How Do-It-Yourself Tutorials Made the Internet My Honorary Step-Parent

Barlow Cemetery, Avon, Indiana

During a fully functional adulthood, not every moment can be fun ‘n’ games ‘n’ writing.

I was born and raised in a HUD-funded lower-class apartment complex without benefit of a father who could teach me the fundamentals of male living such as auto repair, home improvement, industrial arts, or sports appreciation. Whereas the average male begins learning these skills at an early age — either from Dad, Stepdad, or other guy friends — I counted myself lucky that I knew which screwdriver was which. I picked up a few lessons here and there over the years, but when my wife and I became first-time ignorant homeowners in 2007, self-education in these fields became a necessary survival tactic. If I had to pick up the phone and my credit card every time an inanimate object misbehaved or died unexpectedly, we’d be bankrupt and retreating to our old shack-sized apartment once more.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’m tiring of paying professional repairmen to complete every single task. Thankfully, certain areas of the Internet are populated by Good Samaritans willing and able to share their everyday knowledge with our disadvantaged lot. Over the past 5½ years I’ve made several virtual pilgrimages to any number of macho sensei in hopes that their imparted wisdom would imbue me with a new talent and save me several bucks.

All of the following tasks would have been impossible for me to complete without the friendly assistance and educated intervention from the amazing colossal Internet:

* Clothes dryer: Replaced the heating element and vent seal. I had a vague idea of what a heating element looked like from my past experience with restaurant equipment, but I’d never opened up an appliance to inspect or remove parts myself. We had guys who did that for us. Fortunately there are online diagrams and how-to videos now.

* Toilet: Replaced the seat and the entire interior assembly. The latter took me hours to get everything just right — getting the water pressure just so, setting the ball at the proper height, coordinating the timing between flushing and refilling, etc. But it happened.

* Computer: Replaced an inferior low-watt factory fan with a higher-end model. Installed a wireless gateway. Again, these may sound like simple tasks to some of you. Friends and family already think I’m a computer whiz just because I have some keyboard shortcuts memorized and I know how to sort data in MS Excel. Boy, are they easy to fool.

* Other miscellaneous replacement jobs: Mailbox; patio door latch; shower heads; front door weatherstripping; kitchen faucet. (Mixed results on the latter — the lever still has to be positioned just right to prevent dripping. Revisiting it is presently low-priority.)

* The roof: Sealed minor shingle cracks, and also figured out how to traverse the roof without rolling off every time. It may look easy when you’re not actually up there, especially when you see movie characters prance around their roofs with nary a care in the world, but a few minor online tips may have made the difference between my being Rooftop Hero versus becoming Wile E. Coyote.

* The car: Changed the bulbs in my own headlights, taillights, and other miscellaneous lights. (When I was younger and tried changing a headlight without the Internet’s assistance, I cracked the glass trying to pry it off. Turns out you don’t need to do that. Wish I’d known.) I also once swapped out a rusty muffler bracket. This weekend, I learned how to clean up large puddles of transmission fluid without merely hosing it in nature’s direction and becoming an archenemy of Mother Earth.

Again, many of you may be thinking, “This is kid’s stuff.” For you, perhaps it was. Suffice it to say that single-parenthood did me no favors in these areas. But I like to think I’m doing a little better now, thanks to trusty Uncle Internet.

Granted, self-education may not be the way to go for every possible household task. Trained professionals still need to handle some of the more complicated tasks, such as roof replacement, HVAC maintenance, transmission overhaul, and orthodontia. But the wealth of knowledge out there for the taking is voluminous and astoundingly helpful. All you have to do is seek it.

One response

  1. Pingback: Echoes of Homeowners Past | Midlife Crisis Crossover

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