Sunday, January 29, 2012

Handling Household Challenges

Ironically, I had planned to post about the door handles here today, and guess what my husband brought home? New ones from the hardware store! On sale!

But yes, they are also the same shape as the old ones. Drat.

Below is a story I wrote long ago for a web site (now defunct) for people who were moving to France... Rather than repeat the door handle section here, I thought I'd share the article...

Random Thoughts from France
Light Bulbs and Windows and Doors, Oh My!
By Kelly Bostrom Robic

I’ve always thought of myself as a strong, independent woman. But moving overseas has humbled me a bit from time to time. Today, I could not even change a light bulb. Literally. It looked like it should just twist out, but then I discovered a pin sticking out that needed to be released somehow. Since I was standing on a chair and I’m not all that tall, I had to give it up for safety’s sake. My pride was knocked down a few notches.

I’ve had to accept that there are some things I just can’t do or figure out on my own, yet some of these tasks are mind numbingly simple elsewhere. Like opening the windows. Yes, I needed a demonstration. Ours have a strap to the side that has to be pulled away from the wall and yanked on to lift an exterior set of blinds before you open the actual window. Whew! It’s a two-hand job that requires a little brute strength. I do appreciate these blinds though. When they’re closed, not a speck of daylight passes through, so you can obliviously sleep late or enjoy a serious mid-afternoon snooze.

The windows themselves aren’t tough. We just turn the crank and pull. But the first time I got my daughter’s window open I got a jolt: an alarm went off. I’d forgotten my husband had placed a safety gadget on each of the kids’ windows to tip us off if they actually managed to open them. We have two stories and no screens.

The doors are not too complicated; they’re just a pain in the neck—or back—in my case. We have no round door handles, just long, thin handles that you crank up or down. So if you walk by one too quickly, you might catch your sleeve if you’re the wrong height. We had the same handles when I lived in Switzerland years ago and I sent myself to the floor (just once!) before I learned how painstakingly slow your back heals. But locking and unlocking them is the real irritation. Our front door has to go around more than once for it to actually be locked. And to add to the degree of difficulty here, you have to hold the handle up past a certain level as you simultaneously turn the lock. Don’t even think of coming in laden with grocery bags and expect a quick entry! After a few weeks of experimentation and aggravation, I can now enter and exit my apartment without needing three hands.

Flushing the toilet is another of those ordinary household tasks that may require a basic explanation. Ours has a button to push on the top middle of the tank. You could look on the sides for a handle all day and not find one. I speak from experience. I’ve also seen buttons with a divider offering two options: more or less water. Others may have a round knob that has to be pulled up. The expression: “There’s more than one way to skin a cat” applies well to European toilet knobs.

Well, maybe I wasn’t able to change the light bulb today, but I did emerge from the experience with a small victory: I bought the right replacement at the store, even without a sample in hand. So now with the windows successfully open and the light bulb changed (with a little help) we can see well in the living room once again. Let there be light! And let my pride return again for a moment. At least until I need to do more laundry.

But that’s another whole story….

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