Mr. Fix-it kills time with alarming results

April 18, 1999|By Susan Reimer

MY HUSBAND took a week's vacation, and now all the watches have batteries and nobody is getting any sleep.

Although I don't understand it myself, let me see if I can explain it to you.

I married a man who doesn't discard anything and although that bodes well for me, his wife, the top of his dresser and his workbench in the garage get pretty cluttered with things he's been meaning to fix.

The guy will sit for hours and pick the knots out of a little girl's necklace, and it is uncanny the way he can recognize to which toy an unidentifiable part belongs.

These are not marketable skills, and although they can be useful in family life and home repairs, I have vague concerns about the mental health of a man who keeps Ziploc bags full of bolts, screws, GI Joe arms, Barbie heads, dried-out markers, black plastic thingamajigs and the springs from old ballpoint pens -- just in case.

So it did not surprise me that when he took some time off, he used it to accomplish all sorts of little fix-it tasks that no one else thought needed doing.

Which mean that all the old watches that have been collecting on his dresser top for the 15 years of our married life now have new batteries. Some have new watchbands, too. "But no one wears these watches and there is still no light bulb in the porch light," I said.

I had just returned home from out of town when he proudly showed off his watch collection like a New York street vendor, and I had extinguished his pride with my complaint that, once again, he was not working off of my list of things to do.

Watches used to be expensive pieces of jewelry that were presented to children when they reached a responsible age, such as college graduation.

But watches are cheap as dirt now and kids acquire a watch to go with every phase of their development. Disney watches, GI Joe watches, Barbie watches.

And batteries can be purchased for all of them, apparently.

My husband then confessed to me that this battery-replacement project had been ill-timed. He had completed it on the eve of "turn your clocks ahead" day and was forced to spend another full day resetting each refurbished watch one hour ahead. "Two days?" said I, the wet blanket of his life. "Two days on watches that nobody needs? Did somebody around here put in a request for a watch? Who is going to be wearing all these watches? We could pass these things out at Halloween." So, two days were gone from his catch-up-on-the-chores vacation and still there was no bulb in the porch light. And the grass wasn't re-seeded and and the kitchen doesn't have fresh wallpaper. "Two days? Why didn't you scrub the driveway with a tooth brush? Why not comb out the fringe on the bath towels," I said, ranting now. Once I get started, it is hard to stop.

Anyway, that night the watches, silent for so long because their batteries had run dry, began chirping and beeping at irregular intervals. Their alarms, set years ago for some long forgotten reason and now resuscitated by fresh batteries, were going off.

But there were so many watches that in the dark of night, we were not quick enough to identify the offending party and silence it.

So the watches continue to jerk us awake each night. It is like living inside a cuckoo clock.

I am tired and miserable. But I tell myself it could be worse.

At least the porch light isn't keeping me awake.

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