Thursday, August 08, 2013

Don't Need One, MUST Have One

Back in the 60s when materialism steamed full speed ahead on its way toward dominating (some think ruining) American life, I acquired my first real big boy toy. We bought a house with an electric garage door opener. The devices were just starting to become standard gear for homeowners. Now, even those with so much junk in their garages they can’t fit a car in have automated door openers.

What fun I had. A favorite amusement was seeing how far away from home I could be when the control button opened my door. As I recall, the record was a block-and-a-half. Opening a few neighbors’ doors along the way didn’t faze me. That happened often before opener technology improved.

Recently, our 23-year-old garage door opener died. An emergency trip to Home Depot was mandatory.
A weight-lifting exercise I can do without
I quickly secured a replacement with some new bells and whistles, including all kinds of automatic things, some of which I don’t fully understand and probably don’t need to.

“We’ll be around all week,” I told the service manager. “When can we get installation?”

“They’ll call you,” he said.

The voice on the phone sounded a bit subdued, “I’m sorry, but we’re really busy. We can schedule you three weeks from now.”

“What! Don’t we still have an unemployment problem here in Michigan? Are you sure three weeks is the best you can do?”

“Yes’” she said. “Maybe somebody is out of work around here, but our installers definitely are not.”

The first few days went badly. Ours is a double door, eight feet tall, with glass panels across the top. It is heavy.

Because modern garage doors have no outside handles, my first attempts at coping with opener-less life were to get out of the car, walk around to the front door, unlock it, walk through the house to the garage, lift the door using the handle on the inside, get back in the car, drive into the garage, get out, and pull the door shut.

Beautiful wife Sandy, as usual, found a better way. I was a little surprised when after observing me in action a couple of times and listening to my complaints  she said, “Let me do it,” after we pulled into the driveway.

She walked straight to the left corner of the door, bent down, got her fingers into a little gap under the door edge, and with a mighty heave lifted it up. That became our standard entry procedure. I could barely budge the damn thing off ground zero that way. But if a little lady could, what choice did I have?

After a week using the Simplified Sandy System, I began to ponder the “want vs. need” question. We now and then mutter about the need for more exercise. Getting in and out of the car a few extra times surely could help maintain or even develop agility. Raising that heavy door had to have some positive influence on the old upper and lower body muscles.

Perhaps, I thought, we could return the new toy to the Depot and live without an opener, as everyone did for years before clever advertising and our desire to “keep up with the Joneses” convinced us “we just had to have one.” Installing an outdoor handle and lock could be handled easily as a do-it-yourself project.

Without an unneeded opener, we would be healthier and a bit wealthier by enjoying some minor savings in electricity costs.

Then I thought about getting out of the car and wrestling with a heavy door during a typical Michigan driving rainstorm. Or, in the midst of a lake-effect blizzard. Or, when I was in a hurry to get inside to begin enjoying the cocktail hour.

I called the installation people and begged, “Can’t you possibly get to us sooner?”

6 comments: said...

I don't have a garage, but I am sure I would have a garage door opener if I had one. It would kill my back to lift a heavy door. Dianne

PiedType said...

I wasn't even thinking about the weather at first. Having wrenched my back this week, I was thinking there'd be times when bending down to heave that door open would be impossible, a difficulty likely to become more common in the years to come. But weather is always a great reason.

Kay said...

We never had a garage door opener, but our door wasn't very heavy. Hmmm... wait a minute. Could that be why we always parked our car outside of the garage? Now we're in Hawaii and have a carport, so no doors. Gracious! No blizzards either. Your beautiful wife must have really powerful muscles.

jhawk23 said...

A door opener may not be essential, but it's certainly very useful. And the weather factor you identified is especially important - coming home at 11 pm in a raging thunderstorm is when you can really appreciate it.

Around my area though, so many people don't use their garages for cars. New houses replace older ones, often they have a double garage, but the cars are outside in the driveway... even then, though, I guess being able to put the door up remotely is advantageous.

mindy said...

Would love to be able to reprint this one on take a look at our site and let me know. We've got a new page called "the Men's Room, and this piece would be a great addition to that page.
Please email me at

Dick Klade said...

Mindy: Reprint permission coming via e-mail. Your page is well done.