If Only Life Came With An Instruction Manual

by brandt

When we were getting ready to sign the papers for the house, my father sat me down and decided that we needed to have one of those “Father-Son” talks.  Thankfully, this talk didn’t start out with the phrase “Son, I think it’s time we talk about where babies come from…”  Instead, he took a very somber tone, looked me straight in the eyes, and said “There is something very important that you must remember when you sign your paperwork for the house.  It’s one of those things that I wish we would have known, and I don’t want you to make the same mistake I did.”

I was on the edge of my seat with bated breath, wondering what wisdom was going to be imparted to me.  Something that would save me money?  Some deep hidden secret of the adult world that was akin to finding the Holy Grail (a la Indiana Jones style)?  The answer to LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, and EVERYTHING (which we have already learned, thanks to Douglas Adams, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and Google)?


“I need your undivided attention,” he told me.

Oh, you’ve got it.

“Make sure you get the code to the garage door opener on the outside.”


That’s it?


Where was the directions to the fountain of youth, the key to tripling the value of our house, THE SECRET GOLD TREASURE BURIED DEEP UNDERNEATH THE BASEMENT?  That was IT?

Yes it was.  And as we sat in separate rooms from the sellers (one of the more odd closings that my agent had ever been to) signing our paperwork, the time came for any “last questions.”  I asked them the garage code, they gave it to me, and we were on our way.


The garage code was wrong.  But we were not without hope.

One of the most interesting things that I find (as an amateur sociologist, marketing researcher, and historian) is the generational gaps between our parents generation and our generation.  For my dad, he forgot to get the garage code for their first house.  He was left no manuals.  He ended up having to replace the garage door opener as a unit, and that’s when he was able to establish his garage door opener code.  It seemed like a monumental part of his life.

For me?

I Google’d it.  Found the instruction manual in about 20 minutes.  Found out how to program my own code into the door opener.  Found out how to program the garage door opener on my Buick Rendezvous.  Easy as pie.

So that was the simple, easy stuff.  However, I wish it was all that easy.

The problem: We have underground sprinklers.  They don’t work.
The problem: We have automatic outdoor lights.  They don’t work.
The problem: We have automated landscaping lights leading up to our front door.  They don’t work.

As much as I would love to sit here and bask in my own awesomeness about how I fixed all these problems…I can’t. You see, I’m only about 1/2 way through the year, and I’m worried about making it onto Santa’s naughty list.

Let’s start with the sprinklers.

We have a Rainbird ISA 406 underground sprinkler system.  It’s a great added benefit  that I wasn’t expecting when we got our house.  This past week, the weather has cleared up wonderfully, and while we’ve tried to get the sprinkler’s up and going, we are stuck.  I’ve downloaded the instruction manual.  Stuck.  I’ve played with the valves.  Stuck.  I’ve walked up and down the stairs to my basement more times than I can count.  Nothing.  So this is one of the big things we’ve got going on, especially since we’re really trying to get the freshly seeded lawn sprouting (more on that in a later post).

Next, the outdoor lights.

We’ve got these buggers lined throughout the house wherever there’s an outdoor light, so that means there’s one next to the front door, one next to the back sliding glass door going to the deck, and one in the garage (for our garage lights).  Again, I downloaded an instruction guide, meticulously went through the instructions, and…nothing.  As a matter of fact, our front lights ended up staying on all night long (instead of the programmed 8:30 PM – 11:30 PM time slot I had them in).  I might give it one more go to try to automate our outdoor lights, but if that doesn’t work, I’m thinking we’re going to say “adios” to these suckers.  They were a pain to try to program, and really, I don’t need EVERYTHING automated in my life.  I think putting in some regular light switches would be just fine.

I don’t begrudge the previous owner.  He wasn’t living in the house, and it was actually quite a smart move to make it look like someone was home.  But for me?  I don’t need it, and if we can’t get it figured out this weekend, we go old school.  Fingers pressing light switches to go on.  I’m so retro.

Finally, our landscaping lights.  While I haven’t downloaded a guide yet for these, I have a feeling we might have some problems.  All I did was plug them in, but as we’ve been working on the outside, I’ve noticed that many of the lights have succumbed to the elements and are decomposing right before our very eyes.  This is something that isn’t necessary right now, but will look great once we have the landscaping overhauled.

And speaking of landscaping, I need a name for it.  See, we’ve got a huge undertaking in front of us.  While we lauded in our pictures posted a few days ago from the work we did over the weekend, I’m not joking when I say that was probably 5% of the entire landscaping that needs to happen.  This weekend (weather permitting) is when the operation is going to go down.  And being a huge undertaking, it needs a hugely awesome name.  OPERATION: EVACUATION is an example of an awesome name, seeing that there’s 9 total syllables, and it sounds intimidating.  OPERATION: PLANT FREEDOM is another good one, referencing current events.  But a name that doesn’t cut it?  OPERATION: PLANT FLOWERS.  It’s not tough enough, and believe me, after seeing what the weeds and thorns did to my arms after Saturday, we’ve got a lot on our plate.  So tell me this:

1. What is the one thing in your life you wish you had an instruction manual for, and

2. What should be the name of this huge undertaking in the backyard?

Images via and via.


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