Here is the question: “Can two men-one with an earned doctoral degree and the other with a master’s degree in library science-fix a loose belt on a snowblower?” Ninety percent of respondents surveyed in Rhinelander said, “No, they can’t.”
But when I modified the question to read, “fix a loose belt on a snowblower, and either set fire to one of their winter coats or sustain bodily injury while in the process,” respondents changed their minds and unanimously agreed that, if a burning coat was thrown into the bargain, two scholarly people could fix a belt on a snowblower.
My only wish is that the coat had been my winter coat instead of my wife’s winter coat. It looked like my coat when I grabbed it to dash out the door to take care of the snowblower emergency but, after throwing the coat into a snowbank to put the fire out, I realized I had made a mistake.
In what appeared to be a stroke of luck, my learned friend and co-fixer of the snowblower had some brownish-colored duct tape that almost matched my wife’s coat. However, any time I come home smelling of burnt feathers, it gets my wife’s attention. She noticed the duct tape shortly thereafter.
When my friend and I reviewed the events leading up to and after the burning coat, we both recognized our mistakes: we should have put the duct tape on both sleeves, thus creating a balanced harmony between the two sleeves, and sprayed myself head to toe with air freshener.
I also believe that I would not have set my wife’s coat on fire if we had not stood watching the running snow blower for so long. It really only took a minute or two after starting it up to realize that, while the auger turned very nicely, the wheels did not. No amount of watching it run and trying the lever over and over was going to make the wheels turn.
The 15 minutes we spent watching the snowblower not work heated up the little muffler on top the engine to the point where, if a woman’s winter coat with chicken feathers in it came into contact with the muffler, the coat would immediately start burning.
I also recognize now that I overcompensated when trying to prevent my fellow amateur mechanic from panicking when I announced that my coat was on fire. Recalling that shouting “Fire!” can sometimes induce panic, I looked for a more measured approach.
I toyed with saying, “You may have noticed an acrid smell. Well, that is because of the burning chicken feathers in my coat.” But that seemed long-winded and conveyed no sense of urgency.
I next considered, “Would you look at that, my coat is on fire.” However, that, too, seemed too casual. All the while, we were trying to move the tension pulley on top of the loose belt, and I started feeling the warmth of the fire on my arm.
Having rejected my first two ideas for alerting my companion that my coat was on fire, I was forced to do something, and tore off my coat, threw it into a snow bank, and watched the fire die out. My companion looked surprised, but in a calm voice, I assured him that it was nothing more than a burning coat.
This is probably the time to mention that the library has not one, but two books on repairing snowblowers. There are also people in town who repair snowblowers as part of their jobs.
Rhinelander District Library Director Ed Hughes is available at (715) 365-1070.