March 18 ē 09:53 PM

Electricity, know-how come in handy

August 19, 2009
Is the term 'handy-man' an oxymoron? I didn't used to think so. Up until the time I'm 18 I live in the same house with a man who can build a wine rack, wire every room of the house for sound, make a motorized shish kabob turner, fix a car, rebuild a motorcycle, build a deck, a gently sloping bridge, replumb a bathroom, install a dishwasher, etc. etc. etc.

After a some years hiatus I spend another quarter century or so with a man who can also do a lot of the above—even if it takes three or four years to accomplish. Still, I grow accustomed to having a person around the house who can do just about anything. Alas, like all practiced lovers do, I now realize how much I took that for granted. Handy-men are not in abundant supply. Even those who profess to be.

It starts with a power outage and the usual ho-hum flooded basement. It's a condition I've become so familiar with that I no longer wring my hands in the middle of the night, muck boots and flashlight part of the sodden ensemble. Gone are the days of frantic baling, blindly sticking my arm in the icky crock, head turned to avoid any splash on the neck and face as I frantically—and vainly—attempt to manipulate the sump pump in such a way that it will actually work.

No, these days if I waken during a power outage, I pull up the covers, grab a sleeping pill and roll over.

Such is the case last Sunday morning, somewhere around 3:15 a.m. according to my cell phone, which provides the only eerie light source in the pitch darkness.

I wrest myself from a sleepy haze and try to comprehend what is going on. The windows are wide open. I hear motors running. Oh boy (that's not exactly what I say). Not good. Power must have gone off some time ago. Basement's full, no doubt. Pull. Pill. Roll over.

Ahhh. There's nothing like a hot, humid, still Sunday morning to make one feel alive—especially when there's no running water.

By and by the electricity comes on and I work up the nerve to check the basement. It's almost a foot deep. I hear no sucking sound. Back up stairs for the boots, arm in the icky crock, push, pull, tug on the float. Nothing. The frantic feeling grows. It's Sunday. My basement is full of water. It looks like more rain is coming. I have a sump pump that doesn't work.

A few more tries and I get it to pump a little, but it's not making sense to me. With my arm in the crock, hand on the float, the pump works when the float's in the down position—opposite of the way it's supposed to work. Still, I'm relieved. I rig the float around a cord so I don't have to keep my hand on it forever while the basement drains. I'm rather pleased with myself. It's only then that I realize I'm standing almost knee deep in water messing around with an electrical piece of equipment that I know nothing about. I start to back away and the rigging that I did comes undone. The float does just that—floats and bobs aimlessly. The pump stops. The frustration grows.

I turn to the paper to look for a 'handy-man.' Unfortunately there are none listed in the business directory. I noticed this last winter, too, when I needed to hire somebody to plow my driveway. I am perplex-ed by this. The business directory ads are super cheap and I know I'm not the only single woman out there who needs help with some things. I want to do business with someone who can fix my problem but they make it hard by not advertising.

To make a long, long and dreadful story short I end up using another source. Woe is me. A stop payment, much haggling and standing ground and debating and insisting and fretting and stewing and another "handy-man" later I now have a working sump pump. And electricity to boot! Wow, imagine that. Temporary reprieve from the Third World Country that has become my home.

I continue to debate whether the term "handy-man" is an oxymoron. Perhaps it won't matter any time soon (hope springs eternal!) I now know how to install a sump pump and it's so simple you don't even have to be handy in the least.

Email Catherine at

Castle Creek
03 - 18 - 19
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