violets, not shrinking

My hotel room had a few… ummm… foibles.

The first I discovered was that one of the shower doors–both attractively poised on barn-door-style rollers–refused to stay shut. Upon reflection, I’d vote that the shower itself is off plumb: at one end of the shower the door (either door), once pulled closed, gently rolls back open.

The open end is the end with the shower head. Naturally.

I discovered this while newly dripping. Naturally.

As I toyed with the idea of simply showering one-handed (mmm, no), I remembered the washcloth that had been folded into the soap dish. I could use it, perhaps, to wedge the recalcitrant roller into stillness. “I bet that’s why that was there!” I thought.

I didn’t seriously think that for long; in my defense, this all occurred Before Coffee. And the washcloth hack was successful–I employed it every shower afterwards.

The other chief foible I had actually encountered before the shower, but didn’t recognize it as such. See, the closet door (also on barn-door-style rollers) was hard to slide open and closed, as if it was scraping on something, and it perennially caught on the door of the mini-safe. It just took a bit of finesse was all.

Until my final evening, where it appeared the safe door had wedged into the closet door so desperately I would never retrieve my pants again.

“I need a yardstick,” I thought. I had not packed a yardstick. “I wonder if, when I asked, the front desk would let me have a broomstick without fussing at me,” I thought. I went back to face the door, to better assess what had gone wrong. I held the door’s sides and tried to lessen its friction on the floor, or swing the bottom of the closet panel slightly away from the safe door.

Instead, the whole assembly shifted oddly in my hands, and I looked up to see an unattached roller mounting screw. I reached up to adjust it, and the part moved into my hand. Freely. With narrowed eyes, I went back to the first roller, to find that it too had pulled loose completely.

I set them down on a shelf. I returned to the door panel, grasped it, and leaned it so that I could get into the closet and the bathroom (it’s the same door), while making reasonably certain it wouldn’t fall over.

Then I called the front desk to obliquely inform them that their door had come apart, and that I didn’t intend to be charged for it.

I recount this in excruciating detail because I haven’t always been like this. During my formative years, I occasionally knew how to fix things, and was willing to do so. But I don’t recall actively assessing brokenness to discern paths to repair. My Girl Scout can-do-it experience instilled calmness in the face of unexpected difficulty, but no McGyver stance.

That came later. Fixing computers has caused me to try to fix nearly anything.

I’m bookish. In fact, I performed these ad hoc adjustments while attending the Festival of Faith & Writing, a conference for writers and readers. When I laughed about the washcloth trick with my colleagues, I got a bit of a head-tilt with my answering smile.

So as I try to absorb the Festival, I’m starting with this: without noticing, I somehow got in the habit of simply fixing what was in front of me.

In the server rooms of that other life I was expected to fix what was in front of me, since that why I was hired. At the outset of that career, I usually felt jittery with impostor syndrome… after all, I didn’t know how to fix things. Or not many things, and certainly not hardware. But as I tentatively learned my trade, I observed that most of fixing was just taking what one had already figured out and trying one thing more. It’s a version of, “I wonder what will happen if I do this?” but from an informed place.

Nothing breeds skill like trying and succeeding. Or trying and persisting. Not having backup goes a reeeally long way, too. It’s impressive what one can accomplish with a screwdriver and some empiricism when one knows there will be no cavalry riding over the hill.

As a lazy person, I confess that at home I wait for My Sweetie to do the fixing–unless I embarrass myself by recognizing that’s what I’m doing. In all the places where My Sweetie is not, however…

…I do things like pick up black plastic clips with wing nuts attached, squint at them, and squint at the bleachers. “Did this come from the collapsible railing? No, those poles are fatter. Is there a rod as part of the bench? How do you look under the bench to check? What if I…”

“Hey, Kimbol. Are you ready to go? Because I’m getting hungry, and the poetry reading starts at 8pm…”

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