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You always look stupid to somebody else

I called the maintenance man to fix my kitchen light because it was obviously having wiring problems. I flipped the switch last week, the light flickered and then died. There are two bulbs in the light, so there was no way they would burn out at the same time. The kitchen light fixture is heavy and made of glass. I avoid removing it because one day I’ll try unscrewing it, lose my balance, break my neck and my cats won’t even be able to eat my body for sustenance because I will be surrounded by deadly broken glass.

So, the maintenance man came and checked my breaker box, flipping the switches enough times that I had to reset my stereo clock. Then he got on his ladder, unscrewed the light fixture, replaced my light bulbs and before God could say “Let there be light” the kitchen was bright enough that you could see all the food crumbs on the tile floor.

“Oh, wow, that was embarrassingly easy,” I said feeling dumber than the countertop.

“No problem,” he said, probably grateful this was an easy problem to solve. Either that, or he was silently making a “How many single, white, females does it take to change a lightbulb?” joke.

Tuesday evening I hopped in my car to meet some people for dinner, but instead of making a “Vrooom!” sound the engine made a “Crick, crick, crick, crick” sound followed by silence. I called by brother for a ride to the fairly important dinner meeting and got his voicemail. I started make half-baked plans about running to the restaurant, when he called me back and chauffeured me to my meal.

The radio still worked and the lights came on, so I figured this was not a battery problem since the battery was obviously working. The next morning I called AAA and a nice bearded man with a big belly and an even bigger truck parked behind my car. I signed the paper, did a stirring interpretation of the “crick, crick, crick, crick” sound for him over the roar of his truck’s engine, and he quickly determined, “It’s probably the battery.” He hooked up his jumper cables, stuck my key in the ignition, and whallah, my car was running.

“Oh, wow, that was embarrassingly easy,” I said feeling dumber than the blacktop.

“No problem,” he said, probably grateful that he didn’t have to put down his flatbed to tow me to Firestone.

So, I have felt like a moron twice this week, which is odd for me because usually I feel quite capable. It’s a downer because I feel like I’ve badly represented my gender, reinforcing stereotypes that women can’t fix cars or electrical equipment. I have to remind myself that I was able to talk intelligently about domain hosting options and server configurations to my dinner companions who looked at me with the same confusion I gave the AAA guy.

It’s just a reminder that depending on your circumstances, everyone looks stupid eventually. These moments where I look like a dolt, are balanced by the times when I fix someone’s computer in 2 minutes when they’ve spent 2 hours trying to connect to the Internet. I know a lot about certain things, but very little about others. But at least I can learn. Next time I’ll be checking my light bulbs and getting out my jumper cables before I call for help. Which will be pretty weird if it turns out just the toaster is broken.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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Jen • September 12, 2008 at 8:24 am

I called tech support on a printer/fax combo that was not working. I used to do tech support myself, so I thought I had tried all the obvious dumb things. Turned out I had plugged the cable into the wrong jack. DOH! I try to remember stuff like that when I’m tempted to think someone else is dumb.


Jill • September 12, 2008 at 8:30 am

I feel your pain sister. I made an incredibly stupid (but painfully obvious) mistake at work when talking to a very important customer. He pointed the mistake out to me and I made the excuse that I hadn’t had enough coffee yet. Never mind that it was 2:00 in the afternoon – that was my story and I was sticking to it. Usually I am johnny-on-the-spot at work, but this day I just wanted to crawl under my desk and hide!


Deanna • September 12, 2008 at 10:07 am

I’ll give you the battery, because unless you have done it before, you would of never thought it was the battery, so now you know, you’ll call your brother for the cables instead of the ride, the lightbulb on the other hand… we’ve all been in the same situation, when Duh! It was just the light bulb, hilarious nonetheless.


PastaQueen • September 12, 2008 at 10:16 am

@Deanna – I’ve had a dead battery two times before, but both times it was DEAD. I couldn’t even get the car to crank, so this was a new experience.


Katharine • September 12, 2008 at 10:44 am

Heh, heh. While reading your post (and laughing), I brewed what I thought were my 2 morning cups of green pi lo chun tea. When the timer beeped, I poured the “tea” into a teacup. But it was plain old boiled water … because I hadn’t remembered to put the tea leaves in for steeping. D’oh!


MizFit • September 12, 2008 at 10:50 am

that always happens up in herre as well.

and did last week with a plumber.

that said I need more opportunities to be the smart one methinks.

rarely does a friend call me searching for the PERFECT word & allow me to step up to the plate and knock one out of the park :)



emi • September 12, 2008 at 11:13 am

I feel a little silly commenting to your “I feel like a moron” entry with a correction, but . . . it’s not whallah, it’s voila.

And once I had to call my landlord to ask where the fuse box for my apartment was. I felt kinda silly, though on the positive side at least I knew I’d blown a fuse and it wasn’t a power outage. Luckily I didn’t need to tell him WHY I blew a fuse – it was a broken vibrator. That would have been seriously embarrassing to admit.


Susan spy • September 12, 2008 at 11:25 am

My comment about this particular entry is that we’ve all been there at least once, some of us more than others. haha. But mostly I wanted to tell you that I love your new blog and its varied topics. I’m so glad you decided to branch out and discuss other things too. Thanks for the chuckles, nods of agreement, and deep thoughts!


Alexia • September 12, 2008 at 11:28 am

Ooh, ooh, I have one that will make you all feel much better. :D

When my husband and I moved into our current house, we had only cold water for like 3 days. We couldn’t figure out what was going on! We flipped switches, etc. (We had only lived in houses with electric water heaters.) Finally called the plumber. Who came and said, well, did you have the gas company come turn it on and light it?

Um, gas company?



TOWR • September 12, 2008 at 11:33 am

This weekend I watched Bridget Jones’s Diary and found myself nodding in agreement at the part where she says something like, “If you’ve come to make me feel like an idiot, you really needn’t bother. I already feel like an idiot most of the time.”

This post reminded me of that. Not because your experiences made you feel like an idiot, but because you didn’t let them! (I totally would have) I need to come follow you around for a week with a notepad and pen and figure out how I can be more like you. :D


Kqteaze • September 12, 2008 at 12:26 pm

I hate to disagree with the battery assessment but….if your car makes a click, click noise when you try and start it but the radio and or lights still work, it’s probably your alternator. When the alternator is dying, it will suck all the juice from your battery to keep going, so jumping the battery will make it run temporarily but it will happen again and again until you replace the alternator. At least that has been my experience with several different cars. I just wanted to mention it in case it happens again. :o)


Sarah • September 12, 2008 at 12:37 pm

@Kqteaze – You beat me to it. That has been my experience as well. I’d still get your car checked out PQ.


Laura N • September 12, 2008 at 12:40 pm

Only twice? You’re ahead of the curve, girl. =)

AAA should be used to the maximum of your ability. You pay that premium (so do I) and by golly, should get your $$ worth. I *heart* AAA.


PastaQueen • September 12, 2008 at 12:46 pm

@Kqteaze – Is there any way for me to know if it’s the alternator without having to pay a mechanic to tell me?


debby • September 12, 2008 at 12:48 pm

@Kqteaze – Yah, I think I’ve had that same experience with an alternator. And the cars don’t have gauges to tell you that its running down anymore…PQ, that line about the toaster is priceless!


Lynn C • September 12, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Heh. I’ve decided I don’t care what people think. I don’t even TRY to fix my computer. That’s what tech support is FOR. I don’t even try to change light bulbs or fidget with my car. I mean, heavens, if I tried to do all my stuff myself, what would we need those people for? And I don’t want to feel guilty if they don’t have jobs, right?


Besides, most of my stuff has fixit-phobia. It doesn’t work when I try to use it, but get a technician in and it works just fine. Up until they leave again.


ginna • September 12, 2008 at 1:25 pm

AAA is the BEST! It’s really not expensive, and pays for itself in saved aggravation. My mom had finally convinced me to join and before I even got my permanent card, I had run over a HONKIN” piece of metal, causing a flat. Could I have changed the tire? Well, yes. But it was great that I didn’t have to, and I knew the lug nuts were tightened securely and my wheel wouldn’t fall off on the freeway.


Heather • September 12, 2008 at 1:58 pm

At work my printer stopped working. But I didn’t call in the repair because I had so much crap and crumbs, etc., stacked around and under my printer that I was too embarrassed to have the repair guy come in. It took me months to clean it up and during that time I had to use someone else’s printer, to their extreme irritation. Finally, at long last, I got the repair guy to come in and it turns out my printer just wasn’t plugged in! Hello!! At least it got me to clean up a bit.


red • September 12, 2008 at 2:09 pm

@PastaQueen –

Unfortunately, this is very easy to diagnose without a mechanic. If you’re stranded because your battery’s dead within a day or so, it’s the alternator.

Also, if your alternator is dead/dying, it’s possible your car will stall while in motion. If your radio dies while you’re driving, pull over immediately.

Though you can see similar symptoms if your battery is bad and won’t take a charge.


Sally Parrott Ashbrook • September 12, 2008 at 2:31 pm

@debby – Ditto on the alternator thoughts.


PastaQueen • September 12, 2008 at 2:43 pm

@Sally Parrott Ashbrook – Well, geez, y’all. I hope I’m able to drive out of the parking garage this evening without pushing the car down the ramp. At least I studied the bus routes in case I couldn’t make it to work last Wednesday.


Sarah • September 12, 2008 at 3:27 pm

It could be your battery – I had the same exact problem recently. I was running errands and fortunately I had to stop at home to pick up my refillable kitty litter containers. When I came back down with them, my car wouldn’t start. Radio and lights worked, but click, click, click… My dad suggested that it might be the battery and that I should check whether it was corroded. It was and the next morning I knocked the corrosion off (carefully, with gloves, so as not to be burned by acid), and the car started.

I took it to a mechanic, who replaced the battery. I thought about buying a battery tester (I had one once, a little device that somehow measures the battery’s performance) and replacing the battery myself if needed. I had too much else going on, and it seemed a bit uncertain and difficult, but I’m that you could do it if you had the time and did a little internet research.

My “duh!” story is that once I came back from the winter holidays and had no water. I called the plumber, and it turned out that before leaving, I’d tried to turn off the pipe that led to the outside spigot to prevent the pipe from freezing, but I misinterpreted the connections. I did feel dumb when the plumber looked at the pipes, reached up and turned a spigot, and said “I think you’ll have water now.”


Kqteaze • September 12, 2008 at 4:03 pm

@red – That’s exactly what happened to me when my alternator went out on my last car; I was driving down the road when it just died. Luckily I was able to steer off into the shoulder while it still had some momentum.

@PastaQueen-Some auto parts stores are willing to hook up a diagnostic machine to your car for free. Pep Brothers, I believe is one of them. Sorry I don’t know if they have those in your area.


Amy • September 12, 2008 at 4:10 pm

BTDT with the garage door opener (just needed to align the “eyes”) and the basement lights (re-set the GFI, ma’am — yea, like I know what a GFI is).

Besides, you never know when the repair guy they send just might be the man of your dreams — or at least some yummy eye candy.


Amy • September 12, 2008 at 4:12 pm

@Kqteaze – Yeah, PQ, go to AutoZone or one of those places. They read my engine light code for me for free. Be aware that they might tell you it’s fine and it’s still on its way out, or something along those lines, but wouldn’t you feel better with more data/confirmation?

Also, I once jumped what I thought was a dead battery, which didn’t work. So my roadside came out and jumped it anyway before towing, and it worked! They had a more powerful jumping device than just me hooking it up to my other car. My battery needed replacement soon, but was recoverable at that moment with a strong enough charge.


Catherine • September 12, 2008 at 7:37 pm

I am a female who works in a largely male dominated workplace. I work as an engineer so when I first started there I found people were very aware and almost finding things that I wouldn’t know the answer. Then I started learning more and had answers to their questions, now I still don’t know it all, as it’s impossible to expect to know how to solve every problem right off the bat, but I can at least speak from experience. At first and for a while I thought it was because I was a girl, but there is a new engineer who they are doing the exact same thing to! I was so happy to see that! Ok happy is the wrong word, as I am his supervisor but it’s interesting to hear him is saying the same thing I used to say to my boss. It made me think, are we there? ? Do they respect me? Good thing, cause now there are like 5 female engineers…so I think we are taking them by storm!!


VerseFameBeauty • September 13, 2008 at 12:22 am

I’ve had to call AAA a couple times lately for flat tires. (One totally shredded on the highway, one time I ran over a screw.) I am perfectly capable of changing a tire, but at some point the jack and lug wrench were removed from my car so I obviously can’t change a tire with my bare hands! The tow truck drivers always roll their eyes at me, wondering why I called them when I have a spare. They usually even go so far as to lift up the ‘secret’ compartments looking for my jack. I hate being a damsel in distress.


Juliw • September 13, 2008 at 12:34 am

Just think of it as providing job security for the maintenance man and the AAA guy ;o)


Merry • September 13, 2008 at 10:36 am

@MizFit – Hey, I’d love it if you could find me the perfect word. Or ‘a’ perfect word, even. One that could fit a multitude of occasions.

Then I’d like help finding the perfect man and the perfect job :)


Crystal • September 14, 2008 at 10:07 pm

Hey, It’s called deligating. I pay rent to my apartment people so they can handle all of that and I pay AAA to do the car stuff. When they get sick, they can then pay me to tell them what is wrong. Nobody is an expert in everything. Hey, we buy your book to inspire our fitness goals. See its just the circle of life. Don’t be too hard on yourself this week.


Patricia • September 15, 2008 at 6:12 am

@Sarah – or anyone else for that matter, if it’s corrosion you can pour a can of coke on it and leave it and it will eat away the corrosion. Happened to me once….. But, mine ended up being the alternator, just thought it was corrosion.


Olivia • September 15, 2008 at 8:52 am

I called the pumber to fix my garbage disposal. Turned out it was just a fuse that needed replacing.


Laura • September 15, 2008 at 2:54 pm

It’s “voila,” not whallah.


Nancy • September 16, 2008 at 3:10 am

I have one of those stories too! Our oven didn’t work so we called a repairman who pointed out that it was on the timer setting so the time needed to be set before it would come on. In our defence we had never used that option, but we had recently been away, and the housesitter must have set it.


Tara • January 1, 2009 at 7:18 pm

I really, really, really wish I had read this post BEFORE I had my car towed to the dealership and BEFORE I paid $148 for them to tell me there was nothing wrong with it besides needing a boost. It was making that same ‘click, click, click’ sound, but since the lights and radio still worked, I figured it couldn’t possibly be that.

Le sigh.


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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