I Fix Stuff

I just fixed my pool pump. Again. I fixed it at the end of last season, and I kind of figured that this particular repair will be an annual event. So I’m OK with that. The trick with a pool pump is that it needs to be a completely sealed system. Air is a lot easier to move than water, so if there are any leaks, the air will reduce the amount of water pressure significantly. And the biggest problem with that (other than little bubbles coming out of the jets, which is actually kinda neat), is that you cannot vacuum the pool.

When you cannot vacuum the pool, you invest in contraptions to help you get the junk out of the pool. I had a robot that would drive around the pool sucking stuff up and filtering it right inside. But the filters broke, so I reconfigured it so it had a long tube coming out the back that I could route into the pool skimmer. Frankenrobot. And I had a little thing that was basically an under-water dust buster. And it held a charge for about 20 minutes, kind of like an iPhone, so that was useful to clean a few square feet.

It’s absurd how long it took me to figure out that the bubbles in my jets were the reason I could never get a plain old pool vacuum (the kind with the long hose that you connect to the skimmer) to work. But after more than a decade of using various vacuum enhancing contraptions, it suddenly occurred to me that if I could stop the air leak, maybe that would help. So I studied all the plumbing, listened to the noises it made when I switched off the pump, and finally deduced that the leak was not in the pipe fittings at all.

Rather, there was a hairline fracture in the bottom of the plastic bowl that holds the water while it waits for the pump impeller to suck it up. And air was coming in through that fracture. I fixed it with a piece of tape. Since the problem is that air was being sucked in, the fact that tape cannot hold water is irrelevant. Water wasn’t coming out. Air was going in. So now a piece of tape was being sucked into the fracture. And tape is harder to move than water.

That piece of tape stopped the bubbles in the jets, and suddenly the vacuum became this amazing, effective pool cleaning device.

Home renovation tools for 8-year-olds, apparently

Home renovation tools for 8-year-olds, apparently

I’ve always been the one who fixes things. When I was a kid, I fixed everything. When mom wanted a switch added to the cord on a lamp, she asked me to do it. You know those little switch kits where you cut one of the wires in the pair leading to the lamp, and then just screw it on, and it vampire taps into the line. No? Well anyway, it’s easy enough for an 8 year old to do. Apparently. Except one time, I forgot to unplug the lamp first, and it was on. And when you cut a live wire with mom’s nice sewing scissors, it not only makes a loud bang, but it also puts a neat round hole right in the middle of the scissors. That’s how you get mom to buy you some proper wire cutters.

Another trick I used to do with lamps is fix the bottom contact. You know how a lamp will flicker, and if you fiddle with the bulb it will come on? That happens because the metal tab at the bottom of the socket is pressed down. So you reach down there with a screwdriver and bend it up a little, and then the bulb can make good contact. Again, it’s best to do this while you are not plugged in to the wall, otherwise you melt the screwdriver and get thrown across the room.


Every time I go home to visit mom, there is a long list of things that I need to fix. These days they tend to be more of the computer variety. But there are usually some smoke detector batteries to replace, or a squeaking hinge, or some other little thing that needs fixing. And I’m that guy.

In my own home, not only am I doing electrical work, but also small plumbing repairs, hanging pictures, putting up shelves, and doing lots of little carpentry tasks that a 176 year old house requires. And, of course, fixing the kids’ toys.


Even when that toy is an iPhone:


I’m not complaining, of course. I actually like doing this stuff. For multiple reasons. I like having time to myself with nobody asking me to do things for them, because, you know, I am doing things for them. And I like the feeling of satisfaction when I finish, and the thing that was broken is now working.

It makes perfect sense to invest hundreds of dollars on tools to fix free happy meal toys

It makes perfect sense to invest hundreds of dollars on tools to fix free happy meal toys

Sometimes I surprise myself at the gadgets that I’m able to bring back from the dead. Taking apart an iPhone is a ridiculously complicated process requiring a suite of fancy screwdrivers and detailed instructions and patience and care. And after all that when you button the thing back up, and it powers on and still works, it’s really pretty exciting. Even if the reason you took it apart (a crushed power button) turned out to be something you couldn’t actually fix without buying a part that would cost as much as a new phone.

A friend who knows me from twitter finds my handy, Mr Fixit thing incongruous with my cerebral nature. And I can see that. But my dad was cerebral. And he built things with his hands, and drove the tractor, and stacked railroad ties, and did manly stuff. So I guess it just seems natural to me that even us thinky types might be a little hands-on. And most of the physical labor I engage in is a puzzle in one way or another, and I’m good at puzzles. And if solving that puzzle means wielding a pipe wrench, so be it.

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