Q. The lovely older home I bought a few years ago is starting to fall apart. I don't feel like I have any experience doing home repairs. I figure it can't be that hard, but I don't know where to begin. Can you help?
-- J.J.S., North Buffalo
A. First, a disclaimer. Ask FIRST SUNDAY does not believe in "do it yourself." In fact, the last time she uttered the words "do it yourself," it was in loud and peevish response to one of those colossally irritating Nike ads.
You might assume that Ask FIRST SUNDAY isn't a do-it-yourselfer because she fancies herself to be some sort of princess, but genealogy has nothing to do with it. Ask FIRST SUNDAY simply believes that as long as there are people out there who make a living doing home repairs, she should not be providing unskilled competition. Paying someone else to do her unpleasant chores allows Ask FIRST SUNDAY the free time to curl up with a good book, and the opportunity to pat herself on the back for supporting the local economy.
As for your contention that fixing things around the house is not "that hard" -- well, that's just plain beside the point. We'll wager your job isn't quantum physics, either, but that doesn't mean a plumber should sashay into your workplace and take a whack at it in his spare time this weekend.
Do you want Bob Vila to dabble at writing this column?
But you have no intention of following Ask FIRST SUNDAY's advice. She knows that once you have made up your mind to take on some household maintenance task yourself, nothing she can say will persuade you otherwise.
But you can at least take these insights to the hardware store with you:
1. You think doing this job yourself will save you money. In reality, in 97.3 percent of all instances, it will cost you a minimum of $82.50 more than the professional's estimate. But hey, your satisfaction in a job poorly done is worth at least that much, right?
2. It will take you four times longer than you have estimated to "complete" this job. We use the term "complete" advisedly, because, in fact, your job will never be complete. That tiny piece of missing trim molding is going to dog you until you sell your home, at which point the new owner will no doubt make you replace it as a condition of the sale.
3. When it comes to Home Depot, there is no such thing as "one trip."
4. You will need the right tools. The right tools, by definition, do not include implements with "five-in-one" inscribed on the handle, nor do they include anything you received free with a magazine subscription. Also, please note: You will never have enough tools.
5. Failing to turn off the power (water) at the fuse box (main), though tempting, is not an acceptable shortcut.
6. It is extremely useful to have a friend or family member nearby to fetch things for you, provide moral support and cower under your vituperative stream of invective when you kick over that gallon can of navy blue semi-gloss latex. The person who convinced you this job would be "a piece of cake" would be a logical choice.
7. You are allotted roughly 20 minutes of time to parade and preen, chest puffed out and arms akimbo, over your accomplishment. Shortly thereafter, someone you live with will either archly inquire, "Is THIS where you found that hammer?" or point out some picayune flaw, like, "Hey, when I turn on the faucet, water comes gushing out of the cabinet!"
8. It's never too late to call in a (licensed and insured) professional.
Q. I can't believe that medical association that recently decreed no child under 2 should see even one minute of TV. What do you think?
-- T.L., Buffalo
A. Ask FIRST SUNDAY has already weighed in on the subject of TV, but she will revisit the issue in this case because she considers this dictum to be patently absurd.
While AFS does not think toddlers (or anyone under age 30, for that matter) should be exposed to much of the dreck on TV these days, she does not believe that parking a baby, safely ensconced in a nip-nap, in front of Mr. Rogers so Mommy can use the facilities or make a phone call, is a mortal offense.
Professional associations do a grave disservice to conscientious care-givers like you, while doing nothing to change the behavior of people who leave their kids in the car while they wrestle a one-armed bandit for seven hours. If they had asked Ask FIRST SUNDAY, she would have told the experts that they would get better results by gently reminding harried parents how to be GOOD parents instead of issuing such overly general (not to mention unrealistic-for-99-percent-of-the-population) fiats telling them they're BAD parents. It's basic psychology.
But unlike you, they did not have the wisdom to Ask FIRST SUNDAY.
Ask FIRST SUNDAY's home improvement franchise is best used when the loose screw she is asked to fix is in one of her readers' heads. Write her at Ask FIRST SUNDAY, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.