THINGS ARE VERY LIKE PEOPLE in that at any given moment about one-tenth of them are poorly. When people aren’t working they go to the doctor. When things aren’t working, people go to the fixing first-aid kit which is a tin full of old screws, washers, plastic hooks, fuses and odd pieces of wire. This tin has remained full for years because there’s never anything useful in it.
There’s a golden rule in life that if something isn’t broken, you shouldn’t try and fix it. An equally good rule is that if something is broken you shouldn’t try and fix it either. That’s what trained professionals with vans are for. In the past, fixing big things required lathes, blow torches and angle grinders. These days we have glue. Modern glues can fix load bearing walls, rejoin severed limbs and keep children inseparable for months.
Things break for three reasons: you’ve used it too much, you’ve used it too little or you’ve used it like an idiot. In each case you can fix it by using it less, using it more, or stopping being an idiot. Things that need fixing then fall into three categories: not working, broken, completely stuffed. Some men derive their entire self-respect from salvaging things that are completely stuffed. Often they fix it so much that you come away with something totally different – for example, they’ll ‘fix’ your video and you’ll end up with a go-kart.
Men are divided into two types of fixers. The first is the rusher-and-botcher who uses a lot of brute force and sellotape. The other studies the problem from all angles, selects exactly the right tool for the job, works coolly and calmly and tidies up after himself. (Interestingly, this exactly reflects their respective bedroom techniques.)
Most modern appliances are designed to give up the ghost the morning after the warranty has expired. At this stage, you can either get your dishwasher fixed for the price of a new dishwasher, take out an extended warranty for the price of a new dishwasher, or buy a new dishwasher for the price of a new dishwasher.
With mechanical things, a drop of oil usually cures it and for electronic things a new battery will often suffice. Computers on the other hand are prone to total nervous breakdown – by the machine first, followed shortly by the owner. The helpline is the computer equivalent of your fixing tin: it’s always there but is absolutely no help whatsoever. Remember, all computer problems can be fixed simply by turning the computer off and then going back to a pre-industrial lifestyle.
© GUY BROWNING IS AUTHOR OF ‘NEVER PUSH WHEN IT SAYS PULL’ AND CREATOR OF ‘TORTOISE IN LOVE’ (DVD) – USED BY PERMISSION.