Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Turn of the Screw

Have you ever taken on a task late in the evening – while you’re in the middle of doing six other things – fully believing that it may take you 10 minutes, and then an hour later …? I think you see where this is going.

As part of her house-scrubbing task yesterday, the mother removed the mailbox from the house. She was busily scrubbing it last night (It’s brass and therefore in need of almost constant cleaning. Pretty stuff can be a real pain in the ass.) and the door kept flopping open, making her grumble.

Sorry, folks. No ghostly encounters or children to fear in this version of the classic tale. Just tools, stubborn hardware and occasional profanity.

For the longest time, the knob on the side that allows the mailman to open the box to put larger mail in (it has a letter slot on the front) and us to take the mail out has been loose. This wouldn’t be so bad except that its being loose allows the metal clip that it holds against the inside of the door to spin. What that means is that the clip then hangs upside down and won’t properly interlock with the retainer mounted to the inside of the box to keep the door closed.

“The screw just needs to be tightened, but it’s not a regular kind of screw,” says the mother. I opened the door to find what was once a Phillips-head screw. It had been a Phillips-head, tightened many times before rust, age, and years of abuse at the hands of the mailman had taken its toll. I successfully turned the screw, only to move the knob, not tighten the screw. I went and got my collection of driver bits and the drill. While the occasional Phillips or slotted screw would work, for about a second, the knob still just spun.

It took two sets of pliers to ultimately get things rolling. I held the knob in place with a pair of needle-nose while using a regular pair to painstakingly free the rusted screw. At last, success! But that was only half the battle.

I spent the next 30 minutes sorting through my vast array of hardware (and buddy, I own just about every kind of fastener there is) trying to find one to fit. I found several candidates, all of whom fit the knob and kept it attached, but none would sufficiently tighten the clip. Does everything really have to be this difficult, even something as stupidly simple as this? This went on for nearly an hour. And then finally, the shoe fit and they all lived happily ever after. OOps. Wrong story.

Finally, with just one or two left, I was able to get one to tighten all the way, using the drill. The clip was in place and the door shut -- and stayed that way. The mother was delighted, but was not very pleased that the mailbox had yet to return to its usual shiny surface. "I'm going to get a new one -- next year," she announced.

Let's hope it comes before that knob gets loose again ...


Ann said...

OMG, you have so much's humbling...

Anonymous said...

Good job! But will the door open now?

NV said...

Nothing special, Ann. I'm just REALLY stubborn. Usually not one of my better traits, but sometimes it pays off. :-)

Thanks, V. And yes, it opens and closes as it should. Quite gratifying!