My Husband, The Next Rube Goldberg

May 12, 2015

Rube Goldberg, 1883-1970, was a cartoonist, inventor, engineer, and author who developed wacky convoluted ways of solving tasks. Example: A fourteen step method of finding your misplaced eyeglasses illustrated like a comic strip. My husband was graduate cum laude from the Rube Goldberg school of repair. He was not handy around the house…well, not in the conventional way. Original ways of solving problems was second nature for him. The inclination was reinforced by an inborn gene for frugality. My husband was innovative to say the least.

Some of you may remember the summer he put umbrellas like giant multi-colored mushrooms over his okra plants who were swooning in the garden from the summer heat. When the oven door spring broke some people feel that slamming rather than closing ensures that it is truly shut. I was going to call the service repairman to come and replace it or repair it. Ernie assured me he could remedy the gaping door that refused to close. And he did! He came in with a handmade contraption from the garage which was a 2 x something board with a 16 x 5 inch board nailed perpendicular to either end. It looked like a giant Roman number I. He proudly wedged the brace between the broken door and the kitchen island. Voila! The oven was tightly closed.  

Drawback: you could no longer walk around the island or the kitchen with the wedge in place. Checking the progress of your ham or casserole was a major operation. Unwedge. Open oven. Check the pot roast. Close. Re-wedge the wedge. 

His sprinkler system for the yard was a mystery also. Initially there was a cord which came through the master bedroom window from outside. Plug the cord into a wall socket and your lawn was watered. My complaint about the third world ambiance finally persuaded him to hire his buddy electrician with an outside gage wired to the on and off switch in the master bedroom. Unfortunately, no one had a clue how to work the gage controlling the maze of pipes and wires. Four months after Ernest died, I called an electrician to come and give me an estimate on installing more sprinkler heads and simplifying the regulatory instrument. They came. Never saw a rig like this. All has to be torn out and start over they said. I had to put a cold compress on my forehead when I reviewed the cost estimate.

The young landscaper from Isreal came highly recommended. He reviewed the setup, would use what he could of the system in place, and gave me a reasonable estimate. The old gage would have to go. Everything went smoothly until we got to replacing the timer. We have to cancel that old system, but we can’t seem to figure out just how, he said. He was on his cell phone speaking a language that did not sound like Spanish. When he finally hung up, I asked what language it was. Hebrew, he said. Oh is your family here? No, that was my uncle in Israel. He’s a master electrician and he is walking me through this step by step. He flicked the switch and my lawn was showered with water. I knew that Rube Goldberg and his devoted disciple Ernie were savoring every minute.