Sunday, June 27, 2004

Simple jobs are always the hardest

Yesterday, my mailbox broke.

No need for tears, for it lived a good life. It's been with me ever since I bought the house 14 years ago, and lord knows how long it was here before that. It's a huge mailbox, technically known to the Postmaster General as a "jumbo". So, as long as I was going into town anyway, I figured I might as well get a new one.

Are there three more dangerous words in the English language than "might as well"? As if I needed a further curse, my wife suggested that I "might as well" get one as big as the old one. I can't imagine why. Once or twice a year, we get something worthy of such a grandiose box; most of the time we get bills, which could go into an old tin can as far as I'm concerned.

So I go to the hardware megastore, and, lo and behold, they have the twin of the box I have. At least, it looks like it's the twin. Of small differences are huge problems made.

The mailbox stand on which the old one reposed is a custom job consisting of four pieces of angle iron welded together; these are welded to a plate of similar material, which is itself welded to a three inch pipe. The pipe is welded to an old pickup truck wheel. This arrangement cleverly combines limited portability with sufficient sturdiness to remove the front end of a Hummmer.

Of course the screws that held the old box on were completely rusted. I was prepared for that and hauled out the old drill with metal cutting bit to dispatch the offending fasteners. In a short time the old box was off, the new one slipped onto the angle iron frame perfectly. It appeared that I would escape the curse of "might as well".

Yeah, right...

As a final test before bolting the new box on, I opened its door. Unfortunately, the door would only open a quarter of the way because its edge hung on the front side of the frame. The "twin" mailboxes differed in how the doors were hinged, and that difference was enough to turn this half-hour job into three hours of hacksawing.

Well actually it was about one hour of actual sawing, but I wasted about two hours trying other methods, which included completed removing the teeth from two "metal-cutting" blades in a saber saw. Apparently, these "metal-cutting" blades only worked on metal no thicker than aluminum foil.

The box is up, and it's lovely, I guess. As long as the box was off, I "might as well" have repainted the frame, but I knew when to give up.

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