I don’t mean to mislead. I know that usually the phrase “one door closes” is completed by “and another one opens” and intimates a story behind the story. Here though, I’m actually being quite a bit more literal. Forewarned is forearmed.
We live in a relatively old house. Much of which is still original to its building in the 1920s. It’s also a bit wonky overall and there are several interesting, if not convincing, stories of how it came to be in its current incarnation. The house is literally in the tower-of-pisa style, where it tilts rather distressingly toward the front. In the few years we have lived here we have gotten used to the incline and have adjusted ourselves and our belongings accordingly. Though we’ve made our mistakes (buying Nina a marble run for example), we mostly don’t even notice the slope anymore.
Anyway, our front door, a thick, solid, wooden door, is also original. Along with the nearly 100 year old lock mechanism inside it. For the last few months the doorknob has been loose. An easy enough fix for me (and just about anyone else). But then the doorknob literally just fell off one day. Leaving us trapped like rats. Alright, maybe not quite that dramatic. But we couldn’t open the door from the inside. So, stuck in the house (sort of), with nothing better to do, I consulted Youtube. And channeled my inner Tam.
Tam is inspirational for lots of reasons. But she has been particularly influential to me in the realm of home repairs. Tam doesn’t see a problem. She opens herself up to solutions. The difference is bigger than you think. It’s very Buddhist, all about your approach and expectations. Anyway…
I took the entire door apart. Pulling out the large locking mechanism along with dead bolts, door knobs and handles. The thin black box was greasy, dusty, dirty and filled with gears and springs. Totally cool. I watched Youtube for each step of taking it apart, making sure everything was moving as it should and putting it back together. Until I got stuck. Then I had to take the mechanism to a locksmith. Even though I had gotten to a point where I could not completely fix and finish the project, I didn’t feel defeated. In fact, I felt quite jubilant that I’d gotten as far as I had. Despite the three days we had holes in our front door and no way to lock the house.
The locksmith I went to was close-by and got excellent reviews on social media sites like Yelp. I realize now, after the fact, that I generally tend to approach circumstances like this from a very awkward place. Male-dominated realms like construction, auto mechanics or home repairs intimidate me. And I generally go into interactions with a one-down mentality, waiting to be scoffed at, dismissed, rebuffed. But I was so pumped about my success with the lock system, that I practically skipped into the shop. The locksmith, a short, stocky, gruff-looking, tattooed, beefy guy with a grey crew-cut glanced uninterestedly at the locks and gears and said, “Yeah, that’s pretty much done. It’s about 100 years old and it’s had its time.” I was like, “Dude! Come on! I took this shit out, took it apart, cleaned it up and put it all back together. By myself! Give me some props here before you send me away.” Of course I said it in a jovial, teasing tone. He quirked a half smile and said, “So, you did this yourself huh?” Alright. Now we’re talking.
We ended up having a really nice conversation and connection (which I will spare you the back and forth details of). While we chatted about hundred-year-old locks and other this old house stuff, he fiddled with the mechanism in his hands. Something clicked into place and he was like, “Well what do you know! This may just have a bit more life in it after all.” He explained how to reinstall the mechanism carefully so that certain parts would line up and catch correctly. He was acting like a cool big brother rather than (my regular experience of men in this kind of position with me) a patronizing douchebag. He suggested that regardless of how much life the lock had left, I should start putting some money aside for a new system.
I raced home like a little kid and put that sucker back together. Then I opened and closed the door, locking and unlocking it, repeatedly, about a thousand times. Until I realized that with each click I was shortening the lock’s already breviloquent life.
Given my last blog post about not being able to hold onto the pride and triumph that should accompany accomplishment, I was very aware of holding onto (without grasping) the good feeling of hard work and achievement. And wanted to share it with you. Thanks for reading.