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Statistics

Holes Dug: One
Dumpsters Delivered: One
Items In Said Dumpster: One
Concern About Dumpster Deadline: Rising
Items Lost on Saturday: Three
Items Found: Two (Upon roof of car, after driving most of the way down the road wondering what that banging noise is)
Number of Senselessly Tiny Outlet Screws That Some Moron Decided to Put In Sideways Several Decades Ago Removed: Countless
Number of Loud War Cries Uttered As Basement Junction Boxes Removed: Many
Functional Truck Tires: From 2.5 to 3.5
Deep Trenches Dug Under Old Tires So New Ones Could Be Installed When the Jack Wouldn’t Go High Enough: 1
Functional Car Batteries When Over-Confident Owner Went To Drive Newly Four-Tired Truck: Zero
Cabins De-Wired: 1

I have a well-earned reputation for not possessing great technical proficiency at, well, anything practical.

I’ve earned this reputation in part from many years of publicly-practiced abstracted absent-mindedness, in which I will contentedly read or just think with such abandon that small trivial matters such as Why Did I Just Put My Cup of Tea In the Refrigerator? or What Did My Wife Just Say to Me for the Fourteenth Time? never particularly register.

It also stems from the fact that I never got much beyond the Can-Mow-His-Own-Lawn and Change-His-Own-Tires stage of hands-on competence. When faced with a task that goes beyond these narrow bands, I have a tendency to engage it with aggressive over-optimism, before discovering that you need more than a masters degree and two screwdrivers to do most home repairs. (I still remember the time in my young adulthood when our friend, a librarian nonetheless, pity-bought us a hammer that I still use to this day.)

However, during this past summer, in the frantic run-up to preparing the house for Child Number Two, I had to step outside out of my very well-defined comfort zones to erect a backyard fence and the paint over half our house. I went in determined that damn it, anyone who got a masters degree couldn’t be as helplessly incompetent as I was, and so, come hell or high water, I was going to learn SOMETHING. Much to my surprise (and with the help of many people who are far wiser in the ways of the paintbrush,) I not only discovered that I was capable of driving fence posts and painting respectable straight lines, but that I actually enjoyed the work.

Being the aggressively over-optimistic person I am, this naturally led me to assume that the next stage of my education should be the complete renovation of not just one outrageously filthy house, but also a cabin, a garage, and a barn; hence why I spent most of the last month and a half on my knees silently mouthing expletives as I dug holes in the mud, or on my knees silently mouthing expletives as I unscrewed improperly installed outlet covers in our cabin, or reclined gingerly in my office chair, silently mouthing expletives as I bought a set of knee pads on Amazon.

I’ve been aided in the last month by two exceptionally patient masters at their craft; Bo Beaupre of Chebeague Sand and Gravel, (who’s first name, as you undoubtedly would never guess, is in fact Jean Louis), who can make an excavator dance a graceful ballet while effortlessly performing the sort of geometric calculations necessary to make sure that your poop flows away from your house instead of towards it. The second is the aforementioned Kim Boehm, proprietor at Chebeague Island Electric, who has become my wiring sensei over the last month.

My apprenticeship with Bo consisted of a full day knee deep in mud while we dug a very deep trench and inserted a pipe in the cabin foundation to let the basement’s small pond’s worth of water drain to a more convenient point farther down the hill: a process which involved a shovel, the use of a very fun electric jackhammer (sorry mom) and one moderately successful attempt at outrunning a small flood that was extremely excited to be released from its long confinement.

My apprenticeship with Kim has involved, after many quiet nights making bell hooks (note that I refer here to the manipulation of wire and not the educational theorist, a necessary clarification which should tell you a lot about the practical proficiency of my social circles) and a lot of hands-on work on site.  Kim instructs me in a concept, such as how to run wires or the inner mysteries of that Miraculous Tool known as a Dremel, gives me a sheet of assignments and lets me go to work, while thankfully putting up with an over-numerous deluge of anxious e-mails asking ridiculously small questions for clarification. In another week, the cabin will be wired, I will have done well over half of it myself, and I have begun to learn what requires maniacal precision and what falls comfortably within what every craftsman (or woman) calls “the margin of error”.

Incidentally, most productivity gurus say that this is exactly the type of high-value leisure activity that we should all trade our Netflix for. And while this is not quite leisure and involves a lot more Hauling of Trash and Falling Down Wells than any of these authors envisioned, I’m enjoying the deep satisfaction that comes with hard-earned moderate proficiency in something that is undeniably practical.

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