The Best of Andy Rooney

It would be easier to fix things if something else didn't always break while you were fixing the first thing.

I don't ever recall starting one repair job that didn't lead to another. I think this accounts for why so many people are afraid to go to a doctor. They aren't worried about what they know they have. They're worried about what the doctor might find.

Around the house, this is especially true. A bulb burned out in the overhead fixture in the kitchen. It's an easy thing to change a light bulb, so I went to get the small stepladder hanging on two hooks in the garage.

As I took the ladder down, I noticed that one of the hooks was loose and made a mental note to fix it before I put the ladder back. I set up the ladder in the kitchen, but as I put my foot on the first step I noticed a screw was missing from the metal hinge that flexes open and keeps the ladder's legs a fixed and safe distance apart.

It seemed best to fix that before putting in the new bulb, so I went to the kitchen drawer where I keep a small assortment of emergency tools and hardware. I found a screw that was the right size, but it was a straight-slotted screw and all I had in the drawer was a Phillips screwdriver. I went to my shop and got another screwdriver.

I came through the screen door that opens into the dining room and noticed the door wasn't closing tight. I realized that's why we've been getting so many flies and mosquitoes in the house. The screen door has one of those automatic door-closers on it that I hate and it needed adjustment.

If it's simple, I thought to myself, I might as well do it right now and get the door problem out of the way while I have the screwdriver in my hand. I reached up for the adjusting screw in the door-closer, but it was a little too high and I couldn't quite get my hand in the right position to turn the screw.

"OK," I said, "first I'll fix the ladder so I can change the bulb. Then I'll bring the ladder into the dining room and fix the screen door."

I fixed the ladder, got into an argument about what size bulb to use and replaced the burned out bulb with a 100-watter. The light fixture has a globe that's held to a metal rim on the ceiling with three set screws. I took the globe off and juggled it in one hand while I balanced myself on the ladder and unscrewed the dead bulb with the other hand. In the process of getting the new bulb out of my pocket, I dropped one of the three set screws on the kitchen floor so I climbed down the ladder, threw the old bulb in the wastebasket and got down on my hands and knees to look for the missing screw.

It was so dark in the kitchen without the light on that I couldn't find the screw so I went to the living room where I thought I'd left my glasses. While I was looking for my glasses, the telephone rang. The call was from a second cousin who lives in Eugene, Ore. He wanted to talk about a mutual relative who's sick.

We bought a new telephone recently and I've been trying to fix up a system so I could have it ring in my workshop. Obviously, I'd done something wrong with the wires because I could barely hear my cousin's voice.

"I'll have to call you back," I yelled, trying to reach Eugene without wires. "I'll call you back on the other phone," I yelled again and hung up.

The downstairs telephone is in a tiny, closet-like cubbyhole off the dining room and for a moment after I hung up I just sat there, staring. What should I do first? Do I call back right away, or do I continue looking for my glasses in the living room so I can go back to the kitchen to find the screw I dropped on the floor so I can replace the globe on the light fixture and take the ladder to the screen door in the dining room? Sometimes my world falls apart faster than I can fix it.

(This classic Rooney column was originally published July 23, 1985,)

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