[HOUSE AND HOLMES] Electrickery

Rob Loos, Ledger Columnist

I don’t think there has been an automobile in our garage since the Ford Model A in 1928. Thanks to temperate California weather and our limited basement and attic storage, our garage has become the repository for everything that doesn’t have a place in the house—from holiday decorations to old textbooks to sleeping bags and seasonal clothing.

It’s also sort of nostalgic treasure trove of my “things”—my old typewriter (remember those?) my dad’s Burt Bacharach albums from the 1960’s and my Little Mermaid movie poster signed by Jodi Benson. My wife doesn’t share my affection for this “junk,” seeing the garage as a way station for donations to Goodwill or the nearest dumpster.

A few years ago, we replaced the original wooden “accordion” garage door with a new aluminum model with a center track and a push button remote control. I’ve always liked remote controls. There is something very James Bond-esque about an invisible beam that silently opens a giant door.

But now I’ve got a big problem: our garage door opened, but it won’t close. I magically raised the garage door to put away our suitcases, but now the door won’t come back down.

Being the problem solver that I am, I figured that I would cinch this alone without involving my super-contractor friend Dave. It must be the battery of the remote, right?

I made a trip to the hardware store, spent nearly nine bucks on a new round lithium battery about the size of a quarter, placed it in the remote, and pushed the button. Nothing happened. I flipped the battery over—surely this would solve it. Nope. The door stayed up, exposing all my treasures to 60-degree Los Angeles nighttime frostiness and a crew of hyperactive neighborhood squirrels.

When I called Dave, I found him buying a $20 loaf of sourdough bread at “the world’s best bakery” in Venice for his upcoming fondue party.

I explained my problem and my faulty battery solution. I have to admit that I felt kind of smug; I had left no option unturned.

“Have you checked the electric eye?” asked Dave.

“What’s an electric eye and why would there be one in my garage?” I asked.

Dave explained that most electric garage doors have a beam of light that is a safety device to make sure that the door doesn’t close on a car or a person.

I was still confused and he told me to look on the wall by the bottom of the door. Sure enough, there are two small black rectangular boxes on both sides that were covered with spider webs, leaves and grass clippings.

“Clean them off and push the button and you’re back in business,” said Dave.

Sure enough Dave was right. I cleaned off the debris, which apparently blocked the beam, and the garage door went up and down with ease, which once again goes to prove: “If I can’t figure it out—and I know that I can’t—my friend Dave can.”

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