Last weekend, I had a day when I wished I were a guy named Larry.
Let me explain.
Years ago, when I had a job working for people with intellectual disabilities, I had two clients named Larry and Ronald.
Those aren’t really their names, of course, because that sort of thing is confidential, but, what you need to know is that Larry and Ronald were brothers, who lived together in a two-bedroom apartment. Their elderly mother had passed away recently and they lived among her many, many possessions, as well as their own and seemed to be managing their bachelor life just fine (other than eating nothing but hamburger patties for 3 meals a day, 7 days a week).
Larry, the younger brother, loved gadgets and machines. He (and his late mother) had collected record players (6) and cameras (they had everything from a Brownie to a Polaroid to a Disc camera to a Nikon SLR) and fans (29), among other things.
Larry liked to take things apart to see the insides of the gubbins and how they worked, so all of his many, many gadgets and machines were in bits and pieces. Larry was better at taking things apart than putting things back together, it seemed.
Anyhoo, to get to my point: one day, their landlord called and said that their apartment was a fire hazard because of all Larry’s and his mother’s junk, not to mention the 29 fans and the evolution of cameras and that we needed to get rid of some stuff pronto, or he would serve an eviction notice.
I hightailed it over to Larry and Ronald’s and began the process of trying to respectfully negotiate the removal of some of their treasures–some to storage, some to charity, some to garbage. These were adult men, after all. They had a right to live among their junk.
Heaven knows, I do.
But, only until the roof over your head is in jeopardy, I figure.
The conversations went something like this:
“Larry, do you think you need 5 vacuums?”
(Larry looked at me with sadness in his eyes.)
“Maybe you don’t need five, Larry. What do you think?”
“Well,” Larry stammered, “I need one.”
(Pause and puppy-dog eyes.)
“And, Ronald needs one.”
(Pause and puppy-dog eyes.)
(Pause and puppy-dog eyes.)
“What if one breaks?”
So, I managed to give away 2 vacuums, leaving Larry and Ronald with 3 vacuums, which is apparently the perfect number for a 2-bedroom apartment and no one who vacuums.
Last weekend, I was wishing I had the foresight of Larry.
I killed the vacuum.
Dead, dead, dead.
And, there were no spares, no sirree.
But, I do live with Practical Man so after explaining how the vacuum had inexplicably, mysteriously perished on my watch after a mere 15 years or so (maybe I shouldn’t vacuum, whot, whot?), he set to work.
In the meantime, I gnashed my teeth about having to spend hundreds of dollars on something as boring as a new vacuum.
While I was grinding off my teeth, Practical Man went about breaking into the vacuum.
There were no screws to remove anything to get at the gubbins inside on account of it’s very vintage to want to re-use and fix things you already own.
Maybe you have wondered at times why I called this blog, “A Vintage Life?”
These are some of the times and the reasons, why.
I mean, seriously, have you ever seen the inside of a vacuum when it wasn’t in Larry’s apartment?
But, in our modern “green” society, practically no one fixes stuff anymore so why would you need to get inside something to look at what might be broken?
Y’know, unless you are Larry or Practical Man?
Practical Man somehow figured out how to break into the vacuum, without…um…breaking it.
I’m not even sure how that happened since it’s 98% plastic.
Crazy, mad, skills, that man has.
He came back from the workshop and announced that the motor was fine, it wasn’t the relay (I nodded and tried to pretend I vaguely recalled something about relays from O-level Physics) and that he figured it was the switch.
I could barely hear him over my gnashing of teeth.
Vacuum shopping – blah, blah, I thought again.
Maybe I could console myself over having to spend hard-earned moulah on a boring vacuum by buying a nice yellow one, I reasoned.
Have I mentioned that I’m the yin to Practical Man’s yang?
Meanwhile, he was looking online for switches but they were expensive and likely imported, meaning more expense and duty and exchange, etc etc.
So, he found an electronics vacuum shop (someone spent hours working on that name, I bet!) And, when we got there, he did something oh-so-vintage and awesome:
He pulled out the wiring schematic he had made for the vacuum:
Isn’t it adorable?
I love science-y people.
So do guys in vacuum repair shops who almost never, ever meet a bona-fide Practical Man.
The guy’s eyes practically fell out of his head when he saw the hand-drawn schematic.
And voila! New switch for $15.
Today, he installed the new switch, fixed something else that also turned out to be broken and the vacuum is now put back together and very much ALIVE.
Also: Not. Thrown. Away.
Also: Not a Boring, Blah Blah Blah Expense.
But, we still only have one.
Not one for Ronald, too.
Not one, in case one breaks.
Thank you, Practical Man.
When we moved to our current house, I was very excited because of the magic drawer.
You know, the magic drawer that you put dishes in and then swish, swish, swish, swish, they magically come out clean.
Of course, Practical Man has been known to remove dishes from the magic drawer to wash them in the sink. It bewilders me and I would never do it because I believe it is an insult to the magic drawer whose mere existence is…magical, in my opinion.
Anyway, I have loved the magic drawer from the first moment we met. And, not just because there had been many times in my early 20s, when I hid dirty dishes in the oven when my mother came to visit. The magic drawer sort of mesmerizes me (I am easily entertained) but my fascination has its roots in vintage times, when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s.
There was no magic drawer in our house. Not until I had left home. Behold the evidence. (p.s. my mother would like you to know that she, like Julia Child, no longer has pegboard in her kitchen.) Helping with the dishes and other parentally-inflicted hardships (like the lone, 13′” black-and-white TV we had until I left for university) allows my sister and I to tease our parents and feel smug about our “deprived” childhoods. Some parents cry when their children move out. Mine went on a shopping spree and bought all the modern conveniences we had been begging for over the years.
Anyway, no magic drawer. Deprived childhood. Years and years of doing dishes. Boo, hoo, hoo. You get the gist. All perfect material for a modern-day family dinner party.
However, we did have dishwashing music.
The deal in our house was that my mom cooked the supper and my sister, dad and I did the cleaning up. Far from mere drudgery of dirty pots and table crumbs, the “cleaning up” was my favourite part of any meal (especially if that meal had involved ratatouille or meatloaf–bleech). The dishwashing collection was our dad’s pile of 45 records, some old, some new. The only criteria for making it into the collection was that it had to have what he termed: “a good beat”.
All the better for us to engage in our tra-la-la (I think that’s where it started for me), doo wap and bee bop.
We were like the Ellen Degeneres show except with tea towels.
It was a festive affair, the cleaning up. It often took us hours what with the trading of DJ duties, careful selection of music, enthusiastic dancing (and dripping of water on the floor) and of course the…
A wimoweh, a wimoweh, a wimoweh…
A wah, wah, wah, wah, wonder…
One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock, rock…
Wah ha ha ha ha haaaaah…
It was not a magic drawer, but it was magic. Around 8:00, our mom would appear from the basement (where she had no doubt been squinting at the tiny black and white television) and gasp, “Aren’t you done YET?!”
One more song. Just one more song.
The dishes were done ages ago. The tra-la-la, doo wap and bee bop of dishwashing music lasts forever.