Tools; Now Where’s Bob’s Phone Number?
If there is one recurring theme in my column
(and I can assure you there is at least one, since recurring themes can
save a busy writer like me many hours of tedious work, like research or
coming up with new ideas), it would be that I am not real good at fixing
Let’s put this in perspective. I’ve often
admitted that like most guys, I possess the Cool Tool Gene, that inborn
and uniquely male attraction for anything that is metal, makes lots of
noise and has a power cord or a rechargeable battery. And like most
guys, I’ve spent years collecting as many cool tools as I can afford. At
this point I have a saw, two drills and something that looks really
interesting called a “belt sander.”
Now I know that a lot of guys use their tools
to build stuff, or to fix stuff that is broken. I admire this. I do. I
would love to know how to use that belt sander, or at least have some
idea what a belt sander is used for.
The bottom line, though, is that if I need
something built or fixed, even though I may have in my closet the very
tools that would be perfect for the job, I am forced to hire a guy with
“Bob” stitched on the pocket of his coverall to come over and bail me
The instruction manuals that come in the boxes
with the tools are no real help. Instead of any useful information – for
instance, what kind of belts a person might want to sand – what you get
is a series of vaguely oriental-looking silhouette people doing things
like holding the tool while standing in a puddle of water and getting
electrocuted, or jamming their silhouette fingers painfully into the
business end of the tool.
So the question is, where did Bob learn about
using a band saw, beyond keeping his hands out of the blade? I don’t
think he picked it up in good old “shop class” at school. I know I sure
didn’t. In fact, I’m pretty sure most shop classes don’t even go so far
as to cover those instruction manuals. Have you ever met a shop teacher
who had 10 fingers?
It could be that Bob learned how to use tools
from his father. This would explain a lot in my case, since my dad’s
concept of a “screwdriver” pretty much started and ended with vodka and
I don’t know, though. My brother-in-law is a
skilled electrician, one of those guys who could single-handedly build a
four-bedroom bungalow armed with nothing more than a miter saw and a
six-pack, while my father-in-law, rest his soul, was in way over his
head if he had to change the bulb in a table lamp.
Maybe tool knowledge is one of those “genetic
memory” things, like a salmon sensing which stream it’s supposed to swim
up, or a telemarketer sensing the exact instant your first bite of
meatloaf is on the fork. Yes, gazing back through the long evolution of
our species, I can just see Oog in his cave teaching little Oog Jr. how
to use a small rock to bash a bigger rock into the shape of a water
Then there would be my ancestor, Mikk, coming
to the cave door with his checkrock in hand because the genetic memories
would already have passed him by. He would have a cool flint axe and an
obsidian belt sander sitting in the garage, but no idea how he might use
them to add on that rumpus room for Mrs. Mikk. And so he would have
called for someone who could help.
Someone who, of course, would have “Oog”
stitched on the pocket of his saber tooth tiger skin.
Copyright © 2007,
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© 2007 Michael Ball.
Distributed exclusively by North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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