(Originally published in The News Herald on Thursday, March 8, 2001, as a "Bay Book" entry; a collection of snippets about the happenings, happenstance and personal experience that lend Bay and nearby counties their special character.)
Dr. "Bones" McCoy, whom you may recall was the crotchety Southern medical officer aboard the starship Enterprise way back in the day, had a fallback defense when asked to perform duties outside his realm of expertise.
"I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer!" he said, for instance, when ordered to repair a wound in the rocky skin of an alien using some kind of space age plaster.
But then, invariably, he did the work anyway.
I thought about Bones Sunday as I struggled with two-by-fours and four-by-fours and two-by-sixes and screws and bolts and a level and a drill and sundry other materials to build a backyard play-fort for my kids using a truckload of lumber and a kit we had purchased.
"I'm a writer, not a carpenter!" I said.
I had moaned something similar the day before when pressed to install an air conditioner through the wall of my son's bedroom; and a few months ago when faced with replacing a hardwired drop-in range with a freestanding one; and a few months before that... . Well, the list goes on for light years.
At the risk of mixing allusions, I also recalled a Bill Cosby standup routine in which he said truly smart men purposely mess up these tasks so that, the next time there's work to be done, their wives will not expect them to do it.
I suspect that's just wishful thinking, as it never quite works for me. Like Bones, all it takes is a look or a word from one of the crew - my kids or my wife - and I roll up my sleeves. And if I mess it up, they just expect me to fix it.
In fact, the only time the "Cosby defense" worked was the time our central air unit was on the fritz. I argued we ought to call a specialist - "I'm a writer, not an electrician!" - but my wife wouldn't hear of it. It's probably just a reset switch, she said.
So I turned off the power (I thought), opened the side of the unit, reached in for the reset switch and blinded myself with a burst of electricity that landed me a few feet back from the box.
McCoy's other famous remark sparkled through my brain:
"He's dead, Jim."
But that was just wishful thinking.