My friend Allen

A simple flip of the switch—a whir, a buzz, a hum followed by…nothing.

What does a girl do when her garbage disposal goes on the blink and no Gary nearby to diagnose the problem?  My husband would have reacted with a long sigh and a fair amount of grumbling, but he would have gotten to the bottom of it—literally.

Me?  I, too, fix things for my family.  I sooth hurt feelings, mend broken hearts and rebuild fragmented self-esteem.

If I require hands-on tools, I reach for pencils, pens, paper, books and my laptop.  When my daughters were in single digits, I was skilled with hair ties and ribbons and bows.

I’m also pretty good with a baseball glove.  My son would agree.

I’m proficient in the use of hairdryers and flat irons.  I operate toaster ovens and mixers.

Just don’t ask me to repair them.

When I open a toolbox, I seldom look for more than a hammer and a screwdriver.  My friend Toni would say my ability with a hammer is questionable.

OK.  She would use the word, “dangerous.”  Toni’s fingers have barely escaped near death experiences—direct results of a hammer in my hand.

As for small appliances, I’m a replace rather than repair kind of girl.  This has nothing to do with the fact that I am female, but it has everything to do with my inborn aptitude for things, well, less mechanical.

Not certain who to call, I stared down at my silent disposal and said, “It’s just you and me.”

I did what most everyone does.  I dipped my hand into the bowels of my sink and probed for the kinds of foods disposals reject, celery bits, fruit pits, eggshells, and onion skins.

My hand returned with none of above, but it retrieved more than a fair share of yuck.  Double yuck.

I turned the tap on high and tried the switch again. Nothing.

When in doubt, I grab my go-to tool—my laptop.  In YouTube’s search bar, I typed, “jammed garbage disposal.”

A friendly girl named Michelle popped onscreen.  She spoke with a British accent and introduced me to Allen Wrench.

I’d met Allen Wrench on several previous occasions, but had never placed his occupation with a name.  My YouTube garbage disposal experience was an ah-ha moment:  So, this is the Allen wrench all DIYs and contractors rave about.

Michelle told me to grab Allen, a broom handle, and a flashlight.  She instructed me to unplug my disposal.

“Never ever, ever, ever put your hand down the disposal,” she said.

There are upsides to one-way conversations.

Michelle did not know I’d already swiped the disposal with my hand—several times.  And I was OK with keeping my Allen wrench revelation between Allen and me.

In less than two minutes, Michelle got me under the sink and beneath the disposal.  The lengthiest part of the process involved Allen.

Turns out he, like George Foreman, has lots of sons bearing the same name.  They come in various sizes.

I inserted each Allen into the base of the appliance until I found the right fit.  Then, I tweaked him back and forth one, two or five times in my attempt to dislodge the invisible culprit.

“Before plugging in the appliance, use the broom handle to dislodge the jam from the top,” she said.

“OK,” I said, “but I think my hand would be more efficient.”

Tension mounted as I stood over the sink and turned on the tap.  I paused and said a brief prayer before flipping the switch.

Voilà!  Success!

Maybe I should have started with the prayer, but then I would have remained in the dark about Allen.


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