Fighting depression with a soldering iron
Or, how not to fix a television
“Can you see? The logo is flashing on and off,” he said.
He was absolutely right, it was.
“Do you mind taking a look at it?”
Sure. Wasn’t I taking a look at it now? We were looking at it together. It was quite clearly broken.
The thing you have to understand about this and most of these situations is…this isn’t my job. There are the less rare cases, where someone has forgotten to plug something in, or has their elbow on the power button, and that unfortunately does form part of my skill set (let’s not call it a skill set), but I sensed that this probably wasn’t one of those times.
I did my due diligence though. I pressed all of the buttons on the remote, twice. Nothing. The TV was still power cycling, flashing up the logo for a second and then powering off again.
Then, I swapped out the power cable from our other television. No joy. All the while, Justin is drinking tea and watching.
“Do you think it’s broken?” He said.
“Well, it doesn’t look good,” I said.
“Just get a new one, yeah? They’re not much are they?”
Not if you’re a multi millionaire, no. To the working man, it’s a fair chunk of change though.
I went to see our finance guy.
He was already shaking his head. “No. Just, no,” he said. “We’re not putting a new TV on the company card.”
I understood his position. Unfortunately this had put me in an awkward one. I had just nodded enthusiastically at the prospect of Justin getting a new TV and told him I’d “get right on it”.
“What are we going to do?” I asked him.
“If he asks again, just tell him you had to run it past me and then I’ll have a word,” he said.
So, do nothing.
The wonderful thing about most plans that involve doing nothing, is that they really do tend to work well in my line of work.
All Justin wants is someone to nod and say yes. Then he promptly forgets everything about the conversation and goes back to whatever he was doing.
I didn’t mention the TV again. Consequently, he didn’t mention the TV again. For three months. I thought we might even make it to the new year without anyone remembering that Justin’s television was broken. For three months, he didn’t even think about turning it on.
Then, one fateful morning in December, I get called in.
“What’s going on with this TV, Jon?” he said.
“Umm…I haven’t ordered a new one. I was hoping to fix it, maybe save some money on a replacement?”
“Okay, what did you need to do, take it down from the wall?”
I didn’t know. That seemed like a logical first step. Did I hope to fix it? He never watches it.
He reached up and unhooked the TV from the wall. There was an audible crack as he did so, but I said nothing. Hopefully that wasn’t the screen.
“Where shall I put it? Here? In the corner? Do what you gotta do,” he said.
I’d put myself in a spot.
“Maybe, uh, maybe out there,” I said. I gestured out of his office.
There was no fucking way I was going to pretend to repair a television with him presiding over the whole thing.
He left it on the spare desk and I went off to find a screwdriver.
There were four screws holding the wall bracket on, and twelve holding the plastic back to the frame. I removed them all and prised the case off gingerly. Underneath, there was the main board and the power board.
I looked at them.
They looked…uh…they looked like circuit boards. Everything seemed to be…fine. I had no idea what I was looking for. After about an hour of watching YouTube videos on television repair, I went back and traced my screwdriver back over the boards. At that point I noticed a capacitor that had a bulging top on it, and the circuit board below it was dark, darker than the rest. A capacitor had blown out on the power board!
Again, I need to reiterate: this wasn’t my job. I am not an electronics repair guy, I have no qualifications in that direction.
The next day, I went out for a walk to the hardware store and bought a soldering iron. I sensed I had to be careful here. The last time I followed anything even remotely obsessively, I ended up with the composite parts of three different smartphones on my desk, a heat gun and a miniature screwdriver set. I still have those three phones and none of them work.
When I got back to my desk, I set about removing the blown capacitor from the power board, and ordered a replacement online. I sat back satisfied at having completed my work for the day.
I was out of pocket for the soldering iron and the capacitor. That was on me. But it was okay. What if I fixed this thing? What if I bloody fixed it? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
I returned after the weekend, having told Justin that I was waiting on parts, and for the first time that month I felt like something positive was happening in my life.
And at no point during any of this, did anyone in the office question what I was doing or why.
When the new capacitor arrived, I fired up the soldering iron again and set to work.
Sidenote: I’ve never used a soldering iron before, I had pretty much no idea what I was doing, but I managed to get the new capacitor into place and heated the solder up so that it shrunk into little silver globules and solidifed at the points.
I could do this. Maybe this is what I should be doing with my life.
I then set about diligently reassembling the television. The power board goes back in, I connect up the ribbon cables.
The TV is face down on the desk and I lower it’s plastic back onto the frame and proceed to put the screws in. Now we shall see what kind of man I am.
I connected up the power and switched it on. Power cycling. Still power cycling.
What now? I saw the pieces of my world come falling back down around me.
I gently lifted it and could see that the screen was cracked in the bottom right corner. It had never been fixable with a soldering iron and a new capacitor. Now there isn’t even a logo on the screen anymore, it’s just a flashing black rectangle.
I had done all of this for nothing. I began to heat up like an ant under the magnifying glass of a callous schoolboy. At any moment the concentrated heat might cause me to pop, just like the cheap component on the powerboard had done.
I turned the power off and went and sat back down at my desk, leaving the television face down where it was. I tried to remember what my job was before I soldered parts onto televisions for a living.
At some point during the day, Justin came out of his office and looked at the dusty backside of his television and then up at me and said: “so, is it fixed?”
I shook my head. “No luck I’m afraid.”
He shrugged. Then he went away again.
Later that day, I picked up the dead television and walked it down to storage. I have no idea how to dispose of bulky electrical goods, so whenever something breaks, I just put it into storage. We mostly just have broken stuff in our inventory. Sometimes we hire a competent building manager and they come along and tidy up our storage room for me. Then they quit after a while and the clutter of dead things starts to build up again.
The days were ticking down in December and we were close, finally, to the tinsel-laden hiatus of a festive holiday. I could go home and forget about that television, and the space where it used to go, in Justin’s office. I could take my soldering iron home with me and put it next to all the other tools that had never solved any particular problem.
Why is my failure the gift that keeps on giving?
Thank you for reading, I really do love you for it. I am bowled over by the fact that you clicked on this story and took the time to read the tosh that comes out of my head.
If you feel like you might like to read another, then head over to my publication for a poorly maintained blog with a lot of mostly free stuff:
Until next time, good bye.