Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What People Do and How They Do It, Part 2

When we left off last week, the door on my composter was still upside down, even though I had overcome my nervousness about calling the handyman back to correct his mistake. I was not laughing, nor was he. Though he wasn't angry or resentful or anything. On the phone, he sounded completely mellow about the whole thing. I couldn't imagine why, however, as every time I went out to look at that composter and contemplate the door, all I could see was that the whole bloody thing would need to be dismantled and reassembled. Yes, just to flip the door. It looked like a nightmare to me.

After the handyman stood me up twice, I called the composter-assembly hotline. The phone number was conveniently posted right on the assembly instructions. A woman answered, which (forgive me) surprised me. I described my problem, and without a moment's hesitation, she told me how to fix it. There are bolts, she said, right by the latches, and all you have to do is unscrew them, turn the door around, and reattach.
     "Wait," I said, "can you hold on while I go outside and look?"
     "Of course," she said.
     And the minute I looked, I could see that she was right. It was so very simple. She was so brilliant. I was so glad I'd called, and I told her so.

But I was annoyed with myself. I had been too preoccupied with the big picture and I'd failed to see the details--those simple screws, that simple solution. This is the complete opposite of what I've been struggling with in my novel--that is, I become preoccupied with getting a particular detail right, a word, a sentence, a color, and it becomes difficult to see the big picture. How do the parts fit together as a whole? What is the arc? How do the threads weave in from start to finish.
     Both are important, of course. With a composter or a novel. The small details and the big picture. The forest and the trees.
     I went out to the composter with my screw driver and my wrench, but those screws were on so tight, I could not get them to budge. But later that day, the handyman came back ("I'm a man of my word," he said), and he did the deed in no time.
    Now back to work.


11 comments:

Anonymous said...

We girls learned to cook, while the boys went off to "Shop." We girls sewed.( I sewed the Singer needle into my finger.) The boys did something mysterious called printing. Neither sex dared enter the other's classroom. I was summoned to deliver a message to the Durfee shop teacher. The boys laughed and hooted at me. It was awful. So was cooking and sewing. The boys got a better deal.

These days boys and girls are equally educated with the obvious deletion of "Print Shop".

The real deal is that just because we take classes in an area, we are not all experts, but hopefully the "girls" can replace a spent light bulb and some of
the "boys" are comfy in the kitchen.

Susan Messer is a published writer and her handyman (who wasn't so handy or immediate to return) has not published a book.

Your book was required reading for entering students to The University of Michigan. You were asked to speak. YOU. And how about all the other deserved honors and opportunities your ability and talent has spawned? Stand proud. Sit if you want. You've earned it. "Rosie the Riveter" skills not required.

And I'm still illegal in red for my email.

Rasirds@cox.net

Anonymous said...

We girls learned to cook, while the boys went off to "Shop." We girls sewed.(I sewed the Singer machine needle through my finger.) The boys did something mysterious called printing. Neither sex dared enter the other's classroom. I was summoned to deliver a message to the Durfee shop teacher. The boys laughed and hooted at me. It was awful. So was cooking and sewing. The boys got a better deal.

These days boys and girls are domestically educated with the obvious deletion of "Print Shop".

The real deal is that just because we take classes in an area, we are not all experts, but hopefully the "girls" can replace a spent light bulb and some of
the "boys" are have a passing acquaintance with the kitchen.

Susan Messer is a published writer and her handyman (who wasn't so handy or immediate to return) has not published a book.

Ms. Messer's book was required reading for entering students to The University of Michigan. She was asked to speak. YOU. And how about all the other deserved honors and opportunities your ability and talent has spawned? Stand proud. Sit if you want. You've earned it. "Rosie the Riveter" skills not required.

And I'm still illegal in red for my email.

Rasirds@cox.net

Susan Messer said...

Thanks for your kind words and encouragement.

All that, and still illegal? Who can say what these things mean?

I actually am fascinated with machinery and the logic of part to part, how one rod or joint connects to the next and makes the whole thing possible. I suppose that images and scenes work this way together in a story or novel--each one part of a larger construction or machine.

And I do like that handyman. He got everything right except installing the door and being on time. Few people are perfect.

Margaret P. said...

Your blog post reminds me of the struggles of my parents' generation.

First there is my boyfriend's mother, in her eighties, who lives alone and far away. She can't open vacuum-sealed bottles anymore. What does one do when one can't turn a bottle cap?

Then there is my dad, mid-eighties, who seems to be very dependent on the internet for his psychological well-being. I'm pretty impressed with his ability to "get" the computer. When I visit, I often have to show my dad how to do something, and he remembers.

Once I got a frantic message from my dad--you'd think something really terrible had happened. Turned out he couldn't get on the internet. I can't diagnose problems over the phone, so I always tell him to call technical support. He never likes this suggestion, so instead he called the next child on the list.

Eventually I got an exuberant email from my dad: "My friend in India solved my computer problem!" And he went on to provide incomprehensible details. Now when he has computer problems I tell him to call his friend in India. Interestingly, I haven't gotten desperate computer-related calls from my dad in a long while.

Thank goodness for call centers in India and for handy"men".

Susan Messer said...

1. I think there's a mechanical device for opening vacuum-sealed jars and bottles. I've seen it at my mother-in-laws. It grabs on and twists. I can ask her about it if you want.
2. If your father were Jewish, this would become the basis for a good Jewish joke--along the lines of "Oh, I don't want to bother you; I'll just call my friend in India."

Jim Poznak said...

Don't let Susan fool you, she is very handy with tools. Perhaps someday she'll tell you about the Gaspar 3-way she fixed.

Anonymous said...

How interesting that you are mechanically minded as well as creative. Usually these two interests don't go together.

"Friend in India" reminded me of "having an uncle in the furniture business - Joshua Doore". That's become a house expression for knowing the right person or having a connection.

Packaging has become like flying in terms of difficulty vs. convenience. To protect us, opening almost anything requires tools after paying for the added expense of keeping consumers safe.

None of us is perfect because we are human. I was kind of kidding you, but also sticking up for your gift. Good handy people are hard to come by as are people good at whatever they are supposedly good at. Our handyman became too friendly with a circular saw. His business is called "Joe's (name changed)One Hand Handyman Service." He's so good, you would never consider him handicapped. Ironically his son tried to adjust a mower wheel without turning it off and severed three fingers exactly 26 years to the day after his father. Life is strange, eh?

RASIRDS@cox.net

Susan Messer said...

I'm laughing about that Gaspar 3-way. What a name . . .

And thanks, Rasirds, I knew you were joking and sticking up for me. But it's sad how few people actually know how to fix things these days. To me, it's an art form.

Ashley Simone said...

Being able to fix things--it requires patience, and time just to look at the object in need of repair. Sometimes I don't want to give the time to just look and be patient.

Susan Messer said...

So true, Ashley. Patience, willingness to take the time. Crucial ingredients.

Conor said...

Well its the minoraty of hanymen that give them a bad reputation, ost of them are hard working and try to get the job done. If you want to try a good handyman again, try these guys. http://www.fix-itman.co.uk/