Just a Little Ms. Fix-it

The time my hot water tank burst, I ran straight to my laptop.

The Internet saves my skin regularly.  Doesn’t matter whether it’s a “pink” or a “blue” problem; it helps with measurement conversions, cooking problems, a maintenance issue, scientific matters, computer challenges or some silly fix-it situation.

My chair’s been bugging me for months.  The hydraulics have been giving out.  It slowly lowers and I don’t notice until my chin sits at the same level as my arms.

Amazing – it doesn’t matter how I ask the question, there’s usually a video showing the answer.  This time I found a perfectly simply way to fix my chair.  This guy took some PCP pipe, slit it down the middle, slipped it over the stem of the chair and with two clamps, secured the top and bottom of the piping securely.

Brilliant, I decided, and trotted off to my Non-Fail Lumber Yard.   The men in this shop listen to my fix-it ideas and often top them with more simple and functional solutions.  They even foist free goods as a means for solving my problem.  Example?  Why buy a tarp when I can just take the plastic covers they’ve removed from loads of lumber?  Why buy a few nails from the regular bin when there’s a bin of free leftovers/recyclables of every size and description?

Yesterday when I walked into the shop, a male clerk approached me who I’d not seen before.  Undaunted, I explained my hydraulic chair problem.  I told him I wanted 3 1/2 ” of flexible PCP piping and two metal screw clamps.

Listening is more than just hearing.

Listening is more than just hearing.

He led me to bins of piping that were all about 1/8″ thick – completely non-bendable.

“No, I want the thinner piping.  I need to slit it and slip it around the stem of the chair.”

“Oh that wouldn’t work.  You need this kind of pipe.”  He picked up a piece of piping and rapped his knuckles on it.  “How would you plan on cutting it?”

“I have no means of cutting pipe that thick.  I don’t want that kind of piping.  Where’s your thinner, more flexible kind?”  This man was not going to let some woman tell him how to fix a hydraulic chair.

“Listen”, he said, “I’ve fixed tons of those kinds of chairs.  I’m telling you…you have to have piping this thick.  In fact, I’ll tell you the best thing you can do.  Take that chair to a welder and get him to weld it so it won’t budge.”

“I am going to try this piping trick.  So you don’t have any thinner stuff?”

“Nope.  And you’d have to cut THIS piping in two places, then glue the two pieces to the stem.”

“No, I am going to clamp it.  Glue won’t work – the stem’s been well-greased by the manufacturer.”

I knew I had to get myself into the hands of another clerk.  This man had been against my idea from the beginning.

“Well, I guess you’ll have to try Home Hardware.  But it won’t work.”

“I’m amazed! I’ve been coming in here for years and, you know, this may be the first time I walk out of here empty handed. Imagine your store not having the lighter PCP pipes.  Oh well, thanks for your help.”

He headed back to the main counter.  Instead of leaving the store, I decided to walk down other aisles to see if I could come up with a brainwave. It didn’t seem possible that this idea couldn’t happen.  I fought the feeling of being berated and put aside.  I turned on my creative juices in case I could spot an alternative way to fix the chair.

Then I saw a neighbour woman come in looking lost – looking for weather stripping for one of her doors.  I needed some, too, so decided to join her to see what was in stock.  I asked one of the other men where the stripping could be found.

Audrey and I cruised up one floor and was joined by the man who gave us the directions.  He listened to Audrey, asked questions and made suggestions.  With his help,  both of us realized after seeing what was offered, we needed another look at our doors to decide which would work best.

As the three of us were parting, I took a chance, “I actually came in to find some piping so I could repair a hydraulic chair that keeps slipping down.  I’m surprised you guys don’t carry that flexible PCP brand. I want to wrap it around the stem and clamp it well.”

“We do carry that kind of PCP.  We’ve got lots of it.  How much do you need?”

Just like that!  He grabbed a tool to cut off a piece of pipe and slit it down the middle.  As he headed to an outside location, he said, “You’re in charge of the clamps.”

I found the rightsized clamps and met him back at the check-out counter.  He held up a perfect 3 1/2 ” piece of flexible pipe – exactly what I needed.  The total bill – clamps et al: $4.32.

What a difference!  It’s all about attitude.  The first man carried a preconceived idea that my plan was not plausible.  The entire exchange with him was in the negative.

With the second man, I felt heard and respected.  Charming without being condescending, he served with dignity and humour.

Thank goodness I didn’t give up.  You see, I’m sitting here in my hydraulic chair with it’s new piping clamped tightly around the stem and my chin is a good foot off the desk where it belongs.





20 thoughts on “Just a Little Ms. Fix-it

  1. love that you stuck with what you wanted and didn’t let some prehistoric guy teach the little woman to listen to his superior knowledge. geez. And it is a great fix and I know just the chair I’m going to use it on. The internet is my “go to” for anything that needs fixing including the built in web camera on the lap top. Yay me and YouTube

    • I “lived” with people (women, too) having attitudes like this man in my careers so I know I have a choice: give them my power or not. Like you, my power is well earned so I don’t give it away OR sell it!

      Yah, and I discovered this week how valuable Face Book can also be. As you saw, through a slip of the cursor, my whole facebook, except our comments, turned to Japanese. I knew where to go for settings, but everything was in Japanese. Thankfully a Face Book friend (in Vanuatu!) “counted me through” the menu choices and specific selections until I got to “language”. His print screen sent through messenger helped too. Great way to live!

      Yes, and every Apple question I have had, the answer is there and usually in video format. When I don’t know what I’m asking about (language fail) I phone – and get a person! Imagine!!

  2. Oh goody. Now I know what to do when the hydraulics on my brand new chair go south. I’m so proud of my first-ever, real, rolling, office chair, which I put together by myself, alongside the wooden filing cabinet that I also treated myself to.

    I’d say the first knucklehead you encountered is an employee. The second guy is a salesman. I’d be tempted to write to the store’s management in praise of their excellent salesman.

    • Good for you, Linda. I also put my hydraulic chair together – good feeling isn’t it? The key is taking the time to follow instructions – and overcoming a few glitches in translation.

      I do let management know how great the staff is – men and women. In fact, the manager is a friend. He started this business because 30 years ago he asked me to help him with his resume. I looked at his list of student-part-time roles that had no relation to his plan to go up North and do heavy labour. I knew his intelligence, good heart and demonstrated leadership abilities. I said, “Why go up north and work in camps? We need your leadership right here!” This young guy had a reputation established – builders came to him, gave him their plans and he figured out almost to the board the amount of lumber they needed. So he went to an off-island lumber company, made a pitch for the business he could give them – and they gave him a truck. He took lumber orders, picked them up, then hauled them over here to the contractor. After 30 years, he’s turned the business into a very successful lumber store – selling all sorts of hardware goods – and with one helluva team of people!

      So, yep, I take great pleasure in telling Mark how much his staff and he are appreciated. (No, I won’t criticize the other guy to Mark. I know the message got through when the first guy saw me purchasing the PCP from the second employee.)

    • Granny, I strongly suspect my paternal grandfather, a creative blacksmith, made sure his genes were vital enough to hit at least one of his granddaughters. I love the challenge of fixing something. Besides why toss something that has a comfortable imprint of one’s derriere?? (Is it okay to put an apostrophe in “one-s”?)

  3. I wonder how that first guy would have felt if he walked into a grocery story and was told by a female clerk that they didn’t carry low-salt soy sauce. “Nope. They don’ t make the stuff. Sorry!” You’re right. It’s all about attitude and assumptions.

    • “You can’t cook that dish with low-salt soy sauce! Won’t work. We’ve got a chunk of unprocessed salt but how ya gonna clean it up so you can use it? ” Yep, Lorna, that would be a bugs bunny show – revealing the “preposterous-ness”. But some people still wouldn’t catch on. It’s like racism…some people don’t hear themselves when they say, “but I have black friends.”

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