The Mensch with the wrench / by Susie Lubell

I have to hand it to my handy husband. He's like Macguyver. There's no problem that duct tape, a switch and some wires won't fix. I mentioned the problem we had with our analog television - that we couldn't watch DVDs anymore because the converter was set to the video channel. The cable was only reading info from the converter box and not from the DVD player. Or something like that. I don't claim to understand any of this. Anyway, on Friday night when I told him I'd had enough and I was buying a new television he said he thought he knew a way to fix it. Of course he does.

This seems an appropriate time to mention the car that we had ten years ago when we lived in Israel. My husband was a student at the university where I worked and we were the only ones of our friends who had a car. It had been his mom's - a fiat something or other that we lovingly called Fifi. But my husband had treated it like a jeep going off-roading and what have you in the desert. The poor car was a wreck. But that didn't stop us from hauling up to six people around town in that thing. At one point it needed a new transmission which would have cost more than the car was worth so my husband put it in himself which took four months (did I mention he's a mechanical engineer and not a mechanic?). I walked to work. I think it was summer. 100 degrees by 9am. Good times.

Anyway, once the transmission was fixed the thing ran great. But then the car itself started falling a part. First the handle snapped off the inside of the driver's side. So I had to roll down the window to open the car door. No problem. Then the passenger side ceased to close altogether so we had to tie it shut with a string. No problem. Then the ignition stopped working one day. I put my key in there and the thing wouldn't turn. I was late for work so I just left it and walked to my office hoping someone would steal the damn thing. No such luck.

Two days later my husband had performed an ignition-ectomy. Removed the whole thing. In it's place were two wires. That's when I learned to hot-wire the car. No problem. Except for the slight spark I would sometimes get when the two wires connected. Eventually, when the wires started to fray and I started to worry I might electrocute myself and my passenger, my husband found a better solution. He added a switch which meant we could turn the car on or off with the push of a button. With this thing in place we were limitless. We could continue schlepping our friends around. Hell, we could rob banks with a fast getaway. And so it went for another year until we ended up selling that car for $50 before we left Israel to go traveling.

But back to the television. He popped over to his office on Saturday and came home with a switch and some wires and before long we had ourselves another homemade contraption allowing us to hot-wire the television. Switch it one way and it was a TV, the other way it was a DVD player. Genius. Unfortunately we're still stuck with the same channels, but the legend of Fifi lives on in our TV. I just hope I don't electrocute myself trying to watch the Korean home shopping network.