Sunday, November 25, 2007

The holiday homeowner curse

Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone (and left a pound or two behind, soon to be joined by its Christmas cousins) and, as night follows day, I didn't get through the holiday without something trying to break at the house.

You see, I have a curse on my household. If something is going to break, it will only do it on a national holiday. This curse has followed me through three houses. Septic tank backs up? On December 23, of course. Refrigerator dies? December 24. Washer drain floods the crawlspace? Thanksgiving day. Heat pump dies? New Year's day. Flooded basement? Martin Luther King Day. Air conditioner bites the dust? Labor Day (an anomoly -- the curse likes cold holidays). I have had roof leaks, plumbing leaks, dead cars, dead appliances. This of course in addition to the other annoyances like being sick as a dog with the flu or something very like it the last two Christmases running. Some years I just want to jump straight from Columbus Day to Fat Tuesday and skip all the winter holidays entirely.

I didn't move the car out of the garage from Wednesday morning (turkey pick-up) until Saturday afternoon. We were having Thanksgiving at home and I'm not a crazy woman. By Wednesday afternoon the local talk radio station was reporting two mile long traffic backups on the interstate through town. I was snug at home and very happy to be there. But by Saturday I hoped that the road madness had subsided and needed to run a few errands. So, I loaded my car and hit the garage door opener button. The door glided open smoothly. I pulled out of the garage, fastened my seat belt and tapped the door opener button again.


Irritated, I pushed it again. Maybe the battery was getting weak. The door did a little jerk-jerk-shudder and the light on the front of the opener responded, with its three-quick-blinks signal, meaning that something was keeping the door from closing. Grumbling, I put the car in park, unfastened the seat belt and jumped out of the car to check whether a leaf had blown in and blocked the path of the safety cutoffs at the bottom of the door.

They were clean. Nothing was on the threshold in the path of the beam. The stupid thing just wouldn't work. I hit the button on the wall. Jerk-jerk-shudder-blink. Then nothing. Well, this is just peachy, I thought. I was dressed to go out and wasn't in the mood to drag out the stepladder and diagnose a cranky Sears garage door opener. (And, did I mention that the ceiling in the garage is almost ten feet tall? So it's WAAAAY up there.)

I'll deal with it later, I decided. I'll just unlatch the door from the traveler, lower it by hand, and lock it -- OH RATS! Why won't the garage door lock? The old wooden door had undergone some warping / shrinkage / sagging / whatever and now the lock bars won't align with the holes in the latch. A quick check revealed that the bars are guided at each side by a bracket attached to the door with two screws, one in a hole and the other in a slot. If I take out the screw in the hole, I can slide the bracket on the slotted screw until the bar will align with the latch. A quick trip to the tool box for a screwdriver, and the door is locked. Finally, I'm on my way.

Two hours of TREMENDOUSLY HORRIBLE traffic later, I returned home. So much for subsided road madness. Time to dig out my work clothes and tackle the garage door opener. I cleaned, I lubricated, I dusted, I poked and prodded. Nothing. Jerk-jerk-shudder-blink. This opener is DOA. I decided to at least fix the lock properly, so I got the drill and reinstalled the screws into the guide brackets on each side.

I stared malevolently at the frozen traveler on the overhead bar and pecked petulantly at the control button. Didn't help, just made me feel better. Well, at least the door was disconnected and locked. I could use the side door to go in and out, and leave the car in the driveway until Sears sent a repairman. . .

Suddenly, the opener shuddered to life and the traveler glided down the rail and clicked into the catch on the door. What the heck? I knew it was nothing I had done, but don't look a gift horse in the mouth etc. etc., so I unlocked the door and grabbed my car keys so I could put the Subaru safely in the garage. Except now it won't work again.

Time to take a break. I went into the kitchen and got a Diet Rite, my drug of choice. Leaning on the counter, I considered what could be wrong. Whatever it was, I probably couldn't fix it. I returned to the garage, deciding to disconnect the door again, hoist it by hand and put the car in from the impending rain. Just for giggles, I gave the opener another push. AND IT OPENED. And closed again. And opened again. Just like it should. Just like it had never stopped working.

It's now Monday and the garage door opener is still fine. It's just playing with my head.

To quote Charlie Brown, "I can't stand it. I just can't stand it."

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