Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Grown Man Throws a Tantrum

Still no baby. So, while we wait, how about another story? This one is about the type of father that awaits this unborn little boy.

It's about how a (presumably) grown man is still capable of acting like a petulant five-year-old. Immature. Pouty. Illogical. A tad self-destructive. Yep, that's me.

The preamble. You should know that the average battery in a garage door opener is the same kind they use in many watches. (They're the ones that look like quarters.) Now, since the average watch battery lasts for a couple years while running 24/7, it holds that the average garage door opener battery — used an average of maybe four times a day — should last a while too.

Since we've owned our home, and our openers, mine has never worked properly. I've been through four batteries and it's always the same thing — the new battery works well for a week or two, then it's back to normal. "Normal" means me sitting in the driveway, idly pressing the opener button over and over, hoping and praying until the garage finally goes up.

Welp, the baby is supposed to be here Nov. 5.
Until then....we plot.
It's frustrating, yes. And because I know nothing of remedial circuit boards, I can't fix it. And because I'm cheap, I don't want to buy a new one.

And, frankly, it's not easy to change the battery on this thing. I have to get a flathead screwdriver and gently pry it open and risk cracking the rigid, inflexible plastic on the back panel. If it cracks, it'll never fit back together again without duct tape.

Adding to the frustration, Mrs. Blackwell has the exact same opener, except hers works like it's brand new. She blithely taps it ever-so slightly and the garage door jumps to attention like a well-trained soldier.

Which brings me to present day.

For the past few weeks Mrs. Blackwell and I have been on a tear with regard to household projects — at least it's a tear for us, for you super-productive folks it's an average weekend.

We've been taking out old stuff and putting in new stuff. That's out with the old venetian blinds and in with the new ones. Out with old stuff hanging on walls and in with new stuff. There's been some painting. Some new curtain hanging and lots of ferrying stuff from basement to the garage.

Along the way, I've been changing some light bulbs, and there's one in particular that I've changed several times. In my kitchen, the previous owners of the home were good enough to install a light fixture so shallow that an average size light bulb hangs out of it.

It's the light over our kitchen sink and every time it's on, it's really just a bare light bulb dangling from the ceiling, ala a typical mechanic's shop or the basement of a serial killer, whichever drives the picture home for you.

Regardless, it's bright and jarring to the eye. No good.

Burn in Hell Liftmaster, opener. Burn. 
So, in the midst of our many trips to the hardware store of late, I finally remembered to add "new light bulb for the kitchen sink" to our list.

I bought two, smaller bulbs guaranteed to be sufficiently bright, yet discreet. When I got home, I put one in and it looked great. You couldn't see the bulb unless you were standing under it. The fixture just glowed now. Looked good too.

It was unnerving then to see that bulb go out less than 24 hours after it was purchased. No big deal, just a bad bulb. So, I put the new one in and in less than a day, it too was out.

The wattage wasn't an issue. So, no problem with that, just two bad bulbs — I guessed again, as did the experts at the hardware store and online.

So, I went back to the hardware store for new bulbs. When I got home, I dropped one of the bulbs on the counter and broke it. That was annoying. The second one worked like a charm, which brings me to the next morning.

I was up earlier than normal and ready to head into the office at about 6 a.m. When I got downstairs, it was pitch black. Surely, the new bulb hadn't gone out. I checked the switch; it was still set to "On."

I bristled, but I did suppress the urge to yank the fixture from the ceiling and beat it into the kitchen floor. It was early. I was up and getting a head start on my day; the cup was still half full. I remembered this and stayed positive as I turned on the big, overhead kitchen light and got ready. A short while later I made my way to the garage, hit the button on the wall and watched the door go up as I made my way to the car.

After I reversed out of the garage, I hit the button on my door opener. The door didn't go down. So, I slowed in the middle of the driveway and began the process of finessing the opener. Tapping it here. Really pressing down there. Lightly pressing the left side repeatedly then following it up with the right. All of these approaches had worked in the past, but not this time. That door was up.

I put the car into park. Did I mention it was about 43 degrees and drizzling rain? Well it was. So I stayed in the car and kept tapping. After maybe two minutes, I realized I was screwed.

Furious at the "God of Inanimate Objects," I flung open my car door, walked through the rain back into the garage and hit the wall button to close the door.

I was cold, a bit wet and a lot livid. If only I had a release valve for that early-morning anger.

Then I noticed it in my hand: the one reason I wasn't five minutes down the road toward work. The reason I was walking through a bone-chilling rain. The source of — literally — hours of frustration and time wasted over the course of the last three years. THE GARAGE DOOR OPENER.

In a flash, I knew what I had to do. So, with the door still lowering, and me moving quick to sneak under it, I threw that God-forsaken little hunk of plastic crap as hard as I could. I didn't have a target, but I should have. I heard it skip off the driveway before it disappeared into the darkness.

The flash came over me to "Throw that piece of $#!* as hard as you can — you'll feel better" came quick. The flash of regret was equally fast.

My street was pitch black, its curbs lined with deep piles of maple leaves.

Sweet, glorious "Clicker." $29 well spent. 
That, black, plastic piece of crap would be near impossible to find but find it I must. As Mrs. Blackwell noted later, not finding the opener would be akin to leaving a key to our home on the street.

So there I stood in the rain, using my phone's flashlight to illuminate the ground. I walked back and forth, hypothesizing possible flight paths for the opener. As I did this, one neighbor pulled out from his garage. I wondered if he knew it was me pacing the road with a flashlight.

Then another neighbor walked outside to take her dog for a walk. She said "Hi," and I sheepishly confessed what I'd done. As I explained myself, she waived me off and said, "I get it."

That made me feel a bit better. But the hunt remained. Throughout my ten minutes of searching in the darkness, combing leaf pile after leaf pile, I wondered if I'd ever find the opener.

Then, a large van pulled onto my street and gave me my answer. As its bright headlights passed me, my focus was dashed by a loud, "CRACK!"

The moment I heard it, I knew what had happened. The van had driven over the opener. As it moved on, I made my way over to the van's path and there was the opener. That terrible, frustrating piece of time-wasting awfulness lay there, cracked and broken, irreparably so.

Immediately I felt it — catharsis. In one fell swoop, I'd found the opener and had my stingy hand forced to buy a new one that would actually work. I might have creeped out one neighbor and confirmed the suspicions of another, but in some weird and no doubt wrongheaded way, this whole sad affair felt like a victory.

To my unborn son, and my now three-year-old son, I say, don't be like daddy. Learn from his immaturity and mistakes. And if you take nothing else from this story let it be the following:

If the opener doesn't work on the third battery, don't throw it into the dark —get in your car and drive over it, you'll find that's much more gratifying.

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