Men from my generation relied heavily on their fathers when it came to rudimentary repairs of household items. Of course, if your dad wasn’t around or it wasn’t his area of expertise, you always had your neighbor the mechanic or an uncle that worked in construction. Either way, resources were always available.
My father was pretty handy around the house and could work his magic with most small appliance. Back in the day when you didn’t throw things out just because they weren’t working, virtually anything could be jury-rigged with a roll of black electrical tape and a few well-placed curse words. Most people my age learned about curse words at the dining room table, as dad fiddled with their 20-year-old toaster.
Many household items did not have a lot of moving parts and usually a loose wire could be soldered, or a missing screw replaced. You didn’t need a degree in electrical engineering to just replace the thermostat inside your oven. All you really needed was your dad. Not only had he most likely done it before, but he could describe to you how to fix it in detailed steps.
In the early 1990s, I signed up for a “Time-Life” series of home repair books. Every month (for what seemed like decades), I received a hard cover book detailing a different subject: electricity, small appliances, plumbing, masonry, carpentry, etc. These books were invaluable to me as I planned and performed minor home improvement projects.
Unfortunately, printed materials cannot be updated, as technology changes seemingly every day. There are a set of Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedias collecting dust in my mother’s basement that proclaim we are hoping to one day land a man on the moon.
With my children moving into adulthood and owning their own home someday (we can dream, can’t we?), I was looking forward to providing them the nuggets of wisdom I had obtained through my years of experience. Some cultures revere their elders as fountains of information, yearning for wisdom to be passed down from generation to generation.
Today, we don’t need any of that. Turns out YouTube is replacing your dad. There are so many YouTube videos available to assist you with virtually anything, it’s mind boggling. The videos are not only detailed on how to replace a single part—like the soap dispenser in your dishwasher—they are specific to the manufacturer and the model. Every video is in high definition and contains step by step instructions hosted by what seems to be a fairly qualified individual wearing a flannel shirt and protective goggles at all times.
They identify the tools you need, the degree of difficulty and about how long the task should take. The best part is you can put the video on pause or re-watch it as many times as you need. Ever try to ask your dad to repeat something? If you aren’t making a connection with your instructor because you don’t like their mustache or style, you can just pick another.
The instructor never gets mad or annoyed and doesn’t care how many times you must watch it to get your project completed. Many instructors have their own YouTube channel that is chock full of other repair jobs. The access to information that was previously kept inside your father’s head is limitless.
Our parent’s generation insisted on fixing things on their own. Unless the device exploded, my father would never give up until he found a way to fix it. Our generation, with the wealth of knowledge available on YouTube, will try to fix most things at least once, but we still buy service contracts so someone else will come and fix it. The next generation will most likely replace instead of repair. How often are they going to sit at the kitchen table to repair a toaster, when they could get a replacement for 20 percent off at Bed Bath and Beyond with a coupon?
What I wouldn’t give for one more Saturday afternoon, sitting at the dining room table, listening to the colorful language my dad sometimes used as he tried to fix that stupid toaster again. Let’s hope that whole “Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain” clause got waived for that generation when they arrived at the Pearly Gates.