Mechanical wonders … or not

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut, Feature

First of all, I need to say that I am NOT a mechanical idiot.

I need to say this because this story is not going to be very flattering, so my pronunciation that I have some mechanical ability may take the sting out of … well, reality.

Growing up in a matriarchal home with a brother four years younger than I am, I was often the one with the screwdriver in my hand. My uncles were always around to fix anything big, but my mom fed on independence. It was one thing for your daughter to help you but quite another to have to call one of your younger brothers to come to rescue us from squeaky hinges, sliding doors off the track and loose drawer pulls.

I knew when to use a screwdriver and when you needed a pair of needle-nose pliers, and I knew the difference between a Phillips head and “the other one.”

I am also a female, so I have never had any problems following a set of directions, even the ones written in some sort of hybrid English/Chinese. I can put together toys and books shelves with the best of them.

So, I was more than surprised at my total ineptness while visiting my younger son in Seattle.

It all started with a growing grandson and the car seat.

Gardner is almost 2 years old and is tall for his age. He was quickly getting uncomfortable and over-the-weight and age limit for his rear-facing car seats. His mom, Olivia, switched hers first – something she evidently did with ease.

But Mom was out-of-town for a few days, hence my visit to Seattle to help babysit. Papa Brett decided to switch the car seat in his car since Gigi would be borrowing it most days.

We decided to do this in the parking lot of the restaurant where Brett is the executive chef. I would keep Gardner occupied while Brett switched the car seat.

At 25 minutes into the process, we were both shaking our heads in frustration while Gardner threw the ball from the back seat to the front, front to the back, and, when he could, out the window.

We scanned the QR code on the car seat and started over. We found the You-Tube video and started over again. We reminded ourselves repeatedly that we were both college-educated, intelligent people, and we could do this.

Brett finally got the seat stable and told me to carefully drive straight home. We found a kids’ car seat safety coalition that made house calls and set up an appointment for the afternoon.

I apologetically explained to the nice lady, Kathy, that I was a visiting grandmother and couldn’t figure out how to switch the car seat.

“I’m sorry,” I told her on the phone. “I guess I’m just old!”

It’s an excuse I use a lot with young folks, figuring they are thinking it anyway.

She laughed.

When Kathy arrived, the 74-year-old calmly took me through the steps to correctly anchor the car seat and keep my grandson safe.

I made a donation to the organization and apologized for the “old” comment. “Oh, no worries,” she said. “We help grandmothers, and we help nannies. Car seats aren’t easy.”

I was still licking my wounds when the can opener attacked.

Brett was at work, Gardner was asleep, and I decided I wanted to heat up some baked beans to go with my dinner. Olivia and Brett’s kitchen is well-organized, so finding the can opener was no problem. Opening the can, however, was a different story.

If you see a Zyliss Lock and Lift can opener, leave it for the millennials. By the time I watched the You-Tube video for the second time, I didn’t even want the dang beans.

Still, I would not let a can opener defeat me, so I finally figured it out. But really, what was wrong with the old openers? Zyliss says their can openers are an “innovative solution to a bothersome and unsafe chore,” and it is “engineered to make its use comfortable and tireless.”

Sorry, Zyliss. But I have never been so tired after opening a can of beans.

But then, I’m old.



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