Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ten Cent Repair

Ah, house repair. Nothing conjures the image of a cursing dad better than those words.

...dumb, frattin', housesnickle viper!

While I didn’t have to struggle with a rassafrassin’ furnace, I did have to fix our disposal. Somehow, someone* dropped a dime in the garbage disposal.

Not a pay phone

Naturally, this deposit into the First National Bank of Kitchen Appliances went unnoticed until the disposal was switched on. After some entertainingly distressing noises, the garbage disposal ground to a halt. Upon close inspection, the dime was revealed to have snuggled down into a cozy spot between the spinning bottom plate and the inner wall of the disposal. The spin of the plate managed to wedge it under a small bump of metal, encasing it both on top and bottom.

Secure in its Fortress of Solitude, the dime feared no interference from nefarious ne’er do wells

Stacy and I struggled with the dime for a while, but it was well and truly jammed. I determined that no less than removing the disposal to get into its innards would free the dime from its cozy new home. Not having the energy or time, I did one of the things I do best, put it off for later.

Or never, whatever

We lived the next few weeks with no disposal. It seemed that any time I was ready to work on the sink, either it was full of dishes or the dishwasher was running. Oh, also I was lazy. The stars finally aligned today and I was determined to vanquish the rogue coin. I armed myself with a bucket full of wrenches, screwdrivers, and clamps. One of us was going to walk away from this a victor, with the disposal possibly becoming collateral damage.

A few scraped knuckles and some under-the-breath curses later and I had freed the disposal from its hoses, clamps, and power lines. All that remained was the offending money. Stacy managed to pry the dime away from the inner wall with a screwdriver while I turned the baseplate manually. A few more minutes and curses and I was able to grab the dime with a needle-nose vice and haul it out.

The offending dime

The dime was somewhat worse for the wear, but I had high hopes for the disposal. It spun freely using the manual key at the bottom. The riskiest part was still ahead, installing it so there were no leaks and no crossed wires. Amazingly enough, the reinstallation went pretty smoothly with Stacy’s help. We flipped the switch and heard the sweet music of the disposal spinning, ready to macerate anything we dumped into it, barring dimes, of course.

In and done!

*Living in a house with four kids, “someone” could be anyone, and yet is never one of the people I ask.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Zzzzzzz…snort! Huh? Wuzzat?

Oh, sorry. I nodded off there for a second. What were we talking about? Oh yeah, Easter Eggs.

Wait a second, that was two years ago! Hm, maybe I should get a little more current.

I’m afraid I am resurrecting this blog on a very sad occasion, the passing of a member of the family. She had been with me before I even met Stacy. We’ve been across the country together. I’ve spent good times and bad times with her. I’ve spent more money than I care to recall to keep her happy over the years. She was fairly young when we first met, but we grew up together. I will always remember her as my first.

Mourners gathered in the hundreds to pay their respects

I am, of course, talking about my ’95 Ford Probe, affectionately named Nikki. She has gone on to the Automobile Elysium Fields, to race rice burners off the line. I had hoped to keep her until we broke the 200k mile mark. We were only 38k away when she was taken from me.

An artist's rendering of the victim

It was dark on that fateful January evening. The skies were clear and the temperature unseasonably warm for a winter day. The roads were empty as we zipped down the Dulles Greenway at a healthy 65 MPH in the center lane. I had just hung up my handsfree with a friend who urged me to drive safely. “Hah!” I replied, “I love driving at night, no traffic.” How could I know that those words would come back to haunt me so soon. I was nearing the exit for Old Ox Rd., just one exit away from the toll plaza that would let me out onto Route 28, a road from which I would sooner expect tragedy than the Greenway. I spied a full-sized snowplow on the left shoulder up ahead. It seemed he was preparing to merge into the left lane. Thinking nothing of it, I continued on my merry way while trying to impart some scholarly wisdom to my oldest daughter over the handsfree as she struggled with her homework at home.

Just a mere moment later, time seemed to slow down. The snowplow hadn’t stopped at the left lane, it began turning sharply as if heading for the right shoulder or Old Ox exit. By then it was too late to swerve to miss it on the left, so I gunned Nikki’s engine, laid into the horn, and started drifting to the right. My hope was as he heard the horn, the driver would get back into the left lane and a crisis would be averted. It was a vain hope. He didn’t hear me and continued on his path of destruction. I continued drifting over, past the right lane and into the shoulder. It seemed like I was going to make it, just barely.

The snowplow’s front edge gouged into my door, flinging off the outside panel and leaving it as a twisted heap on the side of the road. Nikki sailed into a spin. Reacting as quickly as I could manage, I steered into the spin and brought the car to a stop halfway in the right lane and shoulder, facing traffic.

It’s funny the things that go through your head during events like these. I calmly thought that it was about time I was in a serious accident. I have had a blessed driving history up until this point with nothing but a couple of fender benders at very low speeds. Meanwhile, Vicki had continued sharing her homework conundrum, oblivious to my LeBouf-inspired, “Nonononono!” shouted from my end. I got her attention and had her put Stacy on the line. I told her what happened and then hung up to deal with the aftermath.

Alternatively, Gogogogogogo! or Movemovemovemove!

The snowplow driver came up to my door to make sure I was okay. I was shaken a bit, but other than that seemed fine. He helped push me into the shoulder. As I tried to get out to survey the damage, I noticed the door wouldn’t budge. Still not thinking clearly, I gave it a heave with my considerable bulk and forced it open wide enough for me to exit. Had I thought about it, I would have climbed over to the other side, since forcing the door open meant that it would not close again, rendering the car completely undriveable (that is too a word, Word.)

In photo: Nikki, not pictured: Nikki's door

The other driver was pretty badly shaken. I tried to reassure him that I was okay and that things could have been much worse. As we waited for a state trooper, I got a better look at the carnage. My door was practically a taco shell now. It had ended up about 100 yards away, in the shoulder. As Casey said later, Nikki’s insides were now her outsides. The plow hit the fender lightly before gouging into the door and ripping the panel off, but other than the bent hinge and missing panel, the car was fine.

Yup, something like that

We exchanged information through the state trooper that showed up later. Stacy arrived on the scene shortly after. The tow truck wasn’t too far behind. All told, we were out on the road for about an hour. As the driver hauled Nikki up in the tow truck, I was hit by a wave of sadness. I had a feeling that I had just enjoyed my last drive with her.


My fears were confirmed three days later as the snowplow’s insurer informed me that it would be a total loss, the cost to repair being much greater than her value. I was told to retrieve my personal effects and prepare for Nikki to be totaled.

As Stacy and I drove away from the tow lot with my things in the back of the van, we reminisced about all the good times with Nikki. I proposed to Stacy in that car. We brought home our firstborn in the backseat. We’d driven through many states with her. She was my first car. While I got away with some aches and pains, Nikki was not nearly as fortunate. I hate the fact that I’ll never get to drive her again. Rest in peace, Nikki. I’ll never forget.

The face of destruction