The Clouseau Effect
One of the problems with aging, at least in my family, is the increased likelihood of clumsiness when it comes to doing typically mundane chores. My dad tended towards a high degree of accidents during doit-yourself projects, so much so that we referred to him as having “Inspector Clouseau Syndrome.” Clouseau, for those under the age of 30, is the main character of the Pink Panther movies. Peter Sellers was the original actor in Blake Edward’s madcap film series. Inspector Clouseau was clumsy and inept at just about anything he attempted, but always came out the winner in the end. We affectionately referred to my dad as “Clouseau” whenever he encountered mishaps during his endeavors to be Mr. Fixit.
Many times I would help my dad with chores around the house, with “helping” actually being nothing more than fetching tools, ice teas and band-aids. Replacing the pull cord on a lawnmower, normally a 30-minute procedure for anyone else, would become an all-day exercise in futility for my father. Broken screws and nuts, wrong parts, rusted bolts, all contributed to a Saturday wasted in frustration, sweat and blood. Dad decided to hang wallpaper in a bedroom one day. He ended up stepping in the bucket of paste, tipping it over, and hurting his leg in the process. Adding fiberglass insulation to the attic, he slipped off the joist onto the wallboard to produce a large hole in the kitchen ceiling. It is a wonder my dad made it to the age of 85. He could have easily been done in any number of times by barb wire, vehicles jacked up on rickety stands, falling trees and chain saws, or gravity. Like Inspector Clouseau, he always missed a bad ending, if barely.
The “Clouseau Effect” gene must have passed on to me. Since my 40s I have encountered any number of difficulties in activities that should not have been so. I once strung a coax cable into a basement wall from the floor above. I measured and calculated exactly where it would end up. I drilled at least 18 two-inch holes in that wall trying to find the cable before I gave up. Don’t ask how the subsequent drywall repair went.
I tried to fix our carpet cleaning machine. One of the hoses was slightly torn, and duct tape (a favorite of us Clouseau-ers) just wouldn’t keep it from leaking. So I decided to “fix” it properly. After breaking a number of plastic parts, I bought a new cleaner. Problem solved!
I did successfully replace the battery on my older model iPhone with absolutely no issues whatsoever; a point I made repeatedly to any and all who would listen. I bragged to the wife that I could fix her phone as well. However, I forgot about the “sophomore jinx” which is the ability to accomplish something the first time you attempt, but then totally screw up any job you attempt a second time. Within five minutes of starting the repair on her phone I cracked the display. A professional replaced the glass and battery the next day for $80.
My latest Clouseau adventure was replacing the faucet on the kitchen sink. At the worst, that should have been a two-hour job. I ended up spending an entire Saturday and purchasing some $150 dollars in additional tools and parts to complete the job. During the process I broke valves, dealt with drips and leaks, scraped knuckles, and contorted my body into every position known to man. I managed to use almost every tool in my shop to accomplish the task. I woke up the next morning with every muscle in my body loudly complaining. In the end, though, the job got done. It cost more than hiring a professional but, like Clouseau, I was the winner in the end.
— Devin Houston is the president/CEO of Houston Enzymes. Send comments or questions to devin.hous[email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.