Source: The Independent

Manly Things

by Rick Murphy

July 24, 2013

I’m like a lot of guys when it comes to work.

There really aren’t that many options available to us. I get up every weekday and go to work. I have a mortgage. I have truck payments. I have credit card bills.

It really doesn’t matter how I feel or what else is going on. I can’t afford to take days off. I always answer the bell.

I don’t have as many work options as most men. I know nothing about plumbing, or carpentry. I know nothing about cars. I know nothing about how electricity works.

I blame all of this on my Catholic school upbringing. We were trained to do brainy stuff, not manly stuff. We write and we push pencils around. Most writers I know drive 14 year-old Volvos, while the plumbers and electricians have new trucks, speed boats, and take vacations three times a year. The last vacation I took was a trip to Speonk.

Every subject had a religious overtone in Catholic school. I learned this early on, when in second grade one of the test questions was, “If the Roman heathens hammered eight nails in Jesus, and Mary Magdalene pulled three out, how many were left?” Talk about a head scratcher.

Once when I was about 16 I got a job in a Sag Harbor service station. I literally had no idea how to pump gas, but in typical Murphy style I claimed I had experience. The first car pulled up and I walked around it over and over again until the guy driving got annoyed. “Didn’t I tell you to fill it up?” he asked angrily. I just shrugged. When the manager came over I told him the truth: I couldn’t find the gas cap. “It’s under the license plate, stupid,” he snapped.

“How the f*** am I supposed to know that?” I snapped back. I was fired on the spot – that meant I worked all of seven minutes at my first ever real job.

Next up I was the “helper” on the construction site. That worked out well at first – I had to drive someone’s truck to the deli to get coffee for everyone. Things went downhill from there.

“Grab me a Phillips head and bring it over here,” one of the guys yelled.

I was like, huh?

“A screwdriver!” he said loudly.

I was wondering why he wanted Phillip Head’s screwdriver. Why couldn’t he use Ricky Murphy’s screwdriver? Not that I owned one, mind you.

When I got married we bought a wood-burning stove and my then-wife sent me out to get firewood, armed with her brother’s chainsaw. Giving me a chainsaw was a monumental lapse in judgment, and I believed all concerned feared (and possibly hoped) for the worst.

I always remember the scene in Scarface when the South American dope dealers use a chainsaw on some guy that owed them money. That’s the way I figured my wood-cutting experience would go – lots of blood splattered all over, limbs of every description – tree and human -- strewn about.

Luckily (or pathetically), I was too inept to actually start the damn thing. The same fate befell me when I got a job with a lawn mowing company. They dropped me off at a big yard in North Haven with a can of gas and a lawnmower and told me they’d be back to get me. Two hours later there I was, sitting on the unmowed grass. I ended up “flooding” the engine.

I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I did it to the wife’s car the next day when I tried to “fix” it.

Here is a truism: men want to believe they can fix all things mechanical. So naturally, when Karen noticed a leak in the basement, she turned to her man for a solution.

“Call the plumber,” she said firmly.

“No, I got this,” I replied, grabbing my tool box – with yes, a Rickey Murphy screwdriver inside, though not much else. I got out my trusty ladder, wiped the cobwebs off of it, and pulled all the insulation from between the eaves. “We have a leak!” I announced.

“Can you fix it, Einstein?”

”Of course.” First though, I had to figure out where it was coming from. I yelled upstairs to Karen to flush the toilets — nothing. Then I had her turn on the kitchen sink and let it run. Nothing. I analyzed the drip, which was coming from the middle of the living room. I charted the course of the drip, adjusting for wind velocity, thermal infusion, humidity, and the Newtonian Flow of Liquid Charts (OK, I had the “Racing Form” in my tool chest.)

Finally, exhausted from my manly effort to do this major plumbing repair job, I went to the bathroom in my office. Oopsie – I had left the sink running with my bathing suit in it. Overflow.

I carefully mopped the floor upstairs then went down to the basement. I made hammering noises and grunted for about a half hour while I analyzed the fifth at Saratoga, a Maiden Claimer. Then I loudly packed up and came up the stairs, feigning exhaustion.

“Hun, get me a cold one, will ya?”

“Is it fixed?”

“Of course,” I said proudly. “I dun need no stupid plumbing school, amigo. Jus my lil frens” – my trusty Rickey Screwdriver and the Daily Racing Form.