My father could fix anything.
My brother can fix anything.
I am a writer.
Oh sure, the prestige is nice. But that didn’t stop my wife from having second thoughts about the wisdom of marrying me when our carpet cleaner broke down.
We bought this machine a few years ago because we decided it would be cheaper to clean the rugs ourselves than it would be to have professionals come in and clean our rugs a couple of times a year. It would save us money in the long run.
Saving money is important because, as I said, I am a writer.
The carpet cleaner has worked well every time we have used it – until today. It still sprayed hot, soapy water efficiently over the rug. It just woudn’t suck the soapy, dirty water back up again. Which, well, sucked.
I looked at the machine. That didn’t help. Then I took off the front cover. Then I took off the empty container at the back where the dirty water was supposed to end up. The motor was running well. Everything seemed to be in order. Except the machine didn’t work. I began to suspect that maybe it was clogged with dirt and hair and carpet fibres in the narrow channel (about a centimetre deep) between the opening in the front and the receptacle for dirty water in the back.
I wondered if I could take the machine apart and clean out the channel. Then I noticed that it was put together with star-headed screws – not Phillips heads, but star-shaped heads. I don’t know their technical name. Manufacturers put these things on equipment because they know that most people don’t have star-shaped screwdrivers. They are a warning sign that says very clearly: Amateurs should not mess with this.
Did I mention that my brother can fix anything but I am a writer? Writer is pretty much the definition of amateur.
So I took the machine to a professional repairman. Two professional repairmen, in fact. They both looked at the machine. Neither one could figure out how to take the machine apart to get at the clogged channel. And since they charge $60 to $120 an hour to work on such machines and new ones only cost $240, they advised me to give up on my old carpet cleaner and buy a new one.
I suggested that maybe I could take it home and try taking it apart and cleaning out the clogged channel myself. Sure, they said, but are you sure you can afford to waste the time? Time is money, you know.
Well, yeah, but I’m a writer. I don’t get paid anywhere near $60 an hour.
So I took the machine home, took off the front cover, got an old piece of wire, stuck it into the front opening and began pulling gobs of hair and dirt out of the narrow channel. When I had pulled out all the hair I could with the wire, I turned the machine on – with the front cover still off – and poured a pitcher full of water into the front opening. The machine sucked it up. When the water had run through, I dumped out the receptacle at the back, which was now full of dirty, hairy water. I kept pouring in pitchers of water in the front and emptying the receptacle at the back until the water started flowing through essentially clear of dirt and hair.
Then I put the front cover back on and cleaned the rug.
It only took an hour, which didn’t cost me anywhere near $60. Or $120. Or $240.
Saving money is important because I am a writer.
But I’m thinking of changing careers. I’m thinking of becoming a carpet cleaner repairman.
If you think that may not be a wise move and I should be able to make money as a writer, consider this. If I could make money being a writer, why are you reading this blog for free?