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MAKING THINGS IS EASY

We're making things faster than we can fix them when they break. The problem comes from the fact that making things is a production-line job and fixing them is different every time.

On a production line, all a worker has to know is one job. It may be how to bolt a piece of steel to another piece of steel or how to attach one set of wires to the proper terminals. When something breaks, the person doing the repair has to inspect whatever it is, determine what's wrong and then figure out what to do to fix it.

Fixing something takes more ability than making it in the first place. That's why mechanics, plumbers and electricians are so scarce and expensive.

Last weekend, I finally got around to taking the lights off the little Christmas tree I put up out in front of the house. I was testing the lights before storing them away and noted that a lot of the bulbs did not light up. Do I throw away the whole string or try to replace the bad ones? Which would be cheaper? Is repairing them worth my time? Should I just forget about them now and face the problem next year when I put them up?

I laid the lights out on the slate patio outside the kitchen door. As I stood gazing at the unlit lights, I noticed the surface of the patio underneath them and how much of the cement between the pieces of slate was broken or gone. Some of it had a mossy green look. The whole patio needs to be grouted.

I put the box of lights on a crowded shelf in the garage. It was difficult to see what was on the back of the shelf because the light in the garage that used to go on automatically when the door went up, no longer does. The bulb is OK, so it must be some other problem. Who fixes garage lights that turn on automatically when the door goes up? Not the same person who puts cement in between the pieces of slate on a patio.

I came inside and went to the basement, where I've been meaning to go through all the pictures I took of the four kids years ago. Hundreds of them are color slides. I haven't looked at them in 10 years.

We have two slide projectors. One is a carousel style made by Kodak. I tested that and the little fan that keeps it from overheating came on but the projection light did not. I figured the bulb was dead, so I unscrewed the back and removed the strange-looking bulb. Manufacturers do not anticipate anyone keeping a piece of equipment for 10 years, and I doubt they still make that bulb.

The second projector is a Bell & Howell. Slides are stored in a little cube that drops one slide at a time in front of the lens. That bulb was dead, too. Or at least I think it was the bulb. Of course, the problem may not be the bulb at all. It's damp in the basement sometimes.

It was lunchtime, so I made myself a tuna fish sandwich and took it into the living room to see what was on television. I turned the set on, but the clicker that changes channels hasn't been working right. Or I think that's what's wrong. It could be a problem with the cable that comes into the house. Or maybe there's something wrong with the television set itself. It's eight years old. Maybe I'll call the TV repairman. Or would it be cheaper to just buy a new television set?

After lunch, I decided to set up the card table in the living room and go through the boxes of pictures by hand there. I noticed the card table was unsteady, so I turned it over and found that a hinge on one of the legs was broken. Right after I find someone to grout the patio, I'll go to the store, try to find bulbs for the projectors, look at television sets and see if I can get a hinge for the card table.

Or maybe I should throw the card table away and buy a new one. That's the American way.

Tribune Media Services

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