Alrighty then, Baffled
In which we learn how Richie and Deb spend their non-race weekends
Sunday, 7:05 AM
Deb is concerned. She has been concerned for weeks now. The woodstove’s ceramic baffle has a hole in it. The only directions she could find for replacing it were the stern warning to “have it replaced by a qualified Hearthstone dealer.” As if. The conundrum: risk replacing the part themselves or live with the defect and pray that nothing goes horribly wrong in the depths of January? It is on this fateful Sunday morning that she decides. They will replace the part. She informs Richie. He, recognizing her uncompromising tone, sighs, swallows the last of his bagel and puts his computer aside. Deb frowns as she reads the instructions that came with the replacement part. Why do the “tools needed” include a hammer and chisel? She hands the instructions to Richie, sure he will only read the first line and then go at it his own way. Mentally, she says goodbye to the woodstove.
They are still on step one: Remove the cotter pin. Richie has bent it, pinched it with needle-nose pliers, and sawed it with a hacksaw blade. It seems to be a permanent fixture. Deb decides to re-read all the instructions for the tenth time, as if that will make the cotter pin come loose, and to feel that she is doing something productive. She also re-reads the pre-instruction and this time she grits her teeth. Doing the pre-instruction means they are all in. No returning part, no backing out. “Using a utility knife, cut the part in half at a 45 degree angle.” Uncharitably, Deb wonders why they don’t cut the part in half themselves at the factory. As she holds the utility knife poised over the baffle like a surgeon, she hears Richie, in the other room, still struggling with the cotter pin. She takes a deep breath and makes the first cut. The second cut. The third cut. Finally, on the fourth cut, the part separates. She goes to tell Richie, who has his head in the wood stove. There is soot everywhere. Deb decides to go upstairs for a bit.
Richie gives a grunt of satisfaction. Cotter pin is out! Richie tells Deb he needs a restorative look at his computer. Deb goes on to step two: “Slide heating tubes to left.” She does and they fall out, along with a few other pieces of metal. She is not too worried, since they have marked the pieces with a Sharpie. She will regret this insouciance later. She lays the two halves of the baffle in the stove. All well and good! She begins to replace the heating tubes. As she struggles with pins and holes and slots, dark childhood memories of Fisher-Price square blocks and round holes come unbidden. She mutters.
Richie puts computer down and says he will try. Deb can’t watch his defeat, so she leaves the room. But in a very short time, he informs her he has succeeded! She is elated but suspicious. Surreptitiously, she examines it. He has done it! Perhaps, Deb thinks, decades of honing motor skills building renowned bicycle frames has prepared him for just this challenge on the Hero’s Journey of Life! A feeling of pride for him wells up in her. They are over the hump and on their way to victory!
Richie has another restorative look at his computer, while Deb (a.k.a. “The Closer”) struggles to fit the final part in in without breaking the baffle. Eventually, she reluctantly concludes that this final part must be put into place before the tubes go in. She mutters not-nice words to the writer of the instructions who, it is now obvious, has never replaced a baffle before.
Richie is still having his convivial computer moment when Deb informs him that the heating tubes/ Fisher-Price-from-hell-game must be taken out. She thinks he looks resigned, but patient. If he did it once, he can do it again, his expression seems to say. He takes them out. Deb puts in the metal part. Or tries to. She realizes this is the one piece they forgot to mark and she doesn’t know which way is right side up. She asks Richie. He doesn’t remember either.
On the Internet, they find an exploded diagram of the wood stove. The part appears to go that way.
They look at each other, eyes wide with uncertainty. They shrug. It is what it is. Deb puts the part in. Richie replaces the tubes a second time.
Sunday morning 10:06 AM
They have done it! And the staid pace of country living is gratefully resumed.