When it takes a larger screwdriver…

Okay. It is true that I like spending time with my significant other, my partner, my husband, my friend. We laugh at a lot together. We’ve occasionally cried at things together. Sometimes we argue about whether to laugh or to cry, but that’s OK. It’s time spent together and in the end it has its own value. (Just ask us sometime about the framed butter knife in our kitchen…)

But being frustrated together, to the point of both laughter and tears, is an entirely wasteful application of that together time.

OK, a bit of backstory. My family moved a lot. A LOT. We packed up households and moved lock stock and barrel across borders, across oceans. Different countries. Different CONTINENTS.

In the context of this, things get acquired by the bucket-load and their provenance gets mislaid. Other things get lost. In the end you might end up with something that baffles you in the utter awkward BADNESS of its evil design — something that is probably true because some essential special tool existed once and was lost during one of the many (many many) moves.

One such item was something that looked rather like an overgrown Crackerjack box prize — a plastic THING which included a thermometer, a hygrometer, and a clock — three little round faces in the front with moving hands. It runs on a single AA battery. It isn’t bad-looking as and of itself and it’s marginally useful, at that — but after my father died and my mom entered a phase of “I must declutter the house now” she finally came round to this clocky-temperature-humidity triptych and attempted to make some sense of it.

It wasn’t long before she called ME in because she couldn’t figure out how to set the clock to show the correct time.

It wouldn’t be the first time she had failed to diagnose some piece of mechanical tomfoolery and anyway her eyesight wasn’t too hot any more so I dutifully examined the thing — and discovered that it wasn’t her fault at all. The back of the item was a vast expanse of grey plastic, screwed on by means of those deep-well screws which you couldn’t even SEE down at the bottom of these wells, so deep and dark were they, so small the screws. But that was secondary to the fact that there were only three things on that back expanse, other than the battery opening.

One was an on-off switch for an alarm (which we kept at off — who knew what shenanigans might have been wrought with the alarm in the past and nobody wanted to be woken at 3 am by a shriek we hadn’t ordered). The other two things were two round holes in which, just out of reach, lurked a thin little white rod. It was obvious that turning this rod would adjust the clock.

The problem was that there was *no way to access that rod*. There wasn’t any way you could get fingers anywhere near it, and one of the two applicable tweezers we had were point-tweezers with no way to grip the rod. The other pair of tweezers, the ones with the flat ends, were simply too big to fit in the tiny hole where the rod was.

We abandoned the problem for a while and the thing lived for another span in what used to be my dad’s little office cubby. Until mom entered a further “must declutter” phase, and brought the thing over to my house for another attempt.

It then sat on my husband’s desk for a while, pretty much unheeded because there were other clocks etc around.

Until the battery on the clock/calculator that he WAS using ran out, and it isn’t a normal battery but one of those round flat watch battery things, and of course we don’t have spare ones lying around the house. So the now vividly malfunctioning watch-battery clock was removed so that it didn’t annoy him, and he brought the clocky-temperature-humidity thing forward for another look.

The clock was still off, and the mechanism for setting that clock was still pretty much unreachable.

So, this is where our shared half an hour of pure unadulterated frustration began.

Are those screws at the bottom of the well? Holding it together?

I have no idea. Let me see.” Peering into the screw well under direct light. “I think so.”

What kind are they? Phillips head?

They usually are.”

Get a screwdriver.”

Screwdriver got. It’s too big. Get a smaller screwdriver. This one fits, but it keeps slipping off the screw head — and when it DOES engage, the screw simply does. Not. Move.

After a few minutes of huffing and puffing in various incarnations (one holding, one trying to turn the screw with both hands, and assorted variations) it was obvious that this wasn’t going to work.

Get a pair pf pliers,” he instructed.

So I did. At first the pliers grasping the screwdriver didn’t seem to help but then HELLLOOOO! one of the screws budged just infinitesimally.

Is it moving?” he asked hopefully.

I don’t know. I think so. Hang on.

A few more minutes and it became obvious that it in fact was so because the screw head began to swim into view towards the top of the screw well. And lo, after another turn of the screw, as it were, it was out. Okay, then. We might still be able to undo this back, and get at the tiny little setting rod unencumbered by the plastic backing.

That, however, was the last screw that cooperated. We tried one, two, three, four more (there were SIX) and not one gave us so much as a time of day. I finally stuck a screwdriver in between the two plastic pieces and gave a twist.

And one of the recalcitrant screws gave. Well, it snapped — or the plastic housing did, anyway, — and that corner lifted.

Is this the only way?” hubby asked, resigned.

Dammie,” I snarled, trying to pry the thing open with both hands without squashing my fingers in the gap or cutting myself on broken plastic.

Another screw broke. The gap widened.

The others hung fast.

I tried using the edge of hubby’s nail clips (he has half a dozen of them, and they breed, they’re everywhere…) but the only thing that succeeded in doing was snapping the nail clip handle off its hinge. So I paused to fix THAT, and then went back to this beast of a THING which was now becoming a personal bugbear.

Get that big screwdriver again,” hubby said.

Let’s cut this short. It took another twenty minutes. But finally we had the other five screws broken off — or the plastic casings, anyway — enough to triumphantly pry the back of the object off. Access gained, the little white rod was fiddly in the extreme but without the plastic it was at least graspable. The clock was re-set to the correct time without any further trouble.

I suppose I can just keep it sitting there like this, for now,” hubby offered doubtfully, eyeing the mangled corpse of the thing (but the clock was correct now! and working!)

But when he tried to stand it back up, it became apparent that it needed that back cover to be stable.

Which is why there is now a grey plastic clocky-temperature-humidity thing sitting on his desk, with working clock, taped together with Scotch tape so that it will stay upright.

And watch batteries are on my damned shopping list.

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