Saturday, October 17, 2009


When I read a piece today titled "Home Improvement" by Robert the Skeptic, I just had to blow the dust off this old chestnut. I'm in no way, shape, or form accusing Robert of being a Peckerhead but, then again, take a gander at the photo on his banner.


Pound. Pound pound pound. Eyeball a thirty-nine inch straight line across the wall. It looks right just about HERE. Pound. Pound pound pound. Screw the screw into one wall anchor, and then screw the other screw into the other wall anchor. Hang the bulletin board. Step back and look at my handiwork. Shit. Either the left side is too low or the right side is too high. I’ll lower the right side an estimated two and three-eighths inches so it’s equally low with the left side.

Eyeball an estimated two and three-eighths inches down the wall. It looks right just about HERE. Pound. Pound pound pound. Screw the screw into the wall anchor. Hang the bulletin board on the left screw and . . . it’s still crooked as hell. Several tries and several exposed wall anchors later . . .

I call it the Peckerhead Method of Home Repair, Assembly, and General Whatnot. The Peckerhead Method involves no thinking, no planning, and no questions asked. Just plunge right in, pecker first, and to hell with the instructions.

Peckerheadism (from the Latin skullus bonerus, or head of the pecker) is unique to the male of the species for an obvious reason. The female of the species reacts to peckerheadism with extreme peckishness and often responds by henpecking. Some (without naming her name) become selectively frigid:

“The henhouse is CLOSED, buster, until you FIX those big holes you made in my good fucking wall!”

* * * * * *

We didn’t have shop in grammar school, so I learned all the basics of peckerheading by watching Dad. I learned how to be impatient and always in a big goddam hurry. I learned how to use the wrong tools. I learned how to use vulgarities, expletives, and dirty words. I learned to forget to unplug it before taking it apart.

But most of all, I learned to never follow the instructions.

One of my boyhood pastimes was putting model airplane kits together. The jet fighter models always had a little plastic pilot, and it was crucial—crucial—to glue him into his seat before assembling the fuselage; otherwise, there was no way to get him into the cockpit.

I had the largest collection of lonely little plastic pilots in the universe. Mom wanted to have my head examined because I kept grumbling about “little men” and “my desk drawer is full of them”.

“Chuckie needs to have his head examined,” Mom told Dad. That was rich. Here was the man who took all twenty or thirty tubes out of the television set, put them in a grocery bag, hauled them down to the repair shop to test them, hauled them back home, and didn’t have a clue how twenty or thirty tubes went back into the television set.

“Fuckers all look alike,” I heard him mumbling from somewhere inside the TV cabinet. So do light bulbs I wanted to add, but that would have been an overt allusion to his red-line personal wattage on the peck-o-meter; when Dad was in peckerhead mode, he was in no mood for either wisdom or levity.

* * * * *

Intelligence. Reason. Logic. Common sense. I’m lucky to possess these cerebral gifts all in one thin brain. With just a tad bit more luck, I might have been Charlie Einstein instead of Charlie Callahan.

So why oh why can’t I repair, assemble, or generally whatnot like a normal person? Why oh why do I not think, plan, or ask questions before plunging, pecker first, into a project? Most of all, why oh why is my desk drawer of life overflowing with little plastic pilots?

Because I am my father’s son, and the peckerhead never falls far from the tree.

Because peckerism is in my genes, all tangled up in the fabric of my DNA.

Because, in the end, I just pecker along the best I can.

[Ladies, please monitor your blood pressure when responding to this essay!]


Barbara Bruederlin said...

My peckerhead watching story: coming home from work one day to find that the Spousal Unit and our neighbour had decided that today was the day to start house renovations and had torn down the lathe and plaster wall between the kitchen and spare bedroom. Chunks of plaster covered everything, including the dishes that were still sitting in the sink and the beds that were still made up in the spare room. Why would you put stuff away before tearing the shit out of the house?

For the record, it took us 8 years to finish the renovations on that house. Now the SU changes lightbulbs.

(that was therapeutic, thank you)

Tiffin said...

We are just wrapping up a bathroom reno. Tomorrow I plan to take drywall dust out of over 2,000 books.
Plastic over the bathroom door while sanding the drywall? Naaaawwww.
*sitting all broody and clucking beside Barbara and Martha*

Jimmy Bastard said...

Classic rant Charlie, enjoyable from humble beginning to heartfelt honesty at the end.

Tiffin said...

p.s. and I loved it, Charlie, which I should have said in the first place.

Charlie said...

BARBARA: I can well imagine your shock upon arriving home; did you happen to use any of those words my dad taught me?

On the other hand, 8 years isn't unduly long when using The Peckerhead Method. And now you have a much larger kitchen, or a much larger spare room with no kitchen.

I'm glad you feel better now.

TUI: I could swear you told me two weeks ago that the can was almost done. I guess the keyword is "almost."

2,000, 1,999, 1,998 . . . a filthy job at best. And don't forget your TBR pile. Are you planning on weeding, or do you save all your books?

I have a feeling that before this thread is done, the henhouse is gonna be pretty full. And thanks for the compliment.

JIMMY: I'm not a philosopher like Ayres, but peckering along the best we can is all anyone can ask of us. Thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

I just bought a white dry eraser board, but I'll be darned if I'm going to try to hang it on the wall.

kara said...

well as someone who can barely change a light bulb, i think you're both amazing carpentry/plumbing/electrical proteges.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Well, they haven't assigned me my own private parking spot at Home Depot yet. The wife won't allow me to go in there any more anyway... I can't seem to walk out of that place without having dropped at least $50.

Kevin Musgrove said...

I know my limitations.


Charlie said...

HARVEE: You have a woman's sense and sensibilities (to quote Jane Austen). Men don't have that.

KARA: Your dad may qualify as a protégé (he taught you to change light bulbs), but when it comes to me you're barking at the wrong peckerhead.

ROBERT: In 35 years, I have never seen my brother-in-law cry. He would, however, go into hysterics and then catatonia if Home Depot ever shuts its doors.

KEVIN: Ahh, a fellow Peckerhead across the Atlantic. Do you fellows have meetings?

Meg said...

My husband suffers from Peckerhead syndrome. He can fix circuit boards like nobody's business, but can he find out why the washer leaks out the bottom? No! I'll blame it on his dad.