Friday, September 13, 2013

I make mistakes, but sometimes I can fix them

Sunday nights at our house are devoted to preparing for the week ahead.
We fold and sort socks, gather athletic gear and pack backpacks. We post the week’s activities on a hallway calendar.
I cook enough dinner for at least two nights. I prep fruits and veggies for kid lunchboxes. I make a giant salad for my own lunchbox for the week.
In the midst of all those activities this week, the garbage disposal stopped working. When I flipped the switch to pulverize some tomato scraps, I didn’t hear a grumbling motor. The only sound was a low hum.
I am no stranger to disposal trouble, but I’d never encountered this noise.
Google, no doubt, would provide some clues. I pulled out my smartphone, searched “disposal humming but not working,” and began diagnosing the problem.
All signs pointed to a stuck flywheel.
Upon further investigation, I found a YouTube video from a slightly off-color maintenance man in Idaho. So I settled on the kitchen floor, sitting cross-legged in front of the open cabinet, and watching this dude’s every move.
He told me to find a 5/16-inch hex wrench. I paused the video to search for the specific wrench. I found just about every other width except the 5/16-inch.
And none of the other sizes worked.
I gave up on Mr. Idaho and relied again on my phone, this time to text a friend who knows all the disposal answers.
She called back and offered the right-sized wrench but first suggested I try the old broom handle trick. Mr. Idaho didn’t include that technique, so I let my friend talk me through the procedure. Voila! A little bit of leverage and nudging and the flywheel became unstuck.
One of the greatest confidence boosters in the world comes from successful DIY home repair. I solved the problem — albeit with help — in quick time, and I didn’t spend a cent.
My cooking and cleaning resumed, and I went to bed feeling pretty good about myself. I am strong! And mighty!
That confidence lasted almost an entire day.
On Tuesday morning, I discovered a puddle of water on the kitchen floor.
The water was not from the sink, thank goodness, but from the freezer.
It seemed as if someone — that would be me — failed to close the freezer door all the way on Monday night. Melting water trickled out of the ice dispenser for hours.
I mopped up the mess, evaluated the freezer contents and continued with morning prep for a full day — deflated but not defeated.
My confidence was restored by the end of the workday. I had solved problems and fulfilled requests. And then I learned of another mess I’d made.
I had somehow, accidentally, managed to change the contents of a shared document. A document needed by dozens of coworkers. At my brand-new job.
I apologized and sat with a coworker as she corrected my mistake (no YouTube video necessary).
We laughed about the error. All was forgiven. I left the office feeling deflated but not defeated.
No doubt something else will break soon. It may even be my fault. And I’ll fix it myself or ask for help. I might even have to pay someone.
And then I’ll move on, buoyed by the confidence of a problem solved. I’ll remember that I’m sometimes strong and mighty — and that I’m always human.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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