Watt the heck happened?

“The bulb broke off in the socket and you can’t get it out,” said the wizened helper at our local True Value hardware store. I’d walked in holding the socket and the broken remains of a three-way bulb aloft in a plastic baggie.

“Well, yes,” I said, “but that’s not the problem.” He was already heading to the front desk to get a screwdriver. Quick as a bulb burning out, he had the shards removed.  “What happened is, I put in a new bulb, after the bulb I’d just replaced two days ago burned out. When I screwed the newest bulb  in, it flashed then exploded. Glass sprayed all over. It looked like fireworks.”

He stroked his chin. No place but in a local hardware store would a clerk stroke his chin. Nor for that matter, help without being asked. I love local shops.

The solution was, buy a new socket assembly. I bought that and a bag of the peppermints I can only find at Christmas. The guys at the counter laughed at me. “Well-l, I didn’t really come in here to buy candy,” I said, attempting to make excuses for myself.

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40 years’ use shows.

The next day I decided I could replace that socket myself. I consulted our 1975 edition of How things work in your home) and what to do when they don’t.  Can’t beat its concise directions and easy to understand drawings. I attached the twisty little copper wires onto one thingie, then the other twisty copper wires to the other thingie. Put in a new bulb, and POW. Three in two days. I was running out of bulbs. I called son-in-law Martin. He and Les were on their way out — they’d stop by in a few minutes.

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Look at diagrams once, and once again.

When I showed him how carefully I’d followed the book’s instructions, he looked at me with a grin teetering on the edge of laughter. “That’s not the ground,” he said, “this is. You shorted it out.” I mistakenly wrapped one of the copper twizzlies around the switch instead of the terminal. Not good.

Within seconds he’d done it properly. Helpful sons-in-law are as good to have as a helpful hardware man. We have another good son-in-law in Bill, but he lives too far away for these drive-by fix-its I seem to need more and more often these days.

 

Easy writer.

He’s a handyman, a carpenter, a Jack-of-all-trades. I’ll call him John. He is also a writer and a motorcycle-riding trout fisherman. He drives an aging little red truck to his jobs.

John has a never-ending supply of tales. One is about some women he has worked for who were more than just a bit flirtatious. He has never known how to  handle that situation. “I’m a bit of an innocent,” he says. One  member of our writers’ group dubbed him “Handyman of Love.” He laughed uproariously with the rest of us.

He joined the group because he wanted to rub elbows with real writers and learn whatever he could about writing. After he submitted a story about a motorcycle ride there was no doubt that he’s got what it takes. To this day he insists he can’t write.

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©webart grab

Several members are married to men who aren’t very handy, so they hired John. Though my husband used to be able to fix just about anything, his skills are lost to escalating dementia. John has helped us out with tasks big and small over the past eighteen months.

Last summer, during an extremely hot spell, he painted our front door, the window shutters, the carport and installed new gutters along its edges. It was miserable weather for outside work on a brick house that radiates heat like a pizza oven.

The afternoon he finished he came around to the back where Leslie and I were sitting in the shade drinking iced coffee. He refused my offer of something cold. We chatted for a while, and John entertained us with his yarns while I punctuated with shouts that these were the stories he should write. He tries to hide behind the excuse that he doesn’t have a “voice.” I argue that his tales are his voice.

While we talked, he mopped his face and neck with a towel.  When he stood up to leave, he said he had to put a clean tee-shirt on. Leslie and I looked at each other. We had no idea why he said that, but he got up, unfurled a shirt he’d had in his lap, and pulled it on over the shirt he was wearing.

He explained. “I’ve got to have a hug before I leave, but who would hug a sweaty handyman?”

That’s a story, John!” I said, and hugged him back.

I figured he’d never write the story, so I did. Someone had to!

Turn the other cheek.

Electronic devices with beeps and blinking lights and cables baffle me.Screen shot 2015-04-28 at 11.41.38 AM Lead me to a cave. I’ll carve my messages on rocks.

Take my new smart phone, for instance. True, my ancient fliptop was beyond help, but did I really need a so-called “phone” that reports on the stock market, takes my pulse, lets me send texts, emails, and question an otherworldly woman who doesn’t know the answers either? I can take photos with this “phone,” read a book or a map, listen to music, play games, get a weather report and watch a movie. The “phone” part of the phone seems incidental.

No one calls me.

My technical advisors — family — insisted it was time. So I bought a phone that seldom rings, and when it does I’m not sure how to answer it. Son-in-law Martin called a few days ago. “Hello,” I said to no one there. Three more calls and we finally connected. Martin thought something was wrong since I never call him and I’d rung so many times. I said I was returning his calls.

He laughed. “Oh, must’ve been ‘butt dialing.'”

Ack, really‽

That same evening, our blank t.v. screen advised that our service was down. I’d figured that out because the screen was…um…blank. I called help and after intense questioning to identify myself and our equipment — think CIA interrogation — the young woman instructed, “Unplug the cable box from the power source.”

I followed the cable to the power strip. Done!

“Now, what is the bar code number on the back of the box?”

I couldn’t see a bar code. “Where would it be?” I asked.

“Upper right,” she said.

“Nope, nothing there.” I recited all the numbers I saw, but none was right.

I should say here, that the floor behind our t.v is a nest of cables that coil around each other in an incestuous stranglehold.  As I studied the entwined mess I realized I had not only unplugged the wrong box, but I was looking for numbers on the wrong box too.

I explained what I’d done. “Sorry,” I said, “but you should see what I’m dealing with here!” My laugh was hysteria-tinged because now I was wedged between wall and t.v., sitting in a nest of dust bunnies. Getting out would not be pretty.

She giggled. “No problem,” she said. “Let me know when you’ve found the bar code number.”

“Bingo,” I yelled.

“Now tell me what you see on your screen.,” she said.

“Hang on while I crawl around to the front.”

She explained the next steps as patiently as I hope she would explain to her own grandmother — service reconnecting, channels reloading, etc. “Wait fifteen minutes before trying to select a channel,” she reminded, then bid me good night.

Next day, Bill, my husband’s companion, arrived to take Peter and Nobby to their weekly therapy dog, nursing home visit. Bill and I chatted while we waited for Peter. Repetitive beeps came from behind Bill, but he wasn’t “pocket dialing,” no,  he was leaning against the stove’s set-timer button.

A while later — I knew it was only mid-afternoon — when I looked at the stove’s clock it read 6:15. Apparently Bill had “turned the other cheek” when he moved to the left, and in the doing had set the clock several hours ahead. This without a phone in his pocket! What a guy.

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© Johnson 6/12, UFS, Inc

 

 

 

 

Confucius say what?!

Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 2.36.56 PMFor more than twenty years I believed that our dear English friend Louie came up with the phrase “Wherever you go, there you are.” I’ve learned that not only did Confucius say it, but dozens of writers use it as titles on their blogs, and mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote a book with Confucius’ words as the title. It has been centuries since Confucius (551-479 BCE) made that astute observation, so plagarism isn’t an issue.

I learned all this in the most roundabout way. I requested permission to quote from Kevin O’Keefe’s “Real Lawyers Have Blogs” post, “Blog to people, not at people.”  His words about blogging resonated: “I was taught to blog as if it were a conversation. … At times I have thought of blogging as letter writing. The kind we did by hand from college forty years ago. At other times, I have thought of blogging as being the late night DJ talking to a radio audience of one. … Blogging is about getting to know each other. Developing trust. Developing relationships. Developing reputations. This requires a conversation. Writing to people, not at people.”

O’Keefe referred me to author and business consultant Euan Semple, “The Obvious,” who approved my request to use his thoughts about good writing: “Good writing is more like letter writing. It is written to you not at you. It draws you closer, is offered to you deferentially, like two people who know and trust each other having a conversation, taking turns, listening as much as talking. It is our natural way of writing. …”

Semple referred me to John Kabat-Zinn  I didn’t know — duh-h — until I Googled the mindfulness guru about the book he’d written in 1994, “Wherever you go, there you are.” It’s still in print and I’ll have a copy for myself before another sunset. Here’s one of many memorable quotes: “Wherever you go, there you are. Whatever you wind up doing, that’s what you’ve wound up doing. Whatever you are thinking right now, that’s what’s on your mind, Whatever has happened to you, it has already happened. The important question is, how are you going to handle it?”

Kabat-Zinn, the father of modern-day mindfulness, further defines the practice like this: “Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” He also says, “Writing can be an incredible mindfulness practice.”

Ooo, I like that!

Old Confucius offered another twist on the words so many of us use: “Wherever you go, go with all of your heart.”

Like that, too. Maybe it explains my absolute obsession love affair with blogging.Screen shot 2015-01-13 at 2.11.12 PM

Post postscript:
No sooner did I decide I’d polished this post enough,
than I got a surprise.
At our recent writers’ group meeting,
writer/friend John handed me a book.
“Look what I found!” he said.
It was a copy of Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever you go, there you are.
My friend didn’t know I’d been planning this post
nor that I wanted a copy of the book.
Serendipitous!