A Big Thank You to All of the YouTube Instructors Out There

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Pete LaBate

“Dad, I noticed a water spot on the ceiling in the kitchen, just above the sink.”

“Dad, Barbara wants me to remove our old thermostat and install a new, programmable thermostat.”

“Dad, Katrina just bought a place of her own, and the garbage disposal is not working.”

In the past, prior to my dad’s passing at age 89, I would go to him with these problems. After all, Pete LaBate had worked for almost 40 years as a professional plumber/steamfitter, and during those years, he also learned how to do the work of a carpenter, an electrician, a mason, a roofer, and just about any other profession connected to house maintenance and repair. Dad’s been gone for over three years now, and, obviously, I miss him and Mom and their presence in our lives. Fortunately, I have learned to rely on YouTube to fill that informational void that Dad’s passing created.

During the years after my wife, Barbara, and I purchased our townhouse, Dad helped us do all of the following: install track lighting in the living room and a ceiling fan in the dining room, renovate the basement for a play area for our two daughters and an office for me, add computer wiring throughout the house, and install new flooring in the dining room and living room. Then, even when Dad reached the point when he couldn’t do any of the actual labor, he supervised me and my brother-in-law Ed as we installed a new bathtub.

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During the first year after Dad passed, I was reluctant to take on any new tasks. I wasn’t sure I could do anything without him, and I didn’t have anyone else in my life with his extensive amount of wisdom and experience. When that water spot appeared over the kitchen sink, though, I knew I couldn’t ignore it. That’s when I called on YouTube.

Previously, I had viewed YouTube mostly for entertainment: sports highlights, movie previews, and music videos. I knew YouTube also offered lots of how-to instruction, and I knew I needed assistance. Though Dad had shown me quite a few things through the years, I still didn’t trust myself to go it alone. YouTube definitely helped.

Before I tried to fix the upstairs toilet that had caused the water spot in the first-floor ceiling, I watched five or six videos on how to remove the toilet and replace the wax seal underneath. Amazingly, all of the instructors were helpful and encouraging, breaking the task down into simple, easy steps: turn off the water, drain the toilet, unhook the water supply hose, remove the bolts, move the toilet, scrape away the old seal, install the new seal, and put everything back in reverse order.

“I can do this, I think,” I said to myself, and sure enough, I successfully completely the task, though it took me much longer than my new friends suggested, most likely because I lack the confidence to do things quickly, and I overthink everything.

Feeling rather confident, I soon tackled the programmable thermostat. I watched twice as many videos for this task because I fear electricity more than I fear water. After all, a plumbing error will only make a mess, but an electrical error could kill me.

Naturally, I disconnected the power before I began, and, then, I followed the advice of one particular expert who advised me to take a picture of all the wires beforehand, so I would know exactly how to put them all back together in the new device.

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Again, the experts told me I should be able to complete the changeover rather quickly, but, again, I needed much more time. The colored wires on my old thermostat didn’t match what I saw in the modern videos, so I had to watch even more videos and look at the accompanying letter guides to figure out my plan of action. Eventually, I deciphered this Rosetta Stone, reattached all the wires, and everything works perfectly. I was so impressed with myself, I thought I could do anything, so I told Katrina I’d take a look at her garbage disposal.

The first YouTube video on that subject, though, frightened me back into my shell. When I realized that replacing a garbage disposal involves both plumbing and electricity, I didn’t think I could do it. The procedure looked like double trouble to me. Having already told Katrina that I was willing to give it the old college try, though, I couldn’t back down. So back to YouTube I went, and I watched about eight hours of videos over three days, and I took four pages of notes. Eventually, I began to trust my new instructors who convinced me that the task was doable. Unfortunately, I needed three evenings after work to complete the chore: one evening to remove the old, stubborn disposal; one evening to install the new one; and one evening to repair the plumbing leak that I created in the process.

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Wikipedia Commons

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. I could have saved both time and money by hiring a professional, but where’s the challenge there? Anybody can make a phone call and write a check.

Instead, I had asked myself, “What would Dad do?” And what would Dad do? He’d probably ask one of his blue-collar buddies for advice and, then, he’d tackle the job. In my situation, I am essentially doing the same thing, but now, I get most of my advice from a wonderful army of talented and generous souls who are so willing to offer their expertise and their hard-earned wisdom. So to all of the YouTube instructors out there, I offer a sincere and heartfelt thank you. Dad would be so proud of us all.

Written by

Jim LaBate works as a writing specialist in The Writing Center at Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) in Troy, New York.

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