When you have a screw loose…

How is a toaster oven like a sliding glass door?

It sounds like a joke, but in our house it isn’t. How is an electrical appliance like an entryway? They both demonstrate that “a little neglect can breed great mischief.” Ben Franklin was right. In each case, the “great mischief” could have been overcome by the tightening of a screw.

After years of listening to the toaster oven on our counter rattle and roar its way through baking or toasting, we finally purchased a smart new one. Ah. Silent cooking in a shiny new appliance.

“I think that oven started rattling a week after we got it,” my husband griped of the discarded oven we had suffered for nearly a decade.

I was content to be rid of it; because it still worked, albeit loudly, my husband thought he could clean it up and save it for someone in need. He took the old, black mini oven to the porch and proceeded to examine it.

And found one loose screw. He tightened it, plugged in the oven, and turned it on its convection cycle, sure to make a racket. Silence.

We had suffered years of noise and spent good money replacing an oven that merely had a screw loose.

Another sore spot in our home has been an increasingly noisy, oft-used sliding glass door. It leads from our kitchen to the back porch and is a major pathway in our home. For months — years? — this door has rattled as it rolled. Years ago, we hired workmen to replace the wheels on the bottom of the door.

They came, removed the stationary glass door as well as the sliding glass door, removed the wheels, and took them to the hardware store to make a match and a purchase. Unfortunately, they found only one replacement wheel. They replaced ONE wheel, reinstalled the glass doors, calked them into place — and faced my husband’s ire when he found out what they’d done.

Replacing one wheel wasn’t enough. Of that we were certain.

So for years we have waited for the remaining original wheel to fail. Expecting it, actually.

What we noticed is that the noisy door started jumping off the track, especially when guests to the house opened it quickly. (I guess those of us familiar with the door treated it more gently, so its faults were not as apparent — initially.) We thought that one non-replaced wheel had finally failed.

A few weeks ago, however, we discovered that the sliding door track actually had a significant curved dip in it. The sliding glass door was jumping the track because of this sunken arc of few inches. Would we have to replace the metal frame, the track, the whole door system?

My husband was thankful to find a solution: a steel metal piece that would adhere directly over the existing track and remedy the situation. This past week, he hired one of our sons to help him repeat what the workmen were supposed to accomplish years ago. They removed the doors and the wheels, preparing to get replacements for both wheels this time in addition to putting a steel cover over the track to cover the divot. Because he wasn’t certain these repairs would be enough, my husband also studied the frame itself, to see if he could remove it and replace it.

As he began to remove that track, he located each screw he would need to remove — and found one loose. The screw’s location compared to the end of the track was equidistant from the damaged track to the door. One loose screw — not a bad wheel — had caused the door to catch at that point and, over time, shave away the track.

One loose screw.

It reminds me of an ancient proverb about one missing nail, told in numerous variations by numerous “authors” over the years:

Benjamin Franklin included a version of this proverb, along with the message “A little neglect may breed great mischief,” in his Poor Richard’s Almanac. Indeed, a battle could be lost for want of a nail. An oven could be replaced for want of a tight screw — just as sliding glass door can run off its track. It’s not just paying attention to details; it’s paying attention to the seemingly trivial details. And that’s a whole different level of care and awareness.

A little neglect like a loose screw did breed great mischief in our house. But it also bred a lesson learned — and remembered, I hope — every time I use that smart new oven or open that quiet sliding glass door.

 

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