I can’t seem to get the hang of this “home improvement” crap, and I know this because I am standing in the kitchen in a pool of my own blood, and it looks a little like some kind of over-the-top Scorcese slasher flick, in which the main character plays a deranged yet suicidal sushi chef bent on committing ritual hara-kiri with ginsu knives and, though I’m not screaming, or in any real pain, I am amazed at the very efficient way that my heart can pump blood through an open wound in my palm, even after I have tried to staunch the flow with a roll of paper towels and enough bandages to wrap a mummy.
I sliced my hand open while trying to hang a picture on the wall, which for people with even ordinary handyman skills is a pretty simple and straightforward affair, but for me it involved using 3M Command Strips, whose main marketing gimmick is aimed at imbeciles or gullible guppies, who actually believe that you can simply use a few Velcro strips backed by glue to reliably hang anything more beefy than a feather on the wall. And while it may sound idiotic (or possibly even certifiably insane), to believe this, it still sounded better to me than the tried-and-true method of nails and hammers, because I am endowed with the fine-motor skills of a highly caffeinated bull, and such enterprises almost always end up with a busted thumb or a trip to the Doc-in-a-Box, who will look at my bruised and bleeding appendage in wonderment and say something like, “I have never seen such a thing in my life, even in Mumbai, young man! How could you be so stupid? HAHAHAHA!”
So I hung the picture on the wall, secretly gloating over the fact that I had somehow beaten the system and avoided not only a trip to the infirmary, but also the obligatory holes in the wall which have to be patched later, which is hard to do without professional help, not only because of my distinct lack of know-how and coordination, but also because by the time I’m done it looks like the aftermath of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, with bullet-sized holes liberally peppering the surface, and only a fresh application of drywall smeared on in buckets will suffice to repair it.
Afterward, I head into the garage to blunder around with the wall switch, which has been cleverly reversed by my contractor (motto: “There’s nothing so wrong that I can’t make it worse”), so that down is “on” and up is “off”, and that wouldn’t bother most people (even though I think this is just some kind of plot by the electrical worker’s union to irritate me), but, since you find my picture when you look up “anal retentive” in the dictionary, I think it’s worth my time, since that is admittedly of no real value, to fix it, and besides, given my general mental instability, some electro-shock therapy may be just what the doctor ordered. Now, every time you work with anything that involves household current, the first thing the instructions will tell you is to turn off the power at the circuit breaker, but I think that is for pussies who have a lot of extra time on their hands or can’t handle a the risk to their Pacemakers, and so I have cleverly hidden my breaker box behind a 300 pound sideboard made of solid oak, which is therefore NEVER worth the trouble of moving, and so I dispense with the safety tip, disassemble the switch plate cover, and begin tinkering with the wires, almost at random, since I have never had the slightest idea of how electricity actually works, save that when you cross the wires the wrong way you can let all of the smoke out of expensive electronic appliances, and if you do that often enough you can set off the fire alarm. I have finished my work and I am screwing the thing back together, rather pleased with myself, not only because I got it right, and the light comes on as it should, but also because I was only shocked once, just a light tingly discharge really, and, though I wouldn’t call it pleasant, it doesn’t really bother me too much, which gets me to thinking that maybe I have built up a tolerance for electrical shock, like those people you read about who have managed to be bitten by snakes enough that they are now immune to their venom, when I hear a crash in the hallway, which is of course the Velcro letting go of my priceless Elvis on black velvet painting.
Actually, it’s a photo I took, and which my ex-wife had framed for me, and now it’s on the floor, but the amazing thing is, though the frame is broken, the glass is still intact, which kind of defies Murphy’s Law, but I don’t, because as soon as I start to handle the pieces, I grab the side of the glass and slice my palm open, which is where I started this story, bleeding profusely, yet, also, alarmingly; but really only worried about how I can stop the flow so that I won’t ruin my new digs with blood stains like some kind of hokey episode out of CSI Satellite Beach, wherein the unfortunate victim is traumatized by his own impatience and ineptitude, and, as the inspector grimly shakes his head, looking at the body lying on the floor after the encounter with the picture frame, how we should all learn a lesson about the tragedy of the condition humaine before cutting to a commercial break.
In the event, I DO manage to stop the flow, screaming like a stuck pig over the sink as I pour hydrogen peroxide on the wound, and not the least bit embarrassed by my unmanly display, even though my girlfriend, who suggested I take this necessary step, is watching me with barely concealed disdain and trying not to think of why, oh, why she picked me as a mate instead of a real man, like Hugh Jackman, who she saw last night get shot on TV and barely even grimaced as a bullet was extracted from his flesh using a hot iron rod in a field-expedient surgical procedure, and with nothing to dull the pain other than a bottle of whiskey and the sure knowledge that in the end he would get his revenge AND the girl. But I have the girl as well, even though I’m still whining about my wound after consuming the best part of a bottle of wine and some codeine pills (I always have meds lying around from the last unfortunate encounter that I’ve had with power tools and/or sharp objects), and so take that, Hugh, and George Clooney, and Matt Damon, too, and whoever else she fantasizes about, because I am living proof that, in today’s America, a man doesn’t need to have a stiff upper lip, or killer good looks, for that matter, as long as your hand isn’t broken, and thus, your check-writing ability is still intact.
I think it’s good advice, based on my experience, that if you’re planning a small project, and you think you might need something more advanced than a screwdriver to handle it, to leave it up to what passes for a tradesman these days, which is usually nothing more than an unemployed surfer with a cocaine habit he can’t afford. No, most of them have no idea what they’re doing, either, but I’d rather watch them curse like a Mongol after smashing their thumb and pay $50 an hour for the privilege (even though I know in my heart that they are most certainly doing the job as poorly as their natural talents will allow them), than to bust my own finger up for free and get a similarly amateurish result. So, like the saying goes, when it comes to semi-skilled work, “Kids, don’t try this at home.”