By Jim Lee
Not too long ago, when I decided to spend a pleasant weekend afternoon in my ancient, crippled recliner, I noticed something disturbing through the front window.
Saundra had taken the lawn mower from the garage and was wheeling it into view.
I could pretend not to see her, but she would know better. With an expectant glance at the window, she pulled on the starter cord thing.
Well, that could be my cue. So much for the nap-inducing TV documentary on the mating habits of the Sumatran tree slug. With a resigned click of the remote control and a heavy sigh, I proceeded to the front yard.
I yanked on the cord several times. To my barely concealed delight, the lawn muncher refused to cough to life. Well, back to the tree slugs and the recliner, I thought.
“It won’t start,” I cleverly concluded. “Lawn mower repair shops are closed on weekends, right?”
She suggested to check on some routine maintenance matters I could take of myself, even with no tools in my toolbox.
A glance at the mower manual revealed the necessity of routine, periodic maintenance, such as replacing the spark plug and air filter. So I brilliantly announced, “We may need a plug and an air filter.”
Off to the hardware store. Hooray. I located the correct spark plug and air filter. On the display with the plug was a spark plug wrench (with a different size on each end). An apparently knowledgeable voice suddenly arriving behind me said I had the right stuff (referring to my selections, not my abilities).
When we returned to the mower, the wrench wouldn’t fit the old plug. If I couldn’t get it out, the new one couldn’t go in, and I could go back to my recliner, right? Wrong. A very familiar female person (whom I shall not name) suggested going back to the store for a proper wrench. Drat.
The store had only the one spark plug wrench. Even after trying out several identical wrenches on the same plug, the clerk could not make it fit. Then he tried substituting identical spark plugs. Same result. Joy to the world, the lawn would have to wait.
My internal celebration was short-lived, though. The female person suggested taking the spark plug to the sockets and fitting one to it. This, along with a cheap ratchet, would take care of business. In the tool section, the clerk plucked a socket from the locked display case, a socket the same size as the wrench that wouldn’t work. At last, I silently giggled, another guy as useless as I am in practical matters!
I felt sorry for the poor fellow as he valiantly tried to get the spark plug into that socket. Without a word, my domestic companion/supervisor selected the correct socket and handed it to the startled clerk. For a moment I thought he would break into hysterical laughter as he moved the plug in and out of the right-sized socket in wonderment.
Back at the house, the spark plug and air filter replacement took barely five minutes. I glanced over at the window. The recliner beckoned. The lawn mower waited impatiently. Panic. What more could I do to emerge triumphant in this domestic challenge? Pour the gasoline from the mower back into the can and shrug when it wouldn’t start? Naw, too messy. Wait a minute! Maybe the plug and filter wouldn’t fix the thing. Maybe it really was broken!
One tug on the starter cord thing shattered that hope.
Oh well, at least I got a socket and a ratchet out of the deal and have two tools for my toolbox.
Now, about installing that new kitchen faucet . . .
Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: