I have found a way to make myself useful, for once. And like pretty much everything else these days, it replaces flesh and blood with a digital solution. Kind of.
As probably everyone under the age of 35 knows, just about any instruction these days is available online. For guitar teachers and yoga practitioners, their YouTube videos and websites can often bring in money through sponsorships or even sign-up fees.
But for more prosaic tasks, how-to information often is available for free. In the past couple of months, I’ve had ample opportunities to learn this.
In the first case, I had a 2009 MacBook laptop that simply couldn’t handle Apple’s new operating system with any speed or alacrity, not to mention a hard drive that iCloud or no iCloud, was jammed full of useful and useless files, old photos and my daughters’ music collections. When the laptop finally froze up completely, I took it into an Apple store Genius Bar and was told the cost of repairs would be more than the laptop was worth.
One solution was to buy a new laptop, which, considering the number of Apple devices — iPad, iPhone, kids’ laptops — already weighing me down, seemed a bit drastic, especially considering the $1500 or so it would set me back. So I went online and priced a new hard drive and more RAM. For less than $150, my dead laptop could rise again with more speed, memory and an ability to keep up with Apple’s endless upgrades to its IOS. But how to do it myself?
The answer was on a mobile app, ifixit. (You can also visit the website by the same name.) There, among hundreds of how-to manuals, was a series of photo step-by-step illustrations guiding me through both tasks, along with telling me what tools I needed.
It took me about an hour to install the new hard drive and memory. The laptop now is faster and more capable than my daughter’s 2011 MacBook.
But that was digital-to-digital transmission of knowledge. How ’bout something more prosaic? How about a toilet that wouldn’t stop running?
After a little online research, I found that most online plumbers were recommending Korky replacement parts as a surefire way to repair the particular model of toilet that was driving me crazy. So I trotted down to the hardware store, picked up the parts, went onto the Korky website, where a YouTube video presentation by a young woman took me step by step through the installation and repair process for a new fill valve and flapper. Half an hour later, the toilet was cured. A miracle.
Then came the Household Problem Whose Name Could Hardly Be Spoken — a three-year old Kenmore dishwasher that no longer cleaned dishes. We had tried changing detergents and rinse agents; nearly washing dishes before they went into the machine; ranting; raving — nothing worked. Glasses came out filmy, plates grimy. The chorus of complaints in my house became deafening. What to do?
Once again, an online search — this time using the phrase “Kenmore dishwasher doesn’t clean.” Sifting through the results I came upon a YouTube video from the “handyguyspodcast” — two self-professed ordinary househusbands with “honey-do” task lists, who also stress they are not appliance repairmen but who had, through revelation or research I know not, learned how to fix this horrifying problem and others.
Their sponsored YouTube video walked me through dismantling the insides of the dishwasher to get to the root of the problem: food and other debris that was blocking clean water from rinsing the dishes. Because of the clogging, dirty water was recirculating in the dishwasher, thus dishes couldn’t be cleaned.
With my iPad video playing, on my knees before the sullen appliance, I carefully followed the handyguys’ instructions — which, amazingly, were spot on, down to the difficulty in removing and cleaning a tiny rubber valve, to the nooks and crevices that needed to be cleaned out. Then they gave equally detailed video instructions how to put everything back.
The result? Yesterday, we ran a dishwasher cycle and for the first time in months, the dishes, including glassware, came out clean and spotless.
It was one of those all too fleeting moments of triumph and satisfaction that are a reminder of abundant life — a desire that usually remains unfulfilled.
The downside? Well, in all three cases — the laptop, the toilet and the dishwasher — by doing the work myself, I bypassed the service industries that employ folks who do just this kind of work. Considering the laptop repairs were estimated at $650, a plumber minimum would have run $150 plus parts and an appliance repair call could have been another $200 or so, I figure I saved about $850.
The cost to the local economy of taking on these repairs through the wonder of online manuals and DIY videos, I know not, but I have to figure if I’m learning how to do these tasks, countless other hapless and heretofore helpless men and women are doing the same.
Since I work in the newspaper industry, I also know that digital information and advertising is overwhelming our increasingly outmoded print delivery systems, which is why the Sentinel continues to direct resources, talent and effort toward online and mobile products.
Has this transformation cost innumerable jobs in my business? Of course. But I guess I wouldn’t turn the clock back if I could, because, once grasped, the power of the unleashed handyman is an awesome force — one that cleans dishes, repairs running toilets and brings dead computers back to life.