One man's philosophy is another man's bellylaugh.

Jeff L. Howe

Jeff L. Howe
Strasburg, Pennsylvania,
April 19
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Jeff Howe is a bonsai enthusiast and harmonica player who has very good reason to believe that the Universe tastes like a cheap buck-fifty melon. He is a product of Walled Lake and a former Poetry Slam Champion of Milwaukee. He once shook hands with Rocky Colavito, opened for Leon Redbone and took a piss next to Mose Allison (no hands were shaken). All things considered, his best single day was July 4th, 1987 when he marched in the Marmarth, North Dakota parade in the morning, discovered a rare dinosaur skull in the afternoon, and then sat in playing harmonica with a drunken cowboy band until way past tomorrow. It's been downhill ever since. Jeff is a misemployed geologist who specializes in interpreting rock outcrops at 70 miles per hour. It's a gift. His daughter loves cows. ................................................................................................................... FOR MORE STORIES, PHOTOS AND HARMONICA RECORDINGS VISIT:


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NOVEMBER 28, 2011 10:15AM

The Unhandy Man

Rate: 13 Flag

There’s a basic law of nature that immediately goes into effect whenever an unhandy person foolishly decides to become “handy”.   It is a survival-of-the-fittest notion that is unerring in its aim, striking the unhandy down with cunning precision.  Frankly, it’s a wonder that unhandy people have managed to survive this long, although unfortunately, like fools, there is one born every minute.

The unhandy person can be certain that at some critical juncture in any home fix-it project or repair on the family car, one or all of the following are certain to happen:

a.) a crucial piece will break off in your hand and the project will be stymied,

b.) something will fall where it can’t be reached,

c.) you won’t have the correct tool, (or more likely, your tools won’t work)

d.) you will have the wrong part… or the right part won’t fit,

e.) you will take the Lord’s name in vain and be struck by lightening, or

f.) you will pull your back out of place and end up laying on the couch.  

My point being:  Why on Earth did you get off the couch in the first place?

•     •     •

I am unhandy.  I should probably not admit to it but it is so blatantly obvious that it would be apparent to all but the equally unhandy.  I DO know my way around the business end of bonsai clippers, tennis racquets, drawing pens, magnifying loupes and harmonicas…  but when it comes to machinery and tools I am woefully inept.

Despite knowing all of this, I continue to allow myself to be forced by wife, pride and poverty into continuing to prove how inept I truly am.  Against my better judgment, every now and then I tentatively shoulder my rusty tools and soldier into action.  My service to the world is what I refer to as a “Jeff Job”. 

•  A Jeff Job means that I will measure something to the 1/64 of an inch, do a scale drawing, and then cut it to perfection.  It will not fit. 

•  A Jeff Job means that I’ll decide to change my car’s whozits-whatever but end up stripping the threads using improper tools and having to call AAA to come and tow it to a real mechanic.

•  A Jeff Job means saving myself $500 on a workman but ending up with a $1000 Emergency Room bill.

•  A Jeff Job really just means calling the broken whozits-whatzit a “Mo’ frickin’ piece of s***", kicking it squarely, kicking it again, KICKING IT AGAIN, KICKING IT AGAIN, and then leaving it to sit there on the floor by itself to think it over. 

Maybe next time the stupid thing will spend a little more time thinking through the consequences before deciding that it needs to be fixed.

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The nice thing about modern products is that, say in electronics where a soldering iron was once useful and you used to be able to buy a capacitor or a resistor or a coil to easily solder into replacement for a bum part, now you need a trained amoeba to do the work and those guys charge high prices. Modern products are miniaturized and laser installed or perhaps you need a cyclotron to generate a stream of high speed protons to get something to fit. No dice. Throw it away and get a new one. That's how the capitalist system works. Nobody fixes anything anymore.
Jan - I guess that's the nice thing about tennis racquets, bonsai clippers and harmonicas - they're still repairable.
I wonder why some people are like that. I have always had the ability to check out something that isn't working, discover what seems to be wrong, and usually fix it. I can do this to the point that I consider it a form of defeat when I have to buy a replacement part that I couldn't fix. I have fixed old clocks, lamps, stoves, fridges, sewing machines, cars, radios, and just last weekend the Hard Drive on my computer. I can install or repair all the plumbing or wiring in a house, or hang a door so it closes properly or a window so it opens properly.

I have no idea why or how I'm like this. Others are too - a lot of others. Some kind of intuition, perhaps.

If you are as un-handy with tools as you say - leave them alone. They lie in wait for folks like you. I think they get a bounty on your fingers and brownie points on drawing blood.

Luck to ya.....
Sky: That would explain the tiny giggling voices that I hear every time I pass my toolbox...
I'm the same damned way, Jeff. At the same time, I'm easily elated by the smallest successes. I have to restring a spring on the garage door today, and I think I know how to do it. It looks like a piece of cake. If it is, and I succeed, I will receive a rush of endorphins equivalent to a pipeful of opium (I'm guessing at the comparison here). Failure won't be so bad, because I usually expect to fail.
my "unhandy man" admits it and now hires out. There was a time we couldn't afford to give another person a job and he spent days fixing stuff that his brother (a genius in this arena) could have done in 30 minutes or less. I loved how much he tried.
PS...the only thing I told him he couldn't do (and was VERY firm on this) was buying a chain saw.
You got some very good comments on your post so far. I think the handyman thing is for some, something that does come naturally. Maybe its genetic in the way the brain processes abstractions. Nonetheless I think most of the skills can be learned. You can learn how to use a tool and learn what the right tool is for the job. One example is using a vice grip with chain to loosen/tighten that s-shaped piece of black plastic pipe sitting between the sink basin and the drain pipe. The monkey wrench or the Chanelocks are not going to do it.

My general rule is that if something that needs repair can be decomposed down to more than eight parts, I call someone or prepare to replace it. In some cases I might still be able to eventually fix something if I have the right tool(s), but what is often the case is that what I don't have is time. Time to troubleshoot, time to get the right tools/parts, time to research and try to fix, time start over 5 times all adds up to time I never had to begin with.

It would be nice to see the lifespan of somethings we buy to be a little longer. Toasters die far too young, even the really expensive ones from William Sonoma. If I pay more than 1000 dollars for an item I want it to work without issue for at least 3 years beyond the warranty before offering me an inop moment. I've yet to accept that things I need in life priced at a thousand dollars or more is classified as a commodity.
Note to self: Reread "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"
Toasters are a speciality of mine. Some advice, if I may. All the new toasters, cheap to expensive, use electronic timers. They conk out fairly quickly and CANNOT be adjusted in any way for any reason. This applies to toasters from $12 to $120. Paying a lot for a toaster is a mug's game. The timer on the cheap one is probably identical to that on the expensive one. Don't even worry about the heating elements - they will outlast the timer switch about 10 to 1.

To get yourself a good toaster that you CAN adjust (there is a thing that slides left or right on the bottom of the toaster under the crumb door), go to your nearest Goodwill or Salvation Army store and buy an OLD one for about $4.00. Before you buy it open the crumb door on the bottom to be certain that slider adjustment is there and NOT completely over to one end or the other. As long as it can still move, you can adjust that toaster. Most people don't even know it is there so they give away the toaster when it no longer toasts dark enough at the darkest setting on the knob up front.

Hint: If your local charity store has more than one of these old toasters, buy 2 or 3. They're not made any more and are getting as rare as hen's teeth. If you can find a couple that are identical or made by the same company, parts in them will be interchangeable. Get a handyman friend to do this for you if it becomes necessary. Taking a toaster apart is quite easy. Putting one back together properly is not.

Have fun!
I used to think a person needed a college education. Now I think a skill is better. People with indispensible skills will be the next nouveau riche class, I think. By the way, if you've got a sentence that needs fixin', I'm your gal.
Sky: Wow, you are the toaster MAN (or cat...)
Sarah: I've got a bunch of sentences that really ache and don't seem to close right. They feel like a tooth ache and make this "racheta, racheta, boompla" sound when I go around corners. It the morning there's always a wet spot. Any suggestions?
Gotta hand it to ya---you can write well!
No "Jeff Job" with the verbs and nouns, friend!
funny and so true to every broken thing's nature....
between your post and the comments, i'm starting off the day on a guffaw high. leaving the broken thing on the floor to 'think it over' is hilarious and reminiscent of something we heard all the time as kids. it didn't work for us either. and then you said 'the wet spot' - oh, oh, oh. still cracking up.
mhold: Thanks. But believe me, I end up kickin' around those pesky nouns and verbs too. More than a few have sat thinking it over on the floor.
Gary Justice for all: The Nature Of Broken Things... I like that.
Candace: YOU wake up in the damn wet spot and then try to tell me it's so funny!