It’s been hot lately. I know this isn’t news—a lot of people have been living through a heat wave recently and I realize how lucky we are to have air conditioning. It really hit home when our home AC couldn’t keep up and had to take a break. The temperature inside the house started rising to meet the temperature outside and I had Elvis’s “Burning Love” playing on repeat in my head, but it was a 78 and my overheated brain could only manage 33 RPMs so it sounded like it was being sung by a drunk Orson Welles, but that’s another story.
My wife suggested I check under the house to see if the ductwork was okay. I’m not a DIY guy. My first approach to most home repair projects is to call someone, which can be embarrassing when I end up paying them seventy-five bucks to tell me, “Uh, sir, all you really need to do is plug this toaster in.” But I figured there was no harm in looking so I crawled up into the crawlspace with a flashlight. The first thing I noticed was that I needed a winter coat to go in there. The second thing I noticed is that a couple of the connectors that attached the ducts to the vents had collapsed. The third thing I noticed, which, technically, was the first thing I noticed because I notice it every time I crawl into the crawlspace, is that I really don’t mind being down there. I’m not going to build a summer retreat or office in the crawlspace , or even spend the night, especially when it’s cold enough to store meat down there, but if something needs to be done or if we ever need the half a bicycle that’s down there for some reason I’m okay with working in the cramped undercarriage of the house.
And a little casual perusal and some online videos convinced me this DIY was one I could DIMyself. The first, and most ridiculous, thing I learned is that duct tape is not made for heating and cooling ducts any more than it’s made for mallards, but a quick trip to the hardware store equipped me with everything I needed.
This reminded me of one of my first jobs out of college. I was working in a library mailroom. Down the hall was the office of a construction company. They did building maintenance and the construction guys and I would pass each other in the hallways, or we’d see each other in the basement while I was loading boxes to be shipped out.
One of the construction guys, Jack, said to me, “Why don’t you get a real job?”
To be clear in my mailroom job I did a lot of heavy lifting, moving, shelving. Maybe Jack didn’t know how heavy books can be because he’d never picked one up, but I don’t know why what I did was any less of a “real job” than construction work.
A few months after that a woman I worked with hired the construction company to redo her bathroom. Jack and another guy showed up at her house and, as she told us, after a few hours of tearing things down they got into an argument. Both stormed out and she couldn’t get anyone else from the construction company to finish the job. She couldn’t get a refund of her deposit either.
I didn’t see much of Jack after that.
After a few hours of crawling around, taping, cutting, and adjusting I had the ducts successfully reconnected and I went around making sure I hadn’t missed anything, taping up a few other loose spots.
I was very thorough, finished everything that needed to be done, and didn’t get paid anything for it. I still think it was a real job.