Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Occam's Garage Door

There are a lot of things in life that you just can't count on.  Weather forecasts are rarely more than semi-educated guesses, the cable guy can never seem to arrive quite within his "8 AM to noon" time frame, and air travel has become so completely unreliable that American Airlines should probably just start using "sometime Monday afternoon" as an official departure time.

There's not a whole lot left in this world that is 100% dependable, but even at my most cynical, I never thought I'd lose faith in the little button that opens my garage door.  But last night it let me down.  It let me down hard.

Theresa and I were all ready to leave to go see the new Bruce Willis flick, but when I pressed the garage door button on the wall . . . nothing happened.   This left me perplexed, because when I got home from work just a couple hours earlier I'd opened the door with my remote and then closed it when I got inside.  That whole process went off without a hitch.  But now?  The garage door responded like the willie of a Viagra-less octogenarian judging an ugly contest.

We were running late for the movie, though, so we pulled the red cord to open the garage door manually.  I backed the car out of the garage and, just for the hell of it, pressed the button on my remote.  Curiously, the door shut as usual.

When we got home a couple hours later, we set out to fix the problem.  I pressed the garage door button just in case a band of repair elves had visited while we were gone.  None had, so once again I opened the door manually and pressed the button.  The door went down.  Okay, so there was nothing wrong with the open/close mechanism or the button itself.  There was obviously another explanation.

Many years ago, when I lived in a different house, I had dealt with the opposite problem -- the garage door opened just fine, but it wouldn't close.  I noticed this only occurred when I was leaving for work in the morning; when I got home at night, everything was fine.  After a few months of utter befuddlement, I finally figured out that in the mornings the sun would shine directly into the LED sensor that keeps garage doors from closing on pets or small children.  I fixed that particular problem with a two-inch length of PVC pipe.

Which was absolutely no help to me now.

It's important to remind you at this point that when it comes to handyman-type activities, my skills lie somewhere between "non-existent" and "counter-productive."  So after fiddling with various parts of the garage door opener for several minutes, I decided to go online to see if I could find some tips.  I Googled "my friggin' garage door will close but won't open" and found about twenty-five possible solutions.  I adjusted the "force level," oiled the runners, aligned the sensors, I even tried Bugs Bunny's "Iggity aggity oop, ah ah" dance and said "Open sesame."

Nothing worked.

"What are you guys doing?"

It was Doug, Theresa's twenty-year-old son.  We explained the predicament, and he said, "I'll take care of it, you guys go on inside." 

Doug's pretty good at fixing things, especially compared to me.

Forty-five seconds later, I heard the garage door opening.  And closing.  And opening.  And closing.  Theresa and I went out to the garage.

"Hey!" said Theresa.  "You fixed it!"

"Yeah, it was really complicated, too," said Doug.

"What was the problem?" I asked.

"Come here and take a look at the button on the wall," said Doug.  I looked where he was pointing.  "See this switch on top?  That's called the lock/unlock switch.  When it's in the locked position, the door won't open.  It's so no one can clone your remote and break into the house.  Using my amazingly brilliant repair skills, I flipped the switch into the unlocked position, and the door opened."

Doug can be a bit of a smart-ass.

Apparently, the last time I'd shut the door from the inside, I had accidentally flipped the switch to "lock".

Yes, I know.  I'm lame.


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jdemott said...

Ah, the garage door trials. We have had many problems with ours. When we moved into this house, one of the two doors was rigged with a wireless button by the door, and the other was wired. But, it seemed like either button would randomly open or close the door of it's choosing, and often not the door or direction you wanted. Made NO sense to me (then again, I have handyman skills worse than yours, aka, if it's broke, don't touch it, or it'll break worse, maybe on purpose when I hit it out of frustration.) We got both motors replaced. Then, the spring went out on one door (so they told me and charged me for), but in the mean time, the cable came loose and the weight of the door nearly bent the metal rails beyond repair. I've dealt with leaves, dirt and kid toys blocking the laser's view. One motor's battery backup died and screwed everything up until we disconnected the battery.

The funniest one was trying to figure out why the door stopped working in progress, only to find that none of the usual tricks worked. As it turned out, the release rope was caught in the passenger door of the suburban, so when the door started to move, it released and disconnected the door. Have not encountered the lock mode yet. Thanks for the tip.

Eva Gallant said...

that sounds exactly like something my husband would do! lol

J.J. in L.A. said...

Something tells me that I'd really like Doug. lol!

Fred Miller said...

I have a buddy who helps me with things like that. He's on disability because of his cognitive functioning level (what we used to call "mental retardation"). I think it's more like Aspergers or something. He's actually quite clever. Here's a story of one of his problem-solving episodes.

Mad Matt: Problem solver

Moooooog35 said...

I once had an idea on the lines of the movie "Christine" but it was about a killer garage door opener.


Never give up on your dreams, my friend.

Heff said...

Despite the fact that you "screwed yourself" on that deal, I HAVE heard automatic garage door nightmares from SEVERAL of my friends, so I just stick with my manual door. Who needs LESS exercise, anyway ?

Quirkyloon said...

" of repair elves..."

There's your problem. Everybody knows that elves don't do squat. Gnomes is where the real action is. They will work their gnomy butt off for you. Get some yard gnomes, you won't be disappointed.

Expat From Hell said...

We all have our skills sets, my friend. While the garage door systems may be a bit evasive, you can sure blog the hell out of the experience. So much for Occam's Razor, huh? Always worth the effort to come here.

Especially since we beat the Yankees this year.

Love from Texas. EFH

Candy's daily Dandy said...

Awesome Bugs reference!!! Hadn't thought about that one in a while.

Ok so can Teresa's son come over to my house? I seem to be having the same problem. I thought it was the batteries, (my box on the wall is velcroed) or the cold air makes it work intermittently. (the elves must have visited my house)

I don't think there is an on/off switch, but I'm going to go check right now.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Hell, I've done worse shit.

MikeWJ at Too Many Mornings said...

Don't feel bad, Knuck. The world need idiots just as much as it needs smart people. It keeps things in balance.

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