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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fan Club

The ceiling fan at my parents-in-law's spare bedroom was broken, but now it's fixed.  Or if it's not fixed, it's broken in a new way, and that should count for something.  My sister-in-law had gone down one weekend and discovered the fan could not be turned off, and so she brought a brand new fan, and when Nancy and I went down, I was asked to put it in.
When it comes to putting in ceiling fans, I have my own method.  One might almost call it a "system."  First, I open the box and get rid of all those useless packing materials that manufacturers throw in: contoured Styrofoam blocks, that strange little sugar-packet that tells you not to eat it, instructions, warranty, cellophane bags of screws and washers.  All of this goes into the trash.
The installation process has several stages: 1. First attempt.  2. Cussing.  3.  Second attempt.  4. Search for missing piece.  5.  More cussing.  6. Breakage.  7.  Cussing.  8.  Third attempt.  9. Visit to hardware store to purchase missing piece.  10. Return to project and discovery wrong piece was purchased.  11.  Supplementary cussing.  12. Return to hardware store to get correct piece.  13. Discovery of piece where it had rolled under bed.  14. Fourth attempt.  15. Assessment of project's success or failure.  16. Gin.  17. Repetition of steps 1-16 as needed.
As I worked, my dear, dear wife stood by in case any assistance was needed.  My dear, dear, dear father-in-law, Dad, I call him, was on hand, too.  The dears.
I need to explain that to achieve maximum effectiveness, I prefer to work alone.  The layperson, and I do not blame him for this, he can't help it, is apt to express doubt or downright contempt the fourth or fifth time I attempt to install the same fan.  He may ask silly or irrelevant questions - again, this is not blameworthy, but merely due to inexperience - such as, "Are you sure it's supposed to go in that way?" and "Shouldn't you take a look at the directions?" and "Would it be better to turn off the power first?"  These queries disrupt the concentration of the installer and inhibit the free vocalization of cuss words, which is integral to the Martin System.
There I was, uninstalling the previous fan, systematically dropping miscellaneous screws and washers onto the floor, and Nancy - God, love her, she doesn't know any better - picked them up and put them in my pocket.  She fails to grasp the simplicity of the Martin System.  By allowing gravity to operate unhindered, I ensure that all of the necessary pieces wind up on the floor where I want them.  This way, when I need a missing a piece (Step 4) I merely get on hands and knees; no matter where I search, I'm guaranteed to find something I can't do without.
I should also say, this is a fairly smallish room.  I wouldn't say there's not enough room to swing a cat, but it would have to be a small cat, and swung with care.  With the furniture already in the room, plus the ladder, and the various ceiling fan gizmos, it was pretty tight.  Nancy's and Dad's presence made it no looser.  Sensing a square inch of space remained to be filled, my mother-in-law also decided she should join us.  Mama was not interested in ceiling fans, per se, but only wanted to dry her hair.  Why the hair-dryer is not in the bathroom or her own bedroom is a mystery I did not pursue.
There is a scene in A Night at the Opera, when an entire mob , squeezes into Groucho's tiny room aboard a cruise ship.  Except for the addition of a ceiling fan, the bedroom tableau was not dissimilar.  It was hard working in such environs, and cussing of any effectiveness, all but impossible.  "Doggone" and "dang-nab," do not suffice when it comes to ceiling fans.  One needs to employ vocabulary strong enough to scald the ears of passing sailors and make wallpaper peel to the floor.
At this point, I dropped the ceiling fan.  I do not blame myself for this, nor do I think the fair-minded reader will blame me either.  I will not say I was at the end of my rope - but I could fairly see the end of it from where I stood.
I will admit, dropping the fan was not intentional, nor did it fit into the regular course of the Martin System.  It was an improvisational move, the sort of thing one does without thinking, as so often happens in these situations.  One moment one is holding the fan against the ceiling, flanked on either side by one's wife and father-in-law, one's mother-in-law nearby serenely blowing hot air through her gray locks, and the next moment there is a resounding crash, and everyone is ducking for cover.
This maneuver took a toll in everyone's confidence in my ceiling-fan-installing capabilities.  Indeed, were Martin's Ceiling Fans a publicly-traded stock, brokers would have been on the phone at that instant, urging their clients "sell!"  Nevertheless, there was one salubrious outcome.  Everyone within his or her secret heart, pondered.  They reflected.  Is it wise, they seemed to ask themselves, to remain in a cramped room with a notorious butterfingers who has already dropped enough lock-washers and bolts to fill a quart jar, and who has just let fly with the entire apparatus, while he installs a fan overhead, a fan which must weigh a good ten or fifteen pounds, the weight of which will be magnified by its falling momentum.
One by one, they trickled out, assuring me, if I needed anything, I should just "holler," implying they'd be listening from a safe distance for hollers or crashing ceiling fans.
With them gone, I was able to complete my System unhindered.  A few trips to the hardware, one busted globe, and the recitation of several novel and especially vitriolic oaths later, and the job was complete.
I admit it is not perfect.  At high speed it wobbles slightly.  It wobbles even more at medium speed.  At low speed, it shakes the windowpanes.  But when it's off, it does not wobble at all.  Not even a bit.
Time for gin.

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