Travails

There are many travails to being a fellow with as much handyman sense as a medium-sized brick. Winter simply brings new opportunities to reveal my inadequacies.

One morning a couple days ago, I woke to another majestic quilt of white. We received only a few inches, which means I could easily clear the driveway by hand with my snow pusher (not to be confused with a snow shovel or snow scooper or snow scraper—these are the intricate details one learns with a year under their belt in the Northern tundra). However, since winter has so far merely tipped its hat and winked, it seemed time to fire up the Orange Beast and make sure all was well.

My friends, all was not well.

After reviewing the starting instructions (go easy, I only have 1 season of experience), I meticulously clipped through the regimen: open the fuel line, turn on the choke, insert the ignition key, flip the start switch, pump the primer bulb. Each in precise order, a NASA engineer prepping for launch. Then, moment of truth: I pulled the start rope, expecting that mighty roar, that blast of horsepower, that potent rumble validating my masculinity.

Instead, I only strained my shoulder, pull after clattering pull. This is a new blower, mind you. I’ve used it 6-7 times. I haven’t even bothered to remove the tags. It still gleams. Yet there I was in my garage, eyeing my machine intently, lifting wires, rubbing the top of the engine like it was a bottle holding a genie, doing all the sorts of things one does whenever you’re trying to be useful but have no idea what you’re doing or what you’re even looking for.

Two manuals. Multiple YouTube videos. Scrolling the manufacturer’s website FAQ’s. More YouTube.

After hours of this infuriating madness, the only thing I’d discovered that I hadn’t yet tried was replacing the spark plug. It’s possible that—due to someone who shall not be named maybe over-priming the gas—the plug may have fouled. But true to form for me, one fixit possibility opens 3 new problems. One needs a spark plug wrench (what size?). One apparently needs a spark plug gap gauge. One needs to know how to gap the spark plug and how to replace it.

“This is so simple,” you say. Well, for you, yes, I understand. That’s the point of this sad tale. This is how the shame piles on for guys like me. These are the travails.

I’m happy to report that after a bit more YouTube, visits to two automotive stores, and one wrestling match with a socket set, I did in fact get my spark plug replaced. And I did (cue Handel’s Messiah) hear the Orange Beast roar. I let it purr for 2-3 minutes to clear the lines—but mainly to revel in my triumph. “Who’s King of the garage now?”

But then, rolling my blower away, I saw a large stainless steel nut and washer lying on the ground, exactly where my blower had just been. I’ve combed over every inch of this blasted machine, thumbed through schematics (twice). I have no idea from whence it came, no idea whether it’s an unessential add-on or whether, on some freezing January morning, my blower will wheeze and jolt and crumble.

I keep looking at my blower intently, curiously, lifting wires, as if I have some clue. I do not. And that metal nut and washer lie there. “Rookie,” they say, shaking their head.