The DIY dunce and the doorbell

Image of a doorbell
“Charleston Doorbell” by Kenyaboy7 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

It’s January and the doorbell hasn’t worked for most of the previous year. As a family, we’ve kinda got used to it by now. I mean, I think my wife still believes I’m going to fix it – one day – but it would be fair to say I’ve taken a relaxed approach to its repair. As I have to a number of other DIY issues, to be frank.

“I’m one of those DIY dunces who fundamentally believes that inanimate objects share the same healing properties as split lips or bruised arms. Eventually, they just get better.”

This belief started a long time ago in my 20s. I was driving round the Eltham roundabout in South London when my car just stopped. I coasted to the kerb and turned the engine off. I tried the ignition a couple of times but it was dead as a dodo. Knowing there was no point in me opening the bonnet I simply sat there. This was pre-mobile days so I couldn’t call anyone, either for help or just for a chat. I sat there for 15 minutes. Then, in the complete absence of anything more productive to do, I turned the key in the ignition again. The car roared into life – as much as an Austin Allegro could roar. I put the car into gear and drove off. It never did it again and to this day I don’t know what happened with my Allegro. Other than it just got better. 

Anyhoo, to the doorbell. Several months ago, when it was still fairly early on in its non-working phase, I unscrewed everything, stared at the not very many component parts for an unnecessary length of time, then screwed it all back together. No go. A week or so later, I tried again. I resorted to banging the unit with the screwdriver whilst swearing at it. Remarkably, still nothing. Once, I even tried replacing the batteries, but that too proved fruitless. And that’s where we are. Where we’ve been since … oh, it’s been many, many weeks now.

However, there comes a time in a man’s life when even the greatest of procrastinators can procrastinate no longer. Yesterday was such a day. Dan, my best friend and an accomplished handyman, had given me one vital piece of information. A clue, if you will. I think he was showing faith in me that I so surely did not deserve. Or he was just bored of knocking on the door and asking when was I going to get the doorbell fixed. Nevertheless, his belief was a fillip and his clue was vital. By making a simple connection with his car ignition key and producing a spark, Dan ascertained that the unit itself was not faulty, nor were the batteries dead. I’m a dunce, as I’ve said. Tricks of the trade are way beyond my pay grade. 

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I arrived home from work, changed into doorbell-repairing gear and plunged in. You know, in that way I had brilliantly avoided for so long. Once more, I unscrewed the unit from the wall and removed its cover. Knowing the unit worked, though not when the wires were connected, I deduced that either the wire, which snaked through the wall to the bell push outside, had perished, or the bell push was broken.

It was at this point that I made what historians will doubtless consider a crucial decision. As the wire was sealed inside the wall and impossible to get to without some major redecoration, I focused all my attention on the bell push. I knew that if I connected it to the unit with a spare length of wire, I was onto something. Possibly.

I hit a snag. No spare wire. Why would I have spare wire? DIY dunces have no need of spare wire. I rushed upstairs, rummaged around in the bedroom and came up with two paper clips. I swaggered downstairs thinking I was born for this. I joined the bell push to the unit using the paper clips and paused dramatically before I pressed the button. 

Not a sausage.

Brilliant, I thought. Now came the Mr Spock moment: “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Yes, ultimately, I realise that doesn’t make sense, but I think you get where I’m coming from. In my pocket was a brand new bell push, given to me by Dan who may have, and I could be wrong, anticipated this moment. I quickly disconnected the old bell push, connected the new one, and held my breath. 

The ring filled the hall, the lounge, the downstairs loo. Its volume and resonance startled me, delighted me, caused my chest to swell with pride and … okay, okay, so I fixed the doorbell.

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