to someone who knows what to do. Jason has such patience with projects. He added on an enitre master bedroom. The amazing thing is that his dad almost called someone in when his dishwasher basket came off the runners.

    So, Craig, I don’t know if man school will work. I think it’s genetic. But the world needs thinkers and cleaners. And, sadly, many of these men are rarely held in such high regard as you have given them today. I have discovered a new peace living with such a man. My appreciation will never end.

    Even better, are the men like Derek that generously help those in need. He is a friend of great value!

  5. First of all, I know exactly how you feel. I am completely intimidated by any project requiring tools, or know-how. And I am always in awe of people who know how to do stuff.

    Secondly, please tell me you didn’t mention Tubal-Cain to the carpenter. Believe me, citing minor characters in ancient Semitic documents does NOT increase your cool quotient. (but again, I understand the impulse, see above-cited blog post)

  6. Nah, I just went straight to the whole Jesus-was-a-carpenter-too thing, which I’m sure bombed my cool quotient (who’s keeping that, by the way?) out of the water.

  7. Ive been offered a hand me down, but would rather get a modern one, has anyone got one of these:

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