Simply no match for repairman duty

April 17, 1995|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Staff Writer

As I have explained in this space many times, when it comes to being handy, I can barely work a shower curtain.

Therefore it was with some degree of concern that I recently discovered a slight problem with my gas grill, the problem being that -- stay with me here, this is where it gets technical -- it wouldn't light.

This became apparent during a routine family cookout, when I launched into the various complicated procedures involved in the operation of the grill.

First I opened the gas valve. Then I pressed the little red igniter button. And nothing happened.

This I recognized as a bad sign.

So I hit the button again. Again nothing happened. Then I hit it again. Nada.

At this point, I decided not to hit the button again, bRcause by now the smell of gas was overpowering. And all I could envision was the grill and then me and then the house erupting in a huge fireball visible for many miles.

Standing there over an inoperable grill, with a plate full of raw hamburgers and people nagging me to get on with it and bring them food, it occurred to me how meaningless my life had become.

People are funny about food. As long as you're feeding them, they'll remain somewhat friendly and good-natured. But once they discover no food is coming, they turn on you like enraged wolverines.

Believe me, you haven't seen surly until you walk back into the house with a platter of uncooked burgers and say: "Uh, the grill won't light . . ."

Thinking of all this, I became so depressed that I simply closed the grill and put the cover back on. Then I went upstairs to my bedroom, where I lay in the dark for several hours.

As it happens, a friend of mine, Paul, examined the grill the next day. He said the igniter was shot. Then he showed me how to light the grill with a long match, in a way that wouldn't result in the grill exploding 50 feet in the air and a blazing fireball visible for many miles.

Then he said something that was so funny that I . . . well I just lost it.

He said: "Just go buy an igniter and install it yourself."

Oh, that was a good one! I was laughing so hard that I fell to the ground. Then as patiently as possible, I explained that asking me to install an igniter in a gas grill was like asking me to install the nuclear reactor in a Trident submarine.

"Oh, you could put in an igniter," Paul said.

That's the thing about not being handy: No one ever believes you're as clueless as you say you are. People think you're just being modest.

Anyway, to prove my point, I went to the hardware store to pick up an igniter.

There are men who love going to hardware stores, but not me, pal. These places give me the creeps. I walked past row after row of gleaming stepladders, tools, drill bits, garden hoses, nail and screw bins and became paralyzed with anxiety.

Fortunately, a nice man who worked there showed me where the igniters were. I looked at one that said "Fits All Grills! EZ to Install!" and of course I knew they were lying.

"I could never install this," I said.

"Oh, sure you could," the nice man said, ringing up my purchase.

He seemed busy, so I didn't lay that Trident submarine analogy on him. But I will if he ever says something like that to me again.

In any event, I went home and tried to put the igniter in the grill, and of course I failed miserably.

The instructions were ridiculously lengthy and complex, to the point where I kept expecting to see the words: "How to assemble your United States Navy nuclear submarine."

There was no question we were doomed when the first instruction read: "Remove current igniter in grill."

Since the current igniter was encased in enough metal to withstand a blast of Semtex, there seemed little point in continuing.

Nevertheless, I read on. The second instruction read: "Break electrode wire at the crimped area 1/4 -inch from the ceramic." The third instruction read: "Put end of threaded sleeve into collector box and install a small hex nut."

At this point, I put down the instructions and went up to my bedroom, where I lay in the dark for several hours.

In any event, the whole ugly business was resolved when my brother-in-law Doug came to visit and installed the new igniter in the grill. It took him maybe five minutes to do this.

He thinks he's so cool. Like he's the first guy who ever fixed anything.

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