Sunday, October 16, 2005

Getting fixed

My dad is the calmest person I’ve ever known. You can’t agitate the man. I should know; I was a teenager for seven years, and I was trying the entire time. I can’t remember Dad ever raising his voice in anger, though I do remember him making quite a racket when he ran into a yellow jacket nest with the lawnmower.

I think the reason my Dad never lost his cool with me was because I wasn’t a car engine. If I had been a car engine, I would have spent the better part of my formative years with Dad shining a light in my face and hollering. Dad is very handy at fixing cars, and he’s probably better at it than many professional mechanics, but I think the secret of his success is that he lubricates the inner-workings of his automobiles with expletives.

To illustrate, here’s one of those stories that’s been told in my family three-thousand times, changing slightly with each telling, but generally keeping the same punch line. In a couple years, this story will probably involve a blue ox and/or somebody riding a catfish down the Rio Grande.

When my sister Amy was a little girl, she wandered out into the garage, where my Dad was clanging around with his head inside the hood of our old blue station wagon. She had a little red toy hammer in her hand.

“Hi, Daddy!” Amy said. Dad put down his wrench and wiped his greasy hands on a rag.

“What brings you out here, little girl?” he asked her.

“I help Daddy!” she said, and she would have needed to have wrinkly puppies sleeping on her head to have been any cuter.

“Thanks, kiddo,” Dad said. “I could use some help.” A faint sound of wood creaking could be heard in the far corner of the garage; it was Norman Rockwell setting up his easel.

Then Amy started wildly swinging the hammer, yelling with each down stroke, “Dang! Dang! Dang! Dang!”

But she did not say dang. She said the first bad word you’re ever allowed to say in front of your parents, except she was at least ten years too young to be saying it, displaying at once her surprising knack for both mimicry and auto repair. Mr. Rockwell picked up his things and quickly exited the building. This is normally where the story ends, everyone has a good laugh and then Amy brings up the time I peed in the bathtub.

I mention all of the above only because, since becoming a homeowner, I have discovered that trying to fix things turns me from a mellow guy into a raving lunatic, and I’d like to blame it on genetics, rather than on me, of course. Perhaps I am turning into my dad. If you knew the man, you’d agree that that’s the best-case scenario. Regardless, Dad and I both have a special talent for swearing at inanimate objects, but when he swears at them, they listen.

I tried to replace the belt on our dryer last week, and at the low point of the evening, I found myself covered in sweat, froth and grime, waist-deep in large pieces of metal, hoarse from hollering at each of them, wondering how I was possibly going to retrieve each of the three screws I had dropped into an inaccessible chasm behind the tumbler. I put the dryer back together as best I could, but we can no longer run the thing safely. It makes such a screeching noise that it messes up whale migrations.

The good news is that Mom and Dad are coming to visit next weekend, and they promised me that they’d help me fix the old dryer or help me carry in a new one. I have a feeling that with the combined power of Dad’s vocabulary and mine, we’ll have the old one fixed up in no time.

Calm down! You can reach Mike Todd online at


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  2. So, what? You a celebrity now? What's with the:

    Calm down! You can reach Mike Todd online at

    You can kick Mike Todd in the shins online at

    After you recharge your batteries, you can reach Mike Todd online at

    Want to pick a fight? You can reach Mike Todd online at

    Before he scuttles into the underbrush, you can reach Mike Todd online at


    Once was cute; a second time was charming; but now I think this creative writing excursion of yours has gone to your head.

    I'm waiting for a P.O. Box address for fan mail... or is that in the works?

    Love ya-

  3. Aghhh, those spammers got through your fortress of word verification... those bastards!

  4. Dude! How'd the spammer get through the freakin' word thingy? Those bastards!

    And how'd you get through, Jered? I was hoping the word verification would confuse you.

    I freakin' put those things at the end of the print column, so I started including them here, too. I know having an email address is usually reserved for the rich and famous, so please excuse me for indulging.

  5. Hah! I'm getting through the word verification too!

    The story about Amy is too cute! Your dad sounds alot like my husband. The louder and more swear words he uses the faster things seem to get done. The icing was when we heard our 3yr old daughter tell a stuffed animal she was going to kick its ass.... so much for setting a good example huh?

    Great post!!

  6. I always used to say "damn dog!"

    I think this yelling at household itmes that need to be fixed thing is definitly a male trait. I use the telephone. It comes in handy because there is a phone book that comes with owning a phone. You would be surprised at the people listed in that handy dandy book, as well as the amount of effort and time they can save you for a mere few thousand dollars. Trust me Mike!

  7. Oh my God! My poor husband is trying to sleep, and I'm cracking up like a hyena on speed. Great post!

  8. Great story. Norman Rockwell... dang, what a great image.

    By the way, I finally gave in to word verification. Spammers cease to be amusing when they start sending info on viagra.

  9. That post was dang funny as always.

    For me, the first bad word a child can say to their parents is "Why?" and it's downhill from there...

    On word verification, I'm gonna start making up definitions for the codes I have to type to get some fun out of the arduous yet necessary task.

    Today's word is...

    EWILPJ [ee-WIL-puh-juh]

    An ewilpj is an old Albanian word meaning "man who tries yet fails to turn boring yet arduous tasks into something funny"

    If you are now laughing, drop me line and I'll send you your application form to join the International Ewilpj Federation.

  10. "he lubricates the inner-workings of his automobiles with expletives." LMAO great post, Mike.

  11. My daughters are taught that "damn" is only to be used as a computer term.

  12. Mr. Rockwell picked up his things and quickly exited the building.

    I'm not even sure that Mr. Rockwell would dare enter my home. I've always wondered where those moments come from--certainly not from this family.

    Your columns get better each week. You're an inspiration!


  13. Ahh yes, the father/son fix it. My dad is pretty handy. I remember working with him in "the Shop" as he is a machinist. When he got really pissed- he threw things- top jaws, masterjaws, hunks of metal with pointed edges that left holes in the wall or simply stuck IN the wall- the joys of rage...

  14. Thank you all for the funny, kind and generally bitchin' comments. All much appreciated. You all rule.