Last Friday it was really hot, in the 90s, the kind of sudden temperature spike that causes spring to fast-forward. The kind of day that makes dough rise quickly, as was the case in my kitchen, because Passover was over and I needed to bake some challah for Friday night. By late afternoon, the dough had plumped high in its bowl. Even with the back door and porch slider open, the kitchen was uncomfortably warm.
So, I opened our two solar-powered kitchen skylights to let the heat out through the roof. They operate by remote control, and if it rains, close automatically. Quite the technological innovation, compared to our old leaky skylights with their clunky crank that required a wobbly pole to open and close.
Cleaning up after dinner, I picked up the remotes (each window has its own) and clicked the button to close each skylight. The left one immediately began to shut. But not the right. I switched out the AAA batteries and tried again. No luck. I tried the remote for the left skylight. Nope. Temperatures were sinking overnight into the 50s, and the skylight was wide open. I said to Al, “We have a problem.”
Now, Al, by his own admission, is not Mr. Handyman, and although I can see what needs to be done, I cannot often do it if the task requires some manual dexterity. Also, when I get stressed, I have trouble with word-finding. This is a problem that developed after I hit menopause, and it is extremely frustrating, which only makes the problem more pronounced. I know what I want to say, but I have to talk around the subject to get to the words I want. “Thingy” is one of my fall-back nouns. Not great for giving directions to my dear husband.
I had no idea where I had put the instructions for the skylights, so I began searching online for our skylight brand and problems with the remote. I soon learned that the issue involved resetting the wireless signal between the skylight and the remote. That made sense. Just one problem. You had to remove the insect screen from the skylight in order to do the reset, because the sensor was in the skylight frame. “It’s easy,” reassured the YouTube video. “All you need is a paperclip.”
Really? Now, I don’t about you, but as far as I know, skylights are located in ceilings. And in our kitchen, the ceiling is high, maybe 12 feet. I imagine that other people install their skylights in even higher ceilings. So you need a tall ladder to reach it. Which we do not own. On the rare occasions when we have a chore that requires one, we borrow from a helpful neighbor up the street. However, at 10:30 at night on a Friday, I was not about to call him.
Al’s first thought was to go up on the kitchen roof and try to make the adjustment from outside, an idea I emphatically vetoed. Even though the one ladder we own would make that possible (the eaves are lower than the peak of the roof), it was dark and too risky. Plus, as we later discovered, it would not have worked.
But he did convince me to let him try to bring that old rickety ladder inside and see if he could reach the skylight screen. He managed to prop it up safely enough, with me holding it steady and spotting him, to climb up and, by standing partly on the ladder and partly on the kitchen table, remove the screen from the skylight.
With Step 1 accomplished, we moved on to Step 2. This involved finding the tiny hole in the skylight frame that accesses the reset device. My ability to explain this to Al while I was getting more and more agitated because I could not find a working flashlight and we had to resort to using Al’s iPhone for him to locate this little pinhole in the skylight frame while I was replaying the YouTube video on mine was, shall we say, impaired.
However, we did locate the hole. Here’s where the paperclip comes in. You have to unbend a paperclip, insert it in the hole for 10 seconds, and then the skylight will move. Yes, a paperclip. Why not a button? Why not a switch? I have no idea.
Al inserted the unbent paperclip. Nothing. Now I was really getting frantic. How were we going to close it before the temperature dropped? Al suggested trying a larger paperclip, since he didn’t think the first one went in all the way. So I dumped all my paperclips on the table and found a bigger one, which I unbent and gave him. And, voila! The skylight began to hum and close. Thank goodness.
There’s a third step involved, which we postponed: sticking yet another paperclip into a hole on the remote, after you do the 10 second routine on the skylight frame, to re-pair the remote with the window. That will wait for a sunny day when we can borrow our neighbor’s ladder and not worry about a temperature drop.
After we put everything back in place and tidied up the kitchen, I was relieved. This was not how I had intended to spend Friday night, but we had managed to solve the problem, together, without breaking anything or getting injured or having an argument.
I was also incredulous. What genius thought it made sense to design a skylight that cannot be closed manually if it fails electronically, without climbing on a tall ladder to do so? And why a paperclip? This presumes not only that you have a tall ladder, but also that you have a stash of paperclips, which, in a world evolving away from using paper for documents that need to be clipped together, is becoming an anachronism.
But I digress. The one bonus of this adventure, if you’ve read this far, is it gave me a ridiculous story to tell. And we all need a good dose of ridiculous these days.