Words of wisdom watered down

Shannon McKinnon, in her column, talks about a wise phrase that blows up in her face.

Over the years I have accumulated a lot of life lessons and words of wisdom.

Whenever I come across a phrase or tidbit that causes my inner being to sit up and smile I cut it out or jot it down and tuck it away in my think box.

Or sometimes I put it on a Post it and thumb it to the wall behind my computer screen. Stuck to my wall right now are the words, “To change everything, simply change your attitude.”

Why is that we are always looking to the outside to find happiness for our insides? That never works.

Oh, maybe briefly at best, but it never packs the sort of inner peace that lasts.

I believe happiness is more a state of mind than a state of circumstance.

And when I forget, I have my Post-it right there on the wall to remind me.

Some words of wisdom I use so often I don’t need to write them down.

Such is the case with this little gem: righty tighty, lefty loosey.

I have always believed that no one should unleash themselves onto the unsuspecting world without it. It simply means if you turn something to the right — lids, bolts, hose couplings — it will tighten and if you turn it to the left it will loosen.

There are a few exceptions, but on the whole you can’t go wrong with this marvelous little mantra.

Or such was my thinking when I was recently asked for assistance in turning on a newly installed irrigation system.

A lid nestled into the ground by the foundation of the house lifted to reveal a tangle of electrical wires and a row of three knobs.

The first knob, I was told, was for starting the irrigation.

With an air of confidence and the words, “Righty tighty, lefty loosey” tap dancing in my head, I knelt down and turned the knob to the left. Nothing seemed to be happening.

“Lefty loosey,” I said confidently.

“What did you say?” asked the homeowner, starting to look concerned.

I spun the knob a little more to the left.

At this point water started running out from the bottom of the knob.

Not a lot, but enough to catch our attention. For reasons which now seem shaky at best, I felt in order to slow the leak the knob needed to be loosened even more.

My thinking was because the valve was not fully open the excess pressure was forcing water to exit where it should not be exiting.

“A little more lefty loosey should do the trick,” I said, whistling a little.

Whistling is always a good thing to do when you want to appear confident and project an air of calm. It was a short whistle.

Imagine, if you will, my great consternation when instead of stopping the leak, turning the knob caused it to come off in my hand altogether.

The situation quickly escalated as an impressive geyser shot up from the knob hole, blasted me in the face, wetting my whistle before projecting itself another 20 feet in the air where it thundered against the soffit and rained back down on our heads.

I stood with my mouth hanging open, the lefty loosened knob dangling from my hand, my water logged glasses blinding me to the look on the homeowner’s face, which was probably just as well.

Then, since my mouth was filling up with water, I closed it, wiped at my glasses, fought off the urge to flee and bent down to try and rectify the situation.

“Oh my goodness!” shouted the homeowner, wondering whatever had possessed her to think that my knowing the difference between a peony and a pansy gave me the necessary credentials to run a high-tech irrigation system. “What shall we do?”

“Righty tighty!” I babbled, adding a few other short phrases under my breath best not repeated here.

Let’s just say they weren’t from my think box or off a Post-it on my wall and leave it at that.

Water sprayed in every direction at once while I frantically tried to thread the knob back onto the spout. Several minutes and a great deal of water later the knob was back in place.

“What you might want to do,” I said later, as we stood gasping and dripping all over the sidewalk, “is to only turn the knob a little to the left. That appears to be important. To help you remember just think “a little lefty loosey.” Would you like me to write that down for you?”

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from Northern BC. You can catch up on past columns or check out her garden blog by visiting www.shannonmckinnon.com.

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