Tag Archives: appliances

MHH Column November: Good Call

bathroom_phone_2       I was not the first person on my block to get a VCR, cable television, an Atari video game system or a microwave oven. I did not have any designer clothes that didn’t come out of someone else’s closet first. I was only given one bike (which I was expected to take care of) and my parents did not buy a new car every other year. However there was one item in our home that equated us with those ultra elite, uber eccentric families that appeared on those horrible 1980s prime time soap operas:

We had a phone in the bathroom.

Over the years my parents talked a good game about the significant improvements that they were going to make to the lavatory facilities “someday.” I distinctly remember hearing whispers of a fairly solid plan to multiply the room (at least by half) in a corner of the basement. There was talk of building a shower at some point, replacing the vanity, etc. but the only things that ever really changed in there when I was growing up was the color of the towels, the cushiony seat cover and the washers when Dad switched them out every couple of months.

So WHY was the first big upgrade the addition of a telecommunications department? Beats me but if you’ve been reading my columns for a while, then you know that my parents were a little…unique.

Truth be told, neither one of them woke up one morning and said, “Hey, here’s what’s missing in our lives, a phone in the bathroom.” It was something that was tabled and voted on quickly over a bin of cheap, white plastic phones at the local Central Hardware store. It was a $7.99 impulse decision that led to a lot of unique reactions from anyone who ever visited and had to use the room for personal business.

“You have a phone in your bathroom,” guests would say as though we might not have heard the news yet.

My mother was always tactful with her response, but just once I wanted her to completely freak out, accuse them of putting it there and demand to see the evidence. It was a phone for heaven’s sake. What was the big deal?

Personally, I loved having a phone in any room that could lock and I spent so much time gabbing in there that I thought my mother was going to haul me off to the doctor in search of  a GI infection. However, in due time cordless phones became all the rage eliminating the need for a bathroom phone and when the original model died, my parents didn’t bother replacing it.

But even devoid of the phone, the jack alone could be a great conversation starter. After my mom’s death, I had to give the full scoop to the Realtor showing the place and more often than not, it was the one thing that everyone commented on at showings.

“Excuse me ma’am?” a woman asked me during the open house. “There’s a phone jack in your bathroom.”

“Really?” I said with a wicked grin. “That’s strange…it wasn’t there last night.”



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Michiana House & Home August Column: Down the Drain with Dad

Me and Dad      My dad was a brilliant man who could do a great many things. Over the 24 years I spent with him, I saw him perform wondrous feats. However, he drew the line at auto mechanics, electrical wiring and plumbing. He also possessed no expertise in garbage disposals. I learned about this deficit the hard way.

A few months after moving into my first house, my garbage disposal rotted out and was lying on the bottom of the cabinet. I went to the hardware store to pick up a new model and took it home fairly confident in my ability to install it. (The guy in the store said it was easy.) I took the gizmo out of the box, read through all of the instructions and assembled the components. However, the little booklet failed to tell me exactly how I was supposed to attach the canister to the sink and the accompanying picture was of no help whatsoever. Even though it looked like it should just pop on, it didn’t. It was too pooped to pop.

I called my father and explained the situation. He agreed to come over and take a look at it but warned me that he didn’t know if he would be able to fix it, as he had never owned one himself.

“Of course you can, Dad,” I cajoled. “If you can’t fix it, it ain’t broke!”

When he arrived, my father took one look at the assembly and pronounced that I had done it wrong. I handed him the instruction book and watched while he undid my handiwork and reassembled the apparatus exactly as I had it in the first place. Then he shimmied under the sink to pop the new canister in place and…stopped. He didn’t know how to do it either. He turned it. He pushed up on it (the stainless steel sink offered a groan of protest) and he looked in the box for some spare parts. Finally he asked me if I still had some scrap wood in my shed.

“I think so, what for?” I wanted to know.

“I’m going to make a catapult,” he replied, heading out the back door.

I honestly thought the man was joking. A catapult is something used to storm the bastille, save a damsel in distress or launch medieval artillery over a castle wall, not for installing a garbage disposal. Yet, two minutes later, Dad came back in carrying an assortment of lumber and a cinderblock with the intention of hurling my new appliance into the stratosphere. Against my better judgment, I let him attempt this stunt twice before insisting that he take a break lest my sink become a casualty of his campaign.

“That’s probably a good idea,” he said, his face bright red with frustration.

While he went outside to collect his thoughts, I started playing around with the disposal. I noticed that the rubber ring appeared as though it would fit as a coupling between the sink base and the appliance and after carefully raising it a few inches, I had it attached and the whole thing seemed stable. I gleefully went outside and told my father “By jove, I think I’ve got it.”

Ever the doubting Thomas, my father was convinced that I had not found the solution and remained that way even when I proved that without the rubber ring, the disposal wouldn’t stay on.

“Well maybe it will work,” he declared at last. “But it seems like a load of garbage relying on a rubber ring to hold everything in place.”

A load of garbage indeed…but it worked and in the 16 years I was in the house, I never had another problem.



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