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The Magpie Sings the Great Depression:
Selections from DeWitt Clinton High School's Literary Magazine, 1929-1942

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How to Avoid Becoming Handyman of the House

Norman Gabrilove, '37

The Magpie, January 1937, v. 21, n. 1., p. 71.

After long and intensive research and questioning, I am making public my findings concerning methods of avoiding becoming the handyman of the house. Let me trace the methods from the simple to what I consider the highly psychological.

Perhaps the most common method is that of making oneself scarce whenever the call is issued for an able hand. This is the method used by the lower species of student. All one needs is a strong pair of legs. Its purpose is to have the family become accustomed to your not being present in time of need, and it leads them to depend on brother Johnny. Of course it takes a long time to break them into not missing you.

Going up the ladder of methods, we come to a crude but very effective one. While engaged in a task, you clumsily break something by dropping it or knocking it around. If not taken off the job at once, you attack savagely and break something else. The next time you are called upon to repair anything, you repeat your performance. I doubt whether you'll be called upon again. You do not end here, however, for you must create the illusion that you are always clumsy. Therefore every month or so you "accidentally" drop a dish or a glass. Personally I prefer this method, but that may be because I am so naturally adept at dropping things.

If you believe that you deserve a more subtle method than the last, you might try this one which requires some acting. You make sure you are left alone in the room, and with the tool with which you are working (preferably a hammer), you bang industriously away. Then you pause a bit, let out a screech, hop about on one foot, place your lower lip between your teeth, and gasp a few times. Grasp your finger in your other hand until the blood rushes to the top of said finger. Your mother rushes in horrified, and when she pleads to see your finger, you show her the reddened end of the digit. You are now free for the rest of the day. One precaution: do not be too pathetic or you will find yourself hustled off to a doctor. One hardy fellow I knew actually banged his finger with the hammer. He didn't do any repairing that day, but for a week he nursed a swollen finger. One mustn't go to extremes.

My last should be set as a goal for every work-dodger. This highly psychological method should be used only by those who consider themselves highly talented in histrionics. When called upon to fix an object, look inquiringly into it, scratch your head as if subconsciously, and direct a puzzled look at your parent. Then a conversation something like this takes place:

You: "I . . ah . . er . ., guess I can fix it." (very haltingly).

Parent: "Don't you know how to fix it? I don't want you to break it."

You: "Oh, I guess as I go along and tinker about I might be able to repair it." (timid voice).

Parent: "But I thought you knew how to fix it. You're always tinkering with it."

You: "Who? Me? (in a hurt and surprised tone) I never tinker with it or anything else. Brother Z. is the fellow who likes that sort of thing. But I guess I could pull through." (The harm is done. You have set the thought in your parent's mind that Brother Z. can do it.)

Parent: "Well, if you can't do it maybe we had better wait until Z. comes home."

You: "Well, maybe (very slowly and reluctantly). I guess we had better." (in a resigned tone.)

Thus you have had a very narrow escape and if Brother Z. does a good job you will never be bothered again. And your parent does not think you a slacker. You have avoided being handyman of the house, and no suspicion lurks in anyone's mind. One more word to those unfortunate beings who are still oppressed with the work of repairman even after having read my enlightening article:

Buck up!

I have decided to delve even further into methods of dodging the odious work of handyman and at a future date will try to publish my findings and be of further assistance to the oppressed.

The Magpie Sings the Great Depression

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