There are certain handy skills that are expected of you when you are a man, and a dad. For example, my dad taught me how to change the oil in a car. This skill came in handy many times in the past.
Of course, I learned how to do this back in the day when, after draining our Toyota Corolla hatchback of its four quarts of 10W-30 in our driveway, we would simply dispose of the old crude by dumping it over the edge of the dirt pit across the street that was also occasionally used as a spot for some of the local burnouts to sneak a smoke on their way home from school. Let’s just say that back in 1984, the environment and town stoners took a back seat to the convenience of easily pouring away our car’s oil.
But I haven’t gotten under my truck to tear off an oil filter and drain an oil pan in years. The ease of going to the local drive-in oil changer, plus the time demands of raising my daughters, Maddo and Little Sis, have made it so I’d rather pay some Taco Bell-eating stranger $35 to refill my truck’s oil while I sit in comfort and play Scrabble on my iPad.
The infrequency of doing something once so commonplace as changing my truck’s oil got me thinking about my level of handiness around the house. There are certain things I can do without fear:
–Putting a handle the outside of our basement door? No problem.
–Replacing a broken kitchen sink hose? Aside from getting a kink in my neck from twisting myself under the sink area, that was a piece of cake.
–I even managed to figure out all the international, all-images-and-no-language instructions that came with an Ikea light fixture and install the thing without either electrocuting myself of shorting out all of my house’s wiring.
But there are some things around the house that leave me befuddled, or afraid that if I attempt to remedy their errors I will only make things worse. And replacing a door lock is one of those things.
I should be clear about what I am talking about here. I don’t mean replacing a doorknob, per se. A Phillips head screwdriver is all you need to do that. Undo those two screws, pull out the knobs from each side of the door, and then take out the piece with the latch. Reverse the steps when you put the new knob in and you are ready for your own show on the DIY Network.
No, I mean having to take off and replace a door knob in which the interior latch thingamajig is broken and won’t release at all. Oh, and it was also in a door that was closed, and was closed by my three-year-old daughter Maddo.
This is the Dark Side of potty training your kid. Accidents happen. Sometimes those accidents involve your daughter wetting herself when she’s sitting on the sofa. And sometimes, when she’s used the bathroom herself, those accidents involve her shutting the door behind her on the way out and that door then locking itself so that it can’t be opened from the outside.
Shortly after Maddo finished, we discovered the door was locked. No problem, I thought, and I broke out the aforementioned Phillips head screwdriver and went to work. I got the outer knob off, pushed the inner knob out, heard it bounce on the floor, and proceeded to work on the latch. All it would take was sliding over this one piece that would disengage the lock and all would be well.
Only it wasn’t. Because even though the piece that was supposed to slide did slide, what it didn’t do was disengage the lock. And the door remained locked and shut.
I kept trying. Nothing happened. I brought out my pliers. Gripping the whole mechanism with those in one hand, and using a flat-head screwdriver in the other hand to slide the magical disengager over, I then went into a fruitless bought of gripping, pulling and pushing of parts that had me sweating buckets and all the while afraid that something would slip and impale one of my hands. Or worse, the door.
And while all of this was going on, the culprit who caused this battle between me and an inanimate object, Maddo, was yapping at my heels, asking for cookies, juice and for me to put some Barbie DVD on for her 13,472nd viewing.
I finally gave up. I knew where everything was headed and that was to a phone call the next morning to our local locksmith. He came out the next day, grabbed a couple of pairs of pliers, and bit by bit he cut, tore and broke off the plastic piece that had beaten my spirit less than a day earlier. Something had broken inside of it when Maddo shut that door following her victorious bathroom experience and jammed it into the locked position. Within 10 minutes, the locksmith had the door open and was writing me an $85 bill for his services.
Of course, I could have ripped the thing apart for $85 less. And I also had to buy a new doorknob. Sure, it cost more than I hoped for, but I learned a new skill, and one that I can impart to my daughters:
When all else fails, just break the thing.