Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 5, 2023

Just the ticket

Husband Art and I love to travel, and certain personal traits add to the experience. My language skills have frequently been helpful. The pleasure he gets from driving provides us with a flexibility that a bus tour would never afford. We also share certain elements, such as an interest in history and a curiosity about people.

But Art has one that is probably not something most would think of - he enjoys fixing things. That trait has come into play many times during our travels.

In 2014, we rented a house in France from a local shop owner. Pierre is enamored with 1950s decor. We were quickly hooked on the quirky furnishings, and so have returned multiple times. But during our first visit, it was apparent the glue had dried in all the wooden dining chairs. Selecting one chair per day so as to not inconvenience anyone, Art worked the rungs free, cleaned off the old glue, applied new glue and reassembled them. A week later, six wobbly chairs had become half a dozen sturdy seats.

A light above the bathroom mirror was also problematic. It was too high for me to reach. Art, assisted by one of our travel companions, moved it to the side of the mirror.

One day, the router bit the dust. Pierre said he knew nothing of such things. He added that a friend, who did all his tech stuff, had a new one, but wouldn't be able to come by for several days. Art asked Pierre to drop it off and soon we were connected again, even using the same password.

Usually we travel in the spring, when temperatures are comfortably cool. But one year we were in France in mid-July. The warm days were not to our liking, particularly in regard to how they affected sleeping. A reasonable option might have been to rent a place with air conditioning. But those are still fairly rare in France, are frequently pricey, and are often fully booked in the warmer months. Art's answer was to buy a fan and extension cord for $25 - less than the one-day bump in price for an air-conditioned place. He placed the fan in the bedroom window at night, pulling in the cool nighttime air. By opening all the windows, by morning the whole house was cool. Then he closed all the windows when the day began heating up. The house would stay quite comfortable until the next evening ... when we would repeat the process.

Our most recent "experience" was in Germany. We had been staying in our friend Matthias's bungalow. One morning while we were in bed chatting, I turned toward Art and he toward me. Suddenly, we heard a sharp crack and the bed dropped ever so slightly.

"What was that?" I said.

"I don't know, but I'm sure it isn't good," Art answered.

As he turned a bit more, we heard a new crack, accompanied by the bedding between us plunging. Although it is queen size, as with many such European beds, the "innards" are actually two side-by-side mattresses. When the dust had settled, the outside edges of both mattresses were still at their original level, but where they met in the middle, each was about a foot lower. I can testify to the fact that getting out of bed when you have to roll uphill is challenging!

Since support is needed on each side of each mattress, the outside edges are held up by a rail on the bed frame. Another support is located down the center where the two mattresses meet. When we pulled the mattresses off, we found the center support was on the floor. It had been held by two pins at each end, one pair going into the head board and the other pair into the footboard. The pins at the footboard had split the center support, allowing it to fall, thus pulling the other end off the headboard pins.

It was obvious this was not a new problem. Two home-made wood legs had been screwed to the underside of the center support between it and the floor. Over time, the screws had apparently loosened, allowing them to tip over, no longer lending any support.

What to do?

The obvious choice would have been to call Matthias and have him get someone to fix the bed. Besides the fact that he is busy with his job, most businesses in Germany are experiencing labor problems just as in the U.S., so it was unlikely the problem would be addressed by nightfall.

Art's wheels began turning.

He always carries his Leatherman with him and it has been handy on many occasions. It is a palm-sized device containing two types of screwdrivers, pliers, scissors, a knife, a file, a saw, and other assorted tools.

He decided the four screws holding the divider between the two mattresses would stay in place using only two, thus gaining two screws. He found a scrap of wood from which he sawed two pieces the same length as the home-made legs. Using the two salvaged screws, he attached the additional legs to the support strip at the ends. After tightening the screws in the original two, the support strip now had four legs. The pins no longer would carry any weight, but just keep the strip in position.

After reassembling the bed, we lay in it rather gingerly, but there was no need to worry. Restful nights were again in our future!

Art's fix-it nature has also led to a knife sharpener being another must-have travel item. We usually rent places with kitchens so we can make our own meals, but they seem to come with painfully-dull knives.

This fix-it ability has often proved to be just the ticket. Daughters Mariya and Katie also have a streak of it, but I do not. My special skill is to write about it!

Top (l-r): Leatherman in compact form; Leatherman displaying all the tool elements; the repaired bed with one new "leg" visible near center below the footboard. Bottom (l-r): Mariya and spouse repaired their fence; Mariya sent Art a photo of a bathroom electrical box wiring to confirm how to repair a broken connection preventing the ceiling light from operating; like Art, Mariya can be pretty pleased when she effects a repair; Art says you can almost tell if someone is a repair person or not by how they hold a screwdriver. Daughter Katie passed the test!

Comments? [email protected].
Other columns from this year may be found at: Current year Index.
Links to previous years are on the home page: Home