Yesterday I spent a lot of money to have two guys come to my house and hook up my stereo. Yes, I needed help doing that. When we bought our house, one of the selling points were the speakers installed in the first floor ceiling, allowing us to listen to music from any first floor room. Equally compelling were the little volume control knobs stationed on the walls. The knobs make a satisfying click when turned, and when we toured the house, I envisioned myself happily adjusting the volume on my future sound system.
After purchasing the house, however, we discovered that the speakers were never connected to anything. Moreover, we could not figure out where the speaker wire even came out. There were speakers, eight of them, but their wiring seemed to disappear into the ceiling and walls. Consequently we could not listen to music because we could not figure out how to connect the speakers to anything. That was seven years ago. Seven years of strained, painful silence. A brutal, horrific silence. The kind of silence that can only occur between two married people.
A few weeks ago, my wife hired an electrician to come to the house to do some unrelated work (we had a toaster that needed plugging in). While at the house, she asked him if he could trace the speaker wire.
“Yes I can,” he said. He produced a device that looked like a Star Trek tricorder, which allowed him to finally find the mysterious speaker wire. Turns out it was in the basement, a bundle of blue nerve endings dangling like an enormous ganglion from the ceiling behind the boiler. We’d never noticed them before because we’d never had occasion to go behind the boiler. The reason we never went back there? It’s scary.
So now that we found the speaker wire, we had to figure out what to do about it. And why did the speaker wire emerge in the basement behind the boiler, the least likely place in our home to install a stereo system? Using my immense deductive powers, I solved the mystery.
As it turns out, the boiler is directly below our family room, and the speaker wire is directly below a large built-in bookcase in said family room. My guess is that the builders intended to bring the speaker wire back up into the built-in cabinet after it was built, but through a confluence of events which we can only guess about now, (but which spectral analysis and careful forensic investigation could probably determine) forgot to do it. Consequently, the built-in bookcase became, like the catacombs in Poe’s Cask of Amontillado, a tomb. A TOMB!!!
The solution: drill through the ceiling, through the bookcase, freeing the speaker wire like Baby Jessica from a well. I did not have enough confidence in my drilling abilities to do this drilling because I am Jewish, which is the same thing as saying, handicapped when it comes to manual labor. I did not want to screw up the bookcase, and I did not want to spend too much time behind the scary boiler.
Also I did not know what to do with the speaker wire itself. You can’t just plug a dozen confusing wires into your stereo because receivers don’t have inputs for big blue wires. So I asked an audio expert to come to my home and tell me what I needed to get. Turns out they make something called a speaker switcher box. You put your wire into that, and then hook the box into your receiver, and then you hook everything else up to the receiver, and then you can listen to all the Fall Out Boy you want, which in my case is a lot.
If it were only the hole and speaker switcher box, I probably could have done it myself, but I was concerned that once I drilled and plugged, perhaps the speakers wouldn’t work or would need adjustment or something and so it seemed like one of those situations where I should probably just hire somebody to do the work. So that’s what I did.
They showed up at eight o’clock yesterday, Saturday, morning. A note to anybody who might be thinking about coming to my home at eight o’clock on a Saturday morning: don’t. I do not want to see you at that time of day, even if you are coming to give me a handjob. The handjob can wait till ten. But that’s the way these guys work; for whatever reason, they start early. So I grumpily let them in and it was then that I discovered that I made the right choice in hiring people instead of doing it myself. They were at my house for four hours putting together my stereo. If I conservatively estimate that every hour they spent would have equaled three hours if I had done it myself, simple math tells me if I did it myself it would have taken infinity hours because I would have given up after about twenty minutes. They used wire cutters and splitters and servos and ratchets and I think I saw some front-end loaders and more of those tricorder things and I really don’t think I could have done what they did.
The reason we decided to finally put the stereo together now, after seven years of living with this blistered silence, is that my wife sent out invitations to all of our city friends for a holiday party she wanted to throw, and she wanted to have the project done in time for the party. As it happens, none of our friends RSVP’d to the party, except for my dear friend Michael Showalter who said he would be attending, but then told me Friday he could not, which is Michael Showalter speak for “I do not want to drive out to Connecticut.”
As a result of this apathy we cancelled the party, a surprisingly easy task since nobody was coming anyway. We just said to each other, “The party is cancelled,” and then we agreed that it was cancelled and then it was done. So now I am sitting in my kitchen by myself listening to some choral music, which I am pretending to myself to enjoy.
Despite the cost, I’m glad we finally got this done. It was just one of those household tasks that I always say I’m going to do, but never do. Other household tasks that fall under this category: changing the air filters, fixing the wood trellis in the backyard, putting up the storm windows, doing any kind of caulking, and telling my children I love them. Once tasks like these get done, though, I always feel more confident, more sure of myself as a man, and inevitably I find myself thinking, “That wasn’t so hard. Why didn’t I hire somebody to do that before?”