Pavlov’s response to home repair

If trying to get an appliance fixed these days is any guide, I’m lucky that something as simple as a broken shower handle didn’t lead to my entire house having to be re-plumbed. And when I say the entire house, I mean the whole shebang, from top to bottom, and stem to stern.

Every last pipe.

Every last valve.

Every last fitting.

It would have been a shockingly expensive circumstance to find myself in, but I’ve been conditioned to expect the worst. So much so that when something breaks around our house, I exhibit a similar Pavlovian response that our dog Rodney does when the treats come out. Only, instead of salivating in anticipation, I unconsciously reach for my wallet in resignation.

Take our clothes dryer, for instance. I called our repairman over to the house a couple of months ago because it was making a scraping noise. After he took it apart, he showed me a couple of pads that had worn down and needed to be replaced. He said he could fix it, but as it turned out he couldn’t.

While the manufacturer still makes the pads, it no longer provides a separate part the pads are supposed to fit into.

I ended up retiring our old dryer to the recycling center.

Our fix-it guy is an honest, knowledgeable sort of fellow. But when I call him these days, I sort of feel like I’m taking a shot in the dark, that I really ought to skip the expense of a house call, suck it up and head to the appliance store. After all, we’ve replaced just about every major appliance at least once since moving into our house about nine years ago.

It’s not just expensive appliances that can’t be fixed anymore that had me briefly worrying about a major plumbing upgrade.

For more than a year, my car had a weird quirk that left the fix-it guys at the dealership standing around scratching their heads.

At first, they went for a series of big, costly repair jobs. That wasn’t a surprise, but if you ask me, they were a little too enthusiastic about it.

They replaced the transmission. And, when that didn’t work, they replaced it, again. And, when that didn’t work, they replaced the engine harness.

If my car had not been under warranty, I would have been tempted to put a brick on the accelerator, slip it in drive and send it screaming off a cliff. But then I would not have eventually discovered that my car’s quirk was actually due to a faulty brake switch that cost all of 50 bucks.

My house may eventually need major plumbing work. But fears that my checking account would soon have to absorb the sort of unnecessary repairs that my car was subjected to were unfounded. After all, it was just a shower handle that decided give up.

The handle broke as I was cleaning up just before we left for a weekend getaway in Atlantic City, leaving me sopping wet with water pouring out of the shower head unchecked.

At first, I was true to my conditioning. I looked for my wallet. Then I did the sensible thing. I pried open the access panel and brought the flow to a stop through a vigorous twisting of the shut-off valves.

Our weekend away from home gave me plenty of time to further overcome my initial Pavlovian response. When we got back, I dashed over to the hardware store, picked up a new ten-dollar handle and fixed the problem lickety-split. In fact, it took me longer to find the misplaced screwdriver I needed than it did to figure out how to install the new handle.

If only everything were that simple.


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