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D.A.D.: Home Improvement Horrors

The role of Dads may be changing, but the legend of the do-it-yourself-Dad lives on...whether it is a good idea or not.

Russ Crespolini has four tool boxes full of tools of every shape, size and variety. Russ Crespolini has never met a mechanical challenge he wasn't able to work his way through with time, and a practical application of physics.

Oh, I should probably point out that is Russ Crespolini Senior.

That is not the Russ Crespolini that is writing this post now. Russ Crespolini Junior is the one hunched over his laptop next to the Playstation in his living room. He does not have those tools. Nor does he have those skills.

But, that is part of being a Dad, right? Dad is supposed to mow the lawn and fix the furnace.

The previous generation, the generation of my parents, grew up knowing how to fix things. Not only fix them, but how to build them. They knew how to properly frame and hang a door. Install a sink. Change the oil in their car.

While many of the traditional gender roles assigned to fatherhood may have changed over the years, Dad is still expected to know his way around a hammer and nails.

I, personally, am named after a man who literally can fix anything. And I mean anything. Without exaggeration I can tell you my father once rigged the broken accelerator cable in my convertible with coaxial cable wire tied around an ice scraper so that when he pulled the makeshift handle, the car accelerated.

He took down a giant oak tree limb in my backyard with a clothesline and basic physics.

He has taken out load bearing walls and rebuilt rooms on the fly. His knowledge base is so stereotypically "Dad."

I am reduced to handing him the wrong tool three times before getting it right.

My unsupervised attempts at home repair have been...less than successful.

  • I turned my basement into a rain forest trying to diagnose and repair my hot water heater (also burned my forearms pretty good).
  • I've incorrectly rigged a sump pump and was rewarded with an explosive spray of basement juice straight down my throat courtesy of Hurricane Irene. 
  • I doubled the repair cost to my dryer trying to find the heat sensor...by breaking three things around the heat sensor.
  • I managed to get paint on the front paws of my cat, Lucky, resulting in a Benny Hill-style chase around the house and extended time scrubbing green paw prints off of everything I own.
  • Taking down trim on my front porch I accidentally took out a load bearing corner support beam.

What I want to know, is there a generational divide amongst Dads out there? Does my generation not know as much about home repair as the previous one did? I know my focus was always elsewhere, I never learned.

And what sorts of experiences have you had playing Tim "The Toolman" Taylor?

We want to hear your home improvement horror stories.

And now, to cure your insomnia:

Jason's Jam

"Jay, why isn't the hot water working?" Nancy said from the kitchen.
Don't panic. Act cool. It's just hot water. You can figure this out.
"OK, honey. I'll head down and see what's up with the boiler," I replied.
Where's the boiler? What is a boiler??!!

Home improvement–or maintenance–isn't my strong point. The home we currently live in is our first, and I grew up in an apartment complex. If the hot water wasn't working, or the heat was broken, or the roof flooded, the maintenance department took care of it.

Now, I AM the maintenance department.

I stared at the hot water heater like a dog trying to decipher a Rubik's cube. I pawed at it a bit. Bent my head to the side. Gave it a smell, since nothing I was touching worked.
So, before I tinkered too much and had my head blown off by a faulty, ready-to-explode boiler, I swallowed my pride and called a few guys who I figured would know the answer. One conversation led to another, which led to a veteran plumber who told me the thermocouple device needed to be replaced, and I could do it myself after a quick trip to Home Depot.

Sir, are you sure about this? I was out of college when I figured out the difference between flat-head and Phillips.

I bought the new piece. I spent an hour and-a-half with high blood pressure and anxiety while trying to fix it. I followed the instructions on relighting the system.

It worked. And I danced around the house like I won the lottery.

One small step for man, one giant win for this Dad.

What's your recent home improvement/maintenance accomplishment?

aNYCdb May 02, 2012 at 02:49 AM
I think the level of "mechanically inclined-ness" correlates to the employment of those involved and what goes into those jobs. My father has had a ton of jobs over the years. Everything from working (and later owning) a gas station, to fixing electronics, to being an IT manager. As a result he can make all sorts of makeshift "stuff" out of otherwise worthless parts. That said I'm the one who gets the call for IT support, legal advice, or showing him how to draw a graph in Excel. Today many more of us don't have the same level of I guess what I'd think of as more blue collar experience and instead have more business, math, computer, etc... skills. The more hands on skills of our fathers gave them the ability (and more likely the testicular fortitude to attempt) to climbing a tree with an ax, paint with chemicals that leave you unconscious for a couple days, or use a chainsaw in the living room. I'll probably never have my father's skill set, but at the same time unlike my father I'll probably never have to drive myself to the hospital with a drill bit sticking out of my hand...
Russ Crespolini May 02, 2012 at 06:38 AM
Oh, Stacie...my father is my hero. You will be hearing a lot about him as our column develops.
Russ Crespolini May 02, 2012 at 06:40 AM
Editor's Note: Eric Crespolini is the cousin of Mendham-Chester Patch editor Russ Crespolini Jr.. Their fathers are identical twins.
Russ Crespolini May 02, 2012 at 06:41 AM
And yeah, I drove my father to the ER after he dropped a truck on his thumb...and popped it off.
Russ Crespolini May 05, 2012 at 03:26 PM
New D.A.D. is up. http://patch.com/A-sZ2d

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