Two Swift Kicks


By Van Smith

Baltimore, March 17, 2019

Sibling conflicts roiled our household yesterday. It was nothing off the curve of normalcy for a four-member family, but extreme enough that I decided to take one of the kids on an outing, leave the home storminess to calm behind us, and start fresh elsewhere for a few hours before the afternoon agenda.

I push the garage-door opener so we can walk into the alley, and the rickety, screeching piece of essential machinery opens.

I say the door is essential not only because we park a car in the garage, but we also keep there: four bikes, four push scooters, a Honda 50cc scooter, a pedal-assist electric cargo bike, and an assortment of kayaking, camping, sledding, and picnicking gear. Even when we aren’t using any of that, we walk through the garage on the regular. We need the door to be operational. The only other option is the front door, which opens to the sidewalk of a busy city street, and that’s simply not doable as the only point of egress for our active lifestyle.

It’s not the door’s opening, but its closing, that’s occasionally problematic. This I’ve chalked up to what’s likely a decades-long accumulation of lightly damaging blows from vehicles trying to negotiate the tight confines of the narrow alley, and lately as well to the kids pretending to be superheroes by lifting it as it opens.

Now we’re in the alley, and I hit the hand-held clicker. This time, the door gets close to closing, and then, pop!, the bottom flap flies off track. It retracts and, once fully open, falls silent.

My plan for restoring familial peace is foiled.

I take off my jacket and start the door-fixing ritual. Basically, it requires hitting the hand-held opener and, having put on leather gloves, manipulating the door back on track as it comes down or retracts. Then you hit the opener again and again, opening and closing and making adjustments to the moving door’s position so as to, hopefully, eventually, after much trial and error, assure it stays on track throughout its to-and-fro journey.

Today, my best efforts aren’t working. After 10 or 15 minutes, with me getting increasingly agitated and shedding more layers of clothing as I huff and puff, I send the kid inside, rolling the dice on what might result of an unexpected sibling reunion mid-morning on this already exhausting day.

I empty the last of the little can of WD-40 onto all the door’s moving parts. Still, it goes off track. About two-thirds of the way down is the point where it pops every time, but I can’t puzzle out the exact point where the sound is coming from. I break out the tube of marine-grade lube, apply it to the wheels in the tracks, but it too is of no use.

I keep trying, pretending I don’t care, hoping for a magical fix. I can close it all the way by forcing it down with my hands while standing inside the garage, but that doesn’t help when you’re out in the alley, trying to get on with your day.

After an hour, I take a seat on the backyard furniture, frustrated and tired. No one has emerged yet from indoors to update me on the state of play, and I decide I’d rather not know at the moment.

The sun is shining, though it’s brisk out. I grab my jacket, put it on my lap, put my heavy boot-clad feet up on the table, and lean back into the thick, soft seat cushion, my face turned partly away from the sun. It feels wonderful. I pull up a sleeve to catch more of the rays on my skin. I fall asleep.

I am not a napper. A 10-minute siesta can ruin my day. I need two hours, minimum, or I’ll just be a groggy mess of sleep-addled grumpiness. So when I awake after some fraction of my minimum, I go inside and head straight to bed, mumbling something about my intentions as I pass the rest of the family.

Later, when I re-emerge, the house is empty. I make a cup of coffee. I head into the back yard to sit in the sun.

I look at the garage door. I hit the clicker. It retracts, as always. I hit it again. It starts to close, but, as expected, it pops somewhere about two-thirds down, and goes back up.

This time, though, from the acoustical perspective of my comfortable chair, I think I know where the “pop” is coming from. I get up and hit the clicker again. I walk up to the door and force it all the way closed.

The spot I’m thinking of is about a foot off the ground, just right of center. I haul back with my foot and let it swing, hard, right onto that spot. I kick it again, surprised at how loud the sound is.

I hit the clicker. The door opens. I hit it again. The door closes. Over and over again, it works. With two swift kicks aimed just right, it’s back to fulfilling its essential purpose so I can go back to mine: preparing a roasted vegetable tart for dinner before movie night.



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