Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Shocking Truth

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that if I pick up a “How-To” book in a home improvement store, I will not be killed or maimed if I follow the instructions. Apparently, this is not the case. In a shocking announcement, Oxmoor House is recalling over 1 million home improvement books that have been on the shelves as long ago as 1975! These books included faulty instructions and diagrams that could cause people to be shocked or create a fire hazard.

I’m trying to imagine how this could have happened. It must have been much easier to get published in 1975. Hmmmmm, yes, I can imagine how it all started:

The Pitch
Ernst Klondike IV: So I got this idea for a new book…

Publisher: Yeah, so’s my aunt, my sister’s comicbook writing fiancee and my cat’s working on three manuscripts between coughing up furballs….

Ernst Klondike IV: With the economy the way it is, more than ever people will be doing home projects themselves.

Publisher: Yeah, why pay a crooked contractor when you can pay me $12.95? Go on.

Ernst Klondike IV: I’m thinking starting out small with electrical work. Show people how to install switches, doorbells, ceiling fans.

Publisher: I like ceiling fans. Got ‘em in every bedroom in my condo in Boca. It’s got that Bogie Casablanca feel. Saves on the A/C too. Yeah, but you don’t seem the electrical wizard type.

Ernst Klondike IV: Well, no, but that’s the beauty. I learn it from a master, put it on paper and the reader learns just like I did. That way, I don’t have to worry about forgetting steps since I don't know anything about it.

Publisher: Hmmm, self-help, self-learning. Not bad, could work. So you getting a construction job or something?

Ernst Klondike IV: No, I’ve got it all set. I know a guy who builds houses. I’ll do some jobs with him. He won’t mind, and he’ll show me the ropes.

Publisher: Well, I ain’t got no money for him…

Ernst Klondike IV: It’s fine. He owes me. And he’s a talker.

Publisher: We’ll have to do something about your name too. A pseudonym. No one would read a construction book with your name on it. We need something manly like Stan. Hmmm, yeah, Stan Hammer. Alright, get started!

The Status Meeting
(3 months later, over the phone, Publisher in his office, Ernst in a bar)

Publisher: So how’s that electrical manual coming along?

Ernst Klondike IV: Glad you called. Going great. Should be done in another few weeks. I’ve got let’s see, eight, no, twelve chapters.

Publisher: Yeah? Read me some.

Ernst Klondike IV: (putting down a martini) Uh, don’t have it with me. I’m on location doing a job.

Publisher: What kind of show and tell you got in there?

Ernst Klondike IV: Well like I said, installing doorbells, ceiling fans, uh trash compactors and electrical garage doors. And a safety chapter. Yeah, always wear goggles.

Publisher: That’s good. So you done some jobs and whatnot, with that guy?

Ernst Klondike IV: Yeah, we’re doing a job.

Publisher: Just one?

Ernst Klondike IV: Well, it’s a club.

Publisher: Oh like the CBGBs or the Classic Cat?

Ernst Klondike IV: Clubhouse might be a better term.

Publisher: Sweet. Golf course. Like Shinnecock?

Ernst Klondike IV: Kid’s club house, actually. It’s for his five-year-old daughter. We’re building it in his backyard.

Publisher: Oh.

Ernst Klondike IV: But we’re running electrical out to it. It’s gonna be really nice with a doorbell and everything. Electricity works the same if it’s in a big house or an outhouse. You still got your AC and your DC and they like cross paths and stuff lights up. You guys do have fact checkers right?

Publisher: Not on staff. We do have lawyers.

Ernst Klondike IV: Good, good, that’ll work. Hey, I gotta go. I’ll invite you out to the open house.

At the Open House

Ernst Klondike IV (pushes doorbell button on tiny dilapidated kids clubhouse barely standing): Ding-Dong.

Publisher: Did you just say Ding-Dong?

Ernst Klondike IV: Yeah, but it’s a real doorbell. We just didn’t activate it.

Child (opens door from inside): Hello, come in.

They duck their heads and enter the tiny room where 3 more children sit around a table with a giant flashlight on it.

Publisher: So this is it? Your friend the contractor built this?

Ernst Klondike IV: Yeah, got spare lumber and stuff from one of his jobs. Anyway, you can see the wire from the doorbell going behind that wall there. That’s where we would’ve attached the electricity.

Publisher: So there’s no electrical?

Ernst Klondike IV: He decided it was too expensive. But they’ve got that flashlight. That was my idea. It uses a battery so it’s actually electrical. I describe that in the book.

Publisher: You just a wrote a book on electrical work without doing any electrical work?

Ernst Klondike IV: Yeah, thanks. It was really hard.

Publisher: Did your friend look at the book, make sure everything’s kosher?

Ernst Klondike IV: Oh yeah. He looked at every single diagram. He can’t read though.

Publisher: Ah, people like pictures better anyway.

Ernst Klondike IV: Anyway, I’ve been thinking about my next project. College textbooks.

Publisher: Hmmm, expensive, trapped audience, forced guaranteed flat sales. I like it.

Ernst Klondike IV: So my son’s got this “Operation” game which I’ve gotten pretty good at. I’m thinking maybe a brain surgery textbook.

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