The Universal Notebook: Peeved at my own incompetence
Nothing puts me in a foul mood faster than something I can’t fix. That means I’m in a fuming funk a lot of the time, not fit to live with until whatever is broken is either repaired or replaced. At the moment it’s the #*(^%$! roof.
The roof over my sunroom office has been leaking for the better part of a decade. That ticks me off because 1) the whole purpose of a house is to keep you warm and dry, 2) it‘s annoying to have pans and buckets underfoot, 3) we have paid two different contractors good money to repair and then replace the roof and it still leaks like a sieve, and 4) the leaks bring me face to face with my own incompetence.
I can’t fix anything and I hate being reminded of the fact.
I am now getting too old to get up there and shovel snow off the roof, but the sunroom sometimes leaks whether there is snow on it or not. To their credit, the roofers who replaced the entire roof a few years ago came back dutifully every time I called about a leak, but pulling up shingles and flashing seemed to indicate that it was not their work that was defective. The outside of the roof would be completely dry while there would be ice and frost on the inside. When the temperatures heat up, it “rains” in the crawl space under the eaves, the water backs up along a rafter and eventually empties out in my office. The current leak, however, is in the kitchen.
As a conscientious suburban homeowner, I got out after the holiday storms and raked off the roof of our little cape as far up as I could reach in order to prevent ice dams from forming along the edge. Removing the snow just moved the ice dams up about six or eight feet. We discovered as much when the ceiling light in the kitchen began dripping and we found close to a quart of water in it.
After the initial flurry of chipping ice off the roof and placing containers in the crawl space to catch the leaks, I reached the limits of my own technical competence when I disconnected and removed the soaking wet ceiling fixture. That restored all the rest of the first floor lights and my spirits – until the following day, when I came home from a trip to Worcester to find that the front and back door outside lights no longer work.
When you’re as incompetent as I am, it is important to know who to call when problems arise. Unfortunately, the electricians we have relied on for years have gone out of business. But then I’m not sure it makes any sense to call in an electrician until the leaking roof problem is fixed, which may be never.
About the only malfunction that makes me more upset than the long-running leaky roof is when my computer – and therefore my livelihood – goes on the fritz. I expect lights to go on when I flip the switch and I expect to be able to research, write and e-mail when I boot up in the morning.
Back in October, my corrupt old Dell, which had been limping along for months, suddenly crashed and turned blue. I called Marc, my friendly local computer whiz, and he was able to rescue my data, but not my desktop. I would have been out of business years ago if not for Marc’s prompt and professional service.
I had planned to invest in a new iMac when the Dell finally died, but the folks at the Apple Store were so negative about transferring my possibly corrupt files onto their pristine machine that I decided not to spend the $2,500 or so to convert from PC to Mac. After using a borrowed laptop for a week, I finally bought a reconditioned HP from Marc for $180 and went merrily on my way as though nothing had happened.
And that’s what you want when things go wrong – a quick fix and a return to normalcy. We want to believe that life will go on uninterrupted forever.
I wonder whether Marc does any roofing?