The Clouseau Ef­fect

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - OPINION -

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.

Thanks, Dad.

— 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.

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