Men and DIY
My wife ordered a really nice mirror from India. It took 3 months to get here and was packaged in a wooden crate, with multiple layers of cardboard, polystyrene and plastic. The polystyrene was the crumbly stuff which breaks into little balls. The kids loved that. We didn’t.
“look dad its snowing inside.”
The mirror was a beautiful handmade bone-inlay mirror. About 1m long x 70cm wide. It was the weight of a small horse.
Instantly I knew that this was going to be a challenge. There was no way I was paying for a handyman. I was going to hang this on the wall myself.
I stalled for 2 weeks as this mirror sat against the wall. I gave it the evil eye every time I walked past it. We both knew what was coming.
Then I received the third and final warning from my wife.
“On the weekend you are putting the mirror up or I am calling a handyman”.
It was spoken calmly and methodically, like a serial killer. I knew that I would be installing the mirror on the weekend.
There was little preparation, a few finger exercises and a couple of shoulder stretches.
My kids were watching. “You can do it Dad” they said.
Pencil behind my ear, drill in one hand, tape measure in the other. Game on.
Measure twice, cut once, measure twice cut one. I professed the intricacies of preparation to my boys as they sat and watched.
I turned the mirror upside down and laid it on the table. There were 2 (very) small pear-shaped holes in the back of the mirror. This is strange. Usually there are hooks or wires to hang it on.
It looks like I am being asked to put 2 screws in the wall, then slot the mirror onto the screws. That leaves zero margin for error. I require NASA-like precision.
I racked my brain for an easier solution. One was not forthcoming. This was the only way.
“Ok. Let’s do it.” I said to the boys
I re-measured again and then marked it out on the wall. As I had no stud finder, the only way I could find the timber in the wall was to drill small holes in the wall until I hit timber.
“don’t make holes in the wall!”.
I hear my wife in my head. She hates making holes in walls.
‘Several’ small holes later the wall looks like a pin cushion – but I have located the studs.
I re-measure. Exactly 80.3cm from hole to hole.
I screw the holding screws into the wall.
I re-measure again. 80.3cm. I’m feeling good. I’ve got this..…..nailed.
I call my wife to come in and ask for her help to gently ease this beast onto the wall. The boys watch in admiration.
She holds one end while I try and ease the ridiculously small holes onto the screw. I can’t see what I am doing. There is no room between mirror and wall to look. I close my eyes, I summon my inner Jedi, I breathe slowly, I guide the hole to the screw. I feel the metal backing of the mirror hitting the screw. It’s not going in.
I try again. I’m starting to sweat a bit. My wife’s arms are getting sore. She doesn’t say a word. She knows better.
“let’s put it down for a second,” I say, not giving anything away
We gently put it back on the table. I don’t understand. Perfect measurements.
It took me 15mins to realise the screw heads were too big for the holes at the back of the mirror. Measure, check, measure, check……what about testing the bloody screws to make sure they fit in the bloody holes. Not happy.
Don’t panic. I try and squash the screw head with a pair of pliers. It doesn’t budge. I hurt my hands.
The first expletive leaves my mouth as I realise I have to replace the screws. I was so close.
“what’s wrong Dad?” comes the first question. I explain, as calmly as I can, while checking the new screws fit. I swap them with the screws in the wall.
One of the screws is now a bit wobbly. I’m nervous. I take off my top. It’s getting warm in here.
I call for my wife’s assistance and we prepare for Take-2 of installation ‘Mirror-India.’
I slow my breathing. I close my eyes. This time I manage to ease my side onto the first screw. Tension is relieved. Big breath. Little smile. My wife and I swap positions.
I can hear my heart beating. I ease the mirror toward the second screw. I hear metal on metal. I adjust. Nothing. It’s not going in. I reach behind. The screw is wobbly, it is no longer exact. The holes are not aligned. A bead of sweat forms on my forehead. I feel the prickly itchiness of the first stage of anger. I hold it together. My wife is struggling to keep hold. She still says nothing. After 5 mins of fumbling around, we take it off the wall and put it on the ground.
I try but fail to keep it together. My vocabulary is reduced to words I haven’t used in quite a while. I want to put my foot through this mirror. The screws on the wall are laughing at me. I want to get a hammer and smash these fu^&*ing screws through the wall.
I walk outside for a breather. This is not going well. The mirror is winning 2-0.
My boys by this stage have lost interest and are playing outside, thoroughly unimpressed by their dad’s incompetence.
I give myself a half time pep talk, re-focus and take a new approach. I am not getting a bloody handyman. Maybe if I put screws underneath the mirror that could hold the mirror in place.
That does not work. I do however succeed in making the wall look more like swiss cheese. My wife stayed silent, but I knew what she was thinking. More holes in the wall.
I was no longer Bruce Banner, I was now The Incredible Sulk. It was Mirror 3 – Me 0. I had one more go left in me before I drop kicked this mirror back to India.
Big breath. We lifted the mirror. After several tense minutes I got my side in – the wobbly side remained.
My wife spoke for the first time. “Can I try the other side”.
I glared at her and thought to myself; “what? she doesn’t think I can do this! Does she think I am incompetent? How dare she dismiss my DIY skills and my manly abilities, I am outraged and insulted……”
“ok.” I said meekly.
Within 2 minutes she had calmly slotted the other screw into the tiny hole. The mirror was on the wall and it was straight.
Did I thank my wife?
Of course not.
It was only because of the way I held the mirror that she managed to get her side in.