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Jim Russell guest writes Shelli's column
for The Benton Courier, Sunday, January 17, 2010


Last night, I gave my daughter a bath. Bath time is a big production in the Russell home, sometimes lasting over two hours. We have scrubbers, bath pillows, buckets of special bath toys, cups, bowls, sprayers, water guns, "Disney Bathtime Mermaid Princesses" and "Malibu Beach Barbie" and "Fire Island Ken" sets that come with bathing suits and water-friendly accessories, super-foamy bubble bath, and even these cool tablets you can drop in that fizz up and then turn the water different colors. (There's something vaguely unsettling about watching your child bathe in purple water but it's still awesome.) To paraphrase Brother Ray Charles, bath time is the right time.

The only part about bath time that gets a little tiresome is drying Gracie's hair. Good hair runs in my family. (Important note: Good hair should not be confused with good hairstyles, as evidenced by certain high school yearbook photos of me that are floating around.) We Russells are blessed with an over-abundance of healthy follicles. Gracie has thick, luxuriant honey blonde tresses that fall below her shoulders. Frankly, it looks like the kind of hair that you might Photoshop onto your own head before posting a picture on Match.com. It's healthy. It's shiny. It's perfect. It also takes quite a while to dry. While I respect the notion that patience is a virtue, it is, alas, a virtue I do not possess in great quantity... at least not at the end of a two hour bath time.

So, while I'm standing there in the bathroom, water from Gracie's hair dripping everywhere, it occurs to me: there has to be a better, faster, more efficient way to do this. As I suspect happens to all men in moments like that, a thought bubble formed above my head with the words "Hmmm...What Would Tim 'the Tool Man' Taylor Do?"

I should probably explain this line of thinking a little further for those of you who are X-chromosomally-challenged. Men have certain benchmarks of behavior and thinking that we apply to nearly all situations. These are passed down as sacred knowledge from father to son. If something can't be screwed, glued, duct taped, or hammered, then the fun part of being a guy kicks in. Problems are simply opportunities for men to craft creative, novel, often dangerously over-the-top solutions, some of which occasionally even work. The fact that these nutty solutions sometimes work is what keeps us inspired to continue trying them. Real men aren't scared off by a 4% success rate. It only adds to the challenge. While we appreciate the axiomatic clarity of "What Would Jesus Do?", sometimes we still need to apply its corollary, "But If Jesus Were Temporarily Unavailable, What Might Bear Grylls Do?"

As I pondered the question, I suddenly realized that it would only take half as long if I used TWO hairdryers at the SAME TIME!!! Genius in its simplicity. I immediately plugged in both hairdryers, using the same outlet of course, and got underway with Operation: Git-R-Done. The hair was drying out faster than ever and Gracie thought it was funny how her locks were flying all over the place while Daddy waved the hairdryers around like overheated dueling pistols, so I was scoring on style points as well as efficiency. I must have congratulated myself a half dozen times on how smart I was and wondered why this had never occurred to me before.

Just then, the bathroom lights went out and both hairdryers went dead in my hands. I stood there for a second trying to figure out what was going on before I realized the massively energy-sucking devices, both of which are the approximate size of a howitzer, had tripped a circuit breaker. As we stood in the darkness listening to the fading whine of the blower motors, Gracie commented, "Good job, Daddy, you used up all our electricity!" (A well-developed usage of sarcasm in a six year old is a sign of high intelligence. I hope.)

The breaker box was all the way on the far side of the bitterly cold garage buried behind some boxes. Since the lights were out just in that one bathroom, I decided to hold on off on re-setting the circuit until after I had put Gracie to bed. After completing our incredibly elaborate night-night routine, which typically involves reading stories, tickling, hugging, smooches, and arranging the covers so that her dog, Megadeth, can snuggle up close to her, I promptly forgot all about the breaker box. (When this story is one day made into a movie, there will be a note on the script that reads "insert ominous music here.")

Fast forward to 5 AM. I wake up uncomfortably cold, expecting to find icicles hanging from the end of my nose, and wondering what doofus might have left a window open in the bedroom. (Just for the record, nobody had left a window open, but had such a thing occurred, the doofus in question would almost certainly have been me.) After trying to burrow under the covers to sleep the way my wife does (picture a cave made of comforters and a hibernating bear, only the bear has blonde hair and is way cuter than average), I gave up and decided to go downstairs to take a look at the thermostat.

We have one of those fancy-pants Space Age thermostats that has a four inch thick operating manual requiring a master's degree in electrical engineering to figure it out. Whatever happened to the good old days when thermostats had one switch that said "On/Off"? I fully expect that one day I will accidentally push the wrong button and launch our nation's nuclear arsenal at Uruguay. Anyway, upon inspection, I discover that although the thermostat is set for a balmy 70, the actual temperature in the house is only 54 degrees. I reset everything, clicked it off and on several times, re-programmed it, gave it a few whacks, and scratched my head, which is surprisingly useful in certain situations. I think the scratching stimulates increased blood flow to the brain which allows for a greater degree of critical thinking and analysis. Or maybe it just feels good on my noggin. I dunno.

My mind began racing, thinking of all the bad ways this could turn out. No heat in the winter during what is the coldest week we've seen in a long time. The first winter after we bought this house, the heater went out. Worse, it went out two days before Christmas, nobody would come out to fix it during the holiday, and we had a house full of guests. Although we cranked up the fireplace, we survived mainly by wearing parkas indoors and drinking lots of hot chocolate. Eventually we all ended up at my in-laws' house and camped there for about five days, crashing on the couches and on the floor in sleeping bags. While I like my extended family, I really enjoy my own bed, too. (I admit it--I'm a creature of shallow comforts. Sue me.) I was also imagining how much it was going to cost to replace a heater. The period immediately after Christmas is usually not a great time to have large, unallocated expenditures of cash. My heart began to sink because this was a problem that could not resolved even by an aggressive application of the Bear Grylls approach. This was going to require an expert. (And, really, Bear Grylls' solutions typically involve scaling sheer cliff walls, using your own urine as a disinfectant, or frying up a fresh batch of something unspeakably icky for supper. I couldn't see how to use any of those skills in this situation. In retrospect, I probably should have tried harder. Sorry, Bear.)

Right about then, my son poked his head around the stairs and asked, "Hey, Dad! What happened to the lights in my bathroom?" I told him my story about the idea of dual hairdryers, which he readily agreed was a brilliant solution to the wet hair issue, and how I had tripped a breaker about two minutes into it. It dawned on me that I hadn't gone back to reset the breaker and that could be the problem with everything. Duh, how simple was that? To my shame, when I realized that I was going to have to walk out into the sub-arctic garage to fix the problem, I was sorely tempted to say, "screw it" and crawl back to bed. Seriously, it's cold out there. However, I manned up and, despite the instantaneous frostbite on my toes, did what needed to be done and sixty seconds later, blessed heat began flowing again from the vents.

All the best stories end with a moral imparted or a powerful lesson learned, and believe me, I learned one: I really need to install a generator in the upstairs bathroom. That dual hairdryer solution is just too good to waste. I think Bear, the Tool Man, my Dad, and even Jesus would all approve.

See the archive of Shelli's columns

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Comment by songbirdharmony on January 23, 2010 at 10:18pm
Great story Jim! Good enough for reality tv for sure. You had me laughing.
Comment by Jennifer Martin on January 22, 2010 at 3:52pm
Definite applause, Jim! This is hilarious.

You wrote, "...and even these cool tablets you can drop in that fizz up and then turn the water different colors. (There's something vaguely unsettling about watching your child bathe in purple water but it's still awesome.)"

I must add that it is equally unsettling watching your child sit in a tub of water that looks like it's boiling, referring to the fizz tablets.....

This was really good. Humorous stories are always the bomb....
Comment by Cara Smith on January 22, 2010 at 6:38am
That's funny, good writing Jim.

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