Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Monday, June 21, 1999

Home shows miss
the nail on the head

A friend and I were watching a home-improvement show in which a man and woman who never yell at each other put in an automatic garage door in about 37 seconds. (I'd love it if just once, the woman would accidentally drop a cement block on the guy's foot or he'd accidentally affix her pants to the wall with a nail gun.)

Because I had just installed a garage door opener at my house, I knew that the process was just a little more complicated than Ken and Barbie made out. They accomplished their task using little more than a cordless screwdriver.

"Where's the chain saw?" I asked.

"Chain saw?" my friend said. "You used a chain saw to install a automatic garage door opener?"

I paused. I considered the implication of his question silently. Was he suggesting that a chain saw is not a proper implement to use in the installation of a garage door opener? I didn't want him to think I was a novice in the home improvement game. But, yes, I had used a chain saw in my garage door opener installation, so I stuck to my guns.

"Yeah, I used a chain saw," I admitted.

"Why?" he asked.

I couldn't believe a guy could be so dumb.

"I used the chain saw because I had cut the cord to my electric rotary saw in half a few weeks earlier," I said. Man. Some people just don't get it.

Then I realized that on these television home improvement shows you never actually see anyone cut the cord to their electric rotary saw in half. In fact, you never see them using an electric rotary saw to cut down a large bush, which is what I was doing when I cut my saw's cord in half.

I was using the electric rotary saw on the bush because the chain to my chain saw was busted. The reason the chain was busted was because I had used the chain saw on bamboo instead of using my machete, which I figured was too dull to do the job. You sometimes get into vicious circles in yard and home-improvement work.

HERE is something they never tell you on those home-improvement television shows: When you've got an electric rotary saw designed to cut lumber and you use it to cut the trunk of a fairly large bush in your yard, pay attention to where the electric cord is. The cord could be hidden in the branches and when you cut through the cord, you can get quite an electric jolt, just before the saw goes dead. Trust me on this.

The thing is, I figured that if I had used my dull machete on the bamboo, it might have bounced off and bruised my leg. (Hint No. 2: Keep your sharp lawn instruments as dull as possible so that when you screw up and hit yourself with them, they won't cut you.

Another friend of mind just cut through his calf and Achilles' tendon with a machete while pruning a palm tree. This could have been avoided if he used the right palm frond-cutting implement: the electric jig saw.

Anyway, I eventually replaced the chain on the chain saw, which is about as fun as putting pajamas on a badger. So when I went to install the garage door opener and found that a wood beam in the garage was just a little too low, the trusty chain saw was ready for service.

These television shows are fun to watch but they seem to have nothing to do with the reality of home improvement. For instance, you NEVER see Ken and Barbie using a jack hammer. Even when installing a garbage disposal.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

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