This past March, I was at a robotics competition. My son, Kane, joined his school’s robotics club and they entered the competition. No, it wasn’t the kind of event where you hope and pray that a freak lightning storm will occur right above your head and strike you dead before someone has the chance to ask you which one is yours and you are forced to admit – while attempting to not look completely humiliated – that the fruit of your loins is actually the 4th apple tree in the back. Yes, the one picking his nose.
It wasn’t like that at all.
All of the robots were really incredible. I watched my son working on his between the match-ups. He was dismantling stuff, tightening screws, re-wiring and using power tools like they were extensions of his hands. And I am not ashamed to admit that I felt proud.
I also felt… nostalgic.
You see, I kept thinking about the little portable radio I had when I was a kid. I guess I was about 8 years old. It was a little AM/FM deal and I loved it. I loved listening to the classic rock stations on the FM dial. I loved listening to disco on the AM dial. I really loved turning the knobs past all the radio stations, until near the very end of the dial where I would pick up something I swear still was alien communications.
And then one day it stopped.
I noticed that my radio would cut out after a couple of hours. If I shook it around, it would come back on. Then it started cutting out after just an hour. Then half an hour. Then no amount of shaking would make it come back on. I was devastated. The music was gone from my life. Even worse, the aliens were gone! How would I know when the invasion was going to happen?!
I got the idea that I could fix it.
I started thinking about how, at first, it would start again when I shook it. That must mean that something was loose, right? And when I shook it, I jiggled it back into place. I also realize d whatever was loose had probably been shook off of wherever it was supposed to be, so shaking it no longer worked. So all I needed to do was open it up and find out what wasn’t where it was supposed to be, then put it back and my radio would be fixed. Simple.
But there was a little bit of a problem.
To do all that, I needed tools. I was the daughter of a conservative Greek man who believed all the tools I would ever need in life could be found in the kitchen. I wasn’t allowed to use tools. I stared at the slot screws in frustration, trying to figure out how I could sneak my father’s screwdriver set out of the workshop without him noticing. Impossible! Then I realized something. All the tools I would ever need in life may not always be found in the kitchen, but this time they were. I could use a butter knife to take the screws out!
So that’s what I did.
I pulled the two halves of my radio apart. I looked inside to find the problem. I realized I had no idea what I was looking at. There were wires and metal things and other metal things and yet other metal things and more wires. I stared in frustration. Then I realized I was staring at the end of a red wire. Why wasn’t it attached to something? Aha! Here was the culprit.
But where should it go?
I turned the radio on, grabbed the loose wire and randomly touched it to metal things, other metal things, other wires and more metal things. Nothing. In frustration, I flung the wire down. It landed on a miniscule metal post, and slowly slid off. For a moment though, whilst on the post, the aliens spoke. I was ecstatic. And then I wasn’t.
How to reattach it?
I couldn’t touch a screwdriver, there was no way I was getting my hands on a soldering iron. I had an idea. I swiped a pack of matches from the kitchen drawer (because, as it turned out, all the tools I needed really were in the kitchen) and a crayon from my little brother’s box of Crayolas (also, kept in the kitchen) and, holding the wire in place with my foot, I melted the tip of the crayon over the wire and post to fuse them together.
On a totally unrelated note, I miss the flexibility I had at 8 years old.
When the wax hardened, I jiggled the wire to ensure it stuck to the post. Then I closed up my radio and used the knife to tighten the screws again. I turned the radio on and listened to the aliens plot our demise. For about 10 minutes. Then the radio died again. I opened it back up and saw that the crayon wax had melted and the wire had come loose again.
The music was dead, the aliens were coming and I laughed. It didn’t matter if it didn’t keep working. I fixed it. Even if only for a little while. I figured it out. Then I put the matches back in the drawer, buried the crayon stub in the garbage, dropped the knife in the sink and left my broken radio on the nightstand.
I wonder if it’s still at my parents house.
I had completely forgotten about it until I saw Kane working on the robot. I had forgotten about how happy it makes me when I have the chance to fix something. Or to figure something out. I think I’ll have to visit my parents soon and see if it’s still there.
Now that I own my own power tools.