Thursday, October 6, 2011


Nine months into living challenged, I am thrilled to say I've tested myself, I've overcome obstacles, I've failed,  I've succeeded and I've learned. Each challenge has evoked different responses from me some reactionary, some emotional. This response, however, is a first.

Yes. The people living in that unit did
come out while I was working.
Last Sunday, my good friend, an adroit skills master and apartment manager welcomed me to come by the apartment complex to learn some handyman skills. Most people who have never had ties to an apartment manager might not understand the tasks they have to deal with. "Oh, free rent? And all I have to do is collect rent checks and tell me people to turn down their dub step after ten at night? Sign me up!" It isn't that easy. Fancy yourself a modern day Mr. or Mrs. Roper, and right before you get into your 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air to drive to a BBQ, a pipe breaks spilling sewage everywhere. Time to get out and make the necessary phone calls or fix it yourself. Tenants in #11 keep leaving the light on in the laundry room, time to deal with it. Water keeps leaking through the roof; what are you going to do about it? Unit #1 hasn't had air conditioning in three days and its smoldering outside. Insinkerator in #9 is get the idea. It isn't an easy job, and sometimes a phone call to have someone fix it is either too expensive or will be too long of a wait.

Apartment managers have some great skills in their arsenal so I joined Fred Mertz to do a few tasks around the complex. I replaced a shower head, changed light fixtures and fixed a tenant's door. Replacing the first fixture and the shower head was simple, but gave some good experience using different types of pliers. Slip joints not working so well? Let's give the vice-grips a try. After initially installing the new shower head, we noticed some water dripping from the faucet. C'est la vie, we are in a recession, be happy to have a shower, lets move on. Negative. This manager does it right. I take the head off and we examine the teflon tape I applied. The tape was applied in the right direction (it matters!) but perhaps a little more can be added. After applying more tape and not putting the shower head on so tight the problem was solved.

Moving on from there we grabbed a sander and some tools to fix a door that kept catching when the tenant tried to close the door. The door also squeaked. It was an annoyance to the tenants. Being friends of those tenants, it was my honor to be able to come by and fix the issue. My teacher is an auteur of precision. For him to sit back, teach me, watch me and not take over is worth noting. We fixed the squeaking and the two problems causing the door to catch. And even though my hand is still vibrating from sanding that door like a boss (pronounced: b-auce), it was well worth it.
After sanding, we noticed a metal fixture attached to the bottom of the door needed to be removed, manipulated then reattached. Many of the screws had stripped the wood but this only gave me an opportunity to learn. Stick a toothpick in the hole and break it off. Now the screw has something to catch when you drill the screw back into the wood.

All that was left was some light fixtures in the carport. A light introduction into the world of electrical work. What a great day! Wait what? Who did what?! Just before moving onto the final task of the day, Mrs. Roper, with a pleasant smile on her face, presented me with an opportunity.  A new challenge approaches?!

I've got something for you to learn how to do. 

I washed my hands vigorously like I was prepping for surgery. I was honestly very excited to have the opportunity to learn how to properly change a diaper. My only other diaper experience involved my friend and I tossing his little sisters diapers on the roof of our apartment complex. Learning how to change diapers and properly dispose of them could come in handy one day. But as I sat there in front of the little one, I froze up. She was so tiny and delicate, just a quiet inquisitive princess relaxing on a blanket. I didn't want to do anything wrong, I didn't want to hurt her. This is their first child! What if I put too much baby powder on her? I did. What if I hurt her tiny legs? I didn't. What if she started to cry? She didn't. Kelly, the mother of this bundle of joy was loving every second of my awkward encounter. The night before I cleaned military rifles. I had just gone Bob Villa on that apartment complex and I can't man up now?! Granted when I cleaned the guns, it didn't reek of mass destruction.

Kelly took the role of the primary teacher as Scott, the father of the child, mostly watched and snapped photos. "Take pictures of him," she laughed, as I recoiled at any slight movement from the tiny challenge. "Is this okay," I often asked after every task.  To my surprise, it wasn't that big of a mess. I had heard some horror stories, so I was relieved this task was so manageable. I was shocked at how I could lift her to get a new diaper under her, more her this way, more her that way, and she sat there and just gave me looks. She wasn't uncomfortable or unhappy at all. But I suppose she's done this before.

I did the job. Not necessarily like a boss (You know how to say it now right?) but I got the job done. All that's left to do is close this diaper up! That is until I had (paraphrased) the following conversation:

Kelly: Did she just pee?
Me: Are you serious?! Can that happen?
Kelly: Totally! It can happen at anytime. 
Me: She did this on purpose!
Kelly: She wanted to help you get the full experience. 

I'd like to think I did a better job the second time around, but you'll have to ask the little one. Ha! You can't so I have creative license. I am the world's greatest diaper changer. 

1 comment:

  1. You, sir -- as they say -- can be my wingman anytime.