Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Why you shouldn't call me Mr. Fix It

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I probably shouldn't tell you this, but Randy the Lawnmower Repair Man is parked in my driveway right now.

As I write these words at my home computer, I can barely hear our dogs yapping at the window because they are being drowned out by horrific grinding and whirring noises as Randy -- Business card motto: "We come to you!" -- disembowels our dyspeptic mower.

He rolled up about half an hour ago in his truck, which is actually -- prepare to be impressed in a masculine manner -- a refurbished Handi-Transit van that, instead of ferrying seniors around town, is packed with the sort of high-tech stuff manly men employ to repair malfunctioning machinery, such as mowers and snowblowers and tillers and generators.

I opened the garage door and Randy, a cigarette dangling from his lips, frowned at our muck-encrusted mower with the sort of professional frown you normally only see on the faces of men who are intimately familiar with the workings of internal combustion engines, an expression meant to convey the painful fact that whatever needs to be done is going to cost you a lot of money.

Being a standard guy, I wanted him to know we were kindred grease-stained spirits, so I frowned at the mower as well. Then, drawing on the mechanical knowledge I have accumulated in my years as a guy, I attempted to explain the problem.

"I can't get it to start," is what I told Randy, scowling to indicate the level of my disgust. "It just goes, 'UrghUrghWhumpWhumpKachunkachunkPfffft!' " I added, vibrating my lips rapidly in what I hoped was a mechanically accurate impression of a dying mower gasping for breath.

Randy's frown became even frownier. "Sounds like it's the carburetor," he finally sniffed.

In an effort to deepen our bond and ensure Randy realized I was the sort of columnist who could easily fix his own mower if he wasn't too busy writing Pulitzer Prize-level expos©s about lying on his couch for the duration of the NHL playoffs, I coughed and grunted: "Carburetor? Just as I suspected!"

Then, with a flick of a switch, he deployed an awesome hydraulic steel lift that effortlessly hoisted my elderly and infirm mower into the bowels of his motorized secret laboratory.

The painful truth is, I am deeply embarrassed we needed to call on Randy.

I am not what you would call handy, but this ignorance of home and auto repair and yard maintenance is not my fault. I was away sick the day our school unveiled the secret scrolls revealing how to fix broken stuff.

This meant I had to rely on tips handed down from my dad, whose system for repairing things involved the these steps:

1) Frown at the mechanical/electrical/plumbing problem.

2) Poke the problem with a stick.

3) Inform your spouse that, in fact, there is no problem because, even if it sounds like a cinder block in a blender, "it's supposed to make that noise."

4) To satisfy your spouse, wrap the problem, even if it is currently on fire, in several metres of duct tape.

5) Call a qualified repair person, unless you are unable to find the phone due to smoke from the burning duct tape.

The tragic thing is, when it comes to our lawnmower, my wife and I had a reliable method for getting it to start each spring. It involves my wife becoming embarrassed that our grass is now long enough to hide escaped zoo animals, then hauling the mower out of the garage and yanking on the cord.

Under federal law, mowers are not allowed to start on the first 100 yanks, so my wife will get out her tools, tear it apart, put most of it back together, then march into the den where I am watching sports highlights on TV and inform me that, just as I am expected to twist the lids off stubborn pickle jars, so too am I obligated, as proof of my commitment to our marriage, to spend several hours yanking on the cord dangling from our mower.

Dressed only in flip-flops and a fuzzy blue bathrobe, which would be long enough on the mayor of Munchkin Land but on me is literally indecent, I attack the mower in a yanking frenzy, flailing around until the dramatic conclusion, wherein the mower refuses to start even though it is confronted by the full extent of my manliness because my too-short robe has flapped open in a cloud of flying sweat and hurled profanity.

I'd like to share more of my repair secrets, but, unfortunately, Randy is finished fixing our mower and is patiently standing at the front door.

Which means it's time for the final step in the repair process -- frowning at my chequebook.


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 29, 2013 A2

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