• Mark S. Albury: Home improvement
    July 29,2013

    While visiting a female friend last weekend I noticed that she had a screen that needed to be replaced in her front door. Every so often, when in the presence of a beautiful woman, my brain temporarily shuts down and forgets to send the memo concerning this work stoppage to my mouth. It is during these moments that my mouth, unaware that the brain is not presently calling the shots, usually volunteers me to do things beyond my realm of expertise. I had this very experience when I heard the words, “I can fix that,” coming out of the orifice below my nose.

    Once committed to repairing the door I needed to come up with a plan of attack. To a normal, red-blooded, beer-drinking, hammer-wielding macho male with the home repair gene, this solution would not only be simple, it would generate a degree of excitement. Unfortunately, while I am indeed a guy, have crimson corpuscles, enjoy a malt beverage on occasion, and somewhere in the basement have a hammer, I do not possess the home repair gene. Whenever I undertake a major project like putting a new toilet paper roll on the wall rack or changing the bag in the vacuum cleaner, I can be guaranteed of two things: something will break, and I will eventually need to call in someone else to clean up my mess. With this in mind I decided to turn to my usual source for homestead repairs — The Yellow Pages.

    After perusing the directory for a few minutes an irrational thought crossed my mind. “How hard could it be to repair a screen?” I asked myself. It is this very line of thinking that has gotten me into trouble in the past. My track record for failed projects that began with the sentence, “How hard could it be …” is impressive, to say the least. Unfortunately, I have never been accused of being a quick learner. Later that day I got into the car and headed up to Burlington to visit one of the home supply box stores.

    When I entered the business, I saw aisle after aisle of parts of things. Random faucets, loose light fixtures, hoses, sections of ductwork and lumber all waiting for some knowledgeable consumer to purchase, bring home and transform into functioning pieces of a house. I approached a clerk and asked where I might find screen doors. She pointed me to the back of the building. As I walked to where I was directed, I passed many customers having in-depth conversations with store employees using terms like “telescoping basin wrench,” and “compression sleeve pullers,” and I realized I was out of my element. I was truly a stranger in a strange land. I arrived at the designated area and gazed intently at a display, hoping to give the impression I knew exactly what I was looking for. An employee approached.

    “Sir, can I help you,” he asked politely.

    “I’m just looking at these screen doors,” I replied.

    “Uh, those are double-paned windows,” he informed me.

    “Of course, they are, I was just testing you,” I said, trying to introduce a little levity to the conversation. “I meant these screen doors here,” I recovered, turning to the display behind me.

    “Those are shower doors.”

    “OK, let’s cut to the chase,” I said. “I need to replace a door screen.”

    “Do you have the frame?” he asked. “If not, you can make one.”

    Clearly this guy did not realize he was talking to the original Dr. Disaster of home improvement projects.

    “Make one?” I asked.

    “It’s really quite simple. You just take these eight-foot metal frame-stock strips, cut them to length with a hacksaw or your miter-box, use four l-shaped corner clips to secure the pieces, lay the frame concave side down and install the screening wire, put the mesh over the frame, clamp it, unspool a length of spline material, press it into the frames groove using the spline rolling tool, trim the spline with a utility knife, and cut the excess mesh with a straight edge.”

    My eyes glazed over, and I did as any normal person who didn’t understand what was being explained would do. I nodded knowingly.

    After thanking the gentleman for his help I walked towards the exit with my head held high, having retained the same level of home repair ignorance that I had when I entered the store.

    On the drive home I noticed that it was getting somewhat cooler out. In fact, it occurred to me that it is probably time to consider taking out the screens and putting in the storm windows. At least that’s what I’m going to tell my friend.

    Mark S. Albury lives in Northfield Falls.

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