Finding the right window of opportunity for lining up help for a two-person project

Saturday's Hero

March 23, 1996|By ROB KASPER

ONE RECENT MORNING I was about to trudge off to work when I spotted a problem with an upstairs window. The bottom of the sash was sticking out of the window's channel. It looked like a bare toe pushing through a hole in a sock.

The question was, fix it now or fix it later? I decided to go for the immediate mend. This looked like it was one of those "going-out-the-door chores," a small, satisfying repair that could zTC be made just before you head out the door and join the ranks of the world's responsible, very-busy people.

I am easily attracted to such small efforts at restoring domestic order, especially on mornings when I am reluctant to dive into the working world. At work the tasks are large, seemingly intractable, capable of swallowing up anyone who comes near them. At home there was a wobbling window, a problem that could be remedied quickly with an apparent and benign result.

Tightening loose screws on kitchen cabinets, changing burned-out light bulbs, picking up trash tossed into the yard by the wind, are other chores I have found myself doing before going to work. Some people might call such behavior "stalling." But when you complete one of these tiny tasks you are rewarded with a few moments of tranquillity. Later in the day the world may handle you as roughly as a tree limb being chopped into mulch, but, for the moment, you feel you are the master of all you survey.

This feeling of well-being can be short-lived. Problems that appeared to be easy to fix, can turn out to require more complicated solutions. That was the case with the upstairs window. It is a new, fully functioning window, one of the few we have in our old house. Rather than depending on sash cord and counter weights to ease the window sash up and down, the bottom of this window sash snaps into a spring-loaded cable. Snapping the sash back into place turned out to be a two-person job. The other morning I was the only one home.

I made the minor repair of forcing the sash back in the channel, the equivalent of pushing the bare toe back in the sock. But I needed another set of hands to connect the sash to the spring-loaded cable. This meant that the unfettered window sash could come crashing down.

I put a note on the window warning that is should not be opened. And I made a mental note that sometime this weekend I would have to line up an assistant and snap the window back in place.

Finding an assistant for weekend projects is getting increasingly difficult. I used to be able to rely on one of the kids to help me. But often their weekend social calendar is cluttered, especially when compared to mine.

Moreover, my kids and I often have conflicting views on what hours of the day are good times to fix things.

For instance, I think that 10 o'clock Saturday morning is an ideal time to repair the window.

But the 15-year-old, whose strong arms would be helpful for holding the sash in place, probably won't be up at that hour. Like most teen-agers, he seems to be most active when the sun goes down. It is not unusual for him to start projects at 10 at night, an hour that usually finds me either fading or already out of the picture.

I might get his little brother, 11, to help me fix the window. But helpers in this age group toil only for brief periods. This is the morning that some of the kid's favorite cartoons are on TV. Most kids can only be pried away from the TV set during the commercials. Even if I line up this helper for a Saturday morning project, I can only work him for 90-seconds, or three commercials, at a time.

I am reluctant to ask my wife to help. She has weekend projects of her own. One of the keys to a lasting marriage, in my view, is for the partners to steer clear of each other's home repair projects.

So sometime this weekend I will get somebody to hold the upstairs window sash as I snap it back into place.

A project that started out one morning as "a going out the door chore" will be completed after four or five days. All will be right with the world, at least for a few hours.

Pub Date: 3/23/96

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