Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Esprit d'Internet

“Don’t hire people – buy tools,” a friend said to me recently. I’m writing on the train right now, about two weeks later, and the perfect response just came to me. You might want to get comfortable for this, maybe grab a glass of your favorite beverage. Ready? Here it is.

“Tools don’t install baseboard moldings, people install baseboard moldings.”

Whoa! Sorry about that – I’ll give you a minute to clean the Ovaltine and snot off your keyboard and let you blow your nose. Better? Good. Now, you see why that was so funny? Because it works on two levels. First, it’s true. And second, it cleverly references that NRA gun commercial, the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people with guns” thing. Or whatever they say to sell all those guns.

All I’m saying is, I shouldn’t be around tools.

I’ve got a truckload of respect for the plumb line and the level and the miter box and the router and the saws (crosscut, rip, table, jig, hack), the hammers (pneumatic and manual), tape measures, pliers, wrenches, drivers, prybars, caulks, adhesives, paints, trowels, vises, shims, screws, nails, nuts, bolts and chisels that make a man a man. Hell, you know that. My problem is that I misplaced the tube of sticktuitiveness I was using to finish the soap-dispenser installation project, and without that I can’t even think of starting on the baseboard thing. Sure, I’ll a run a marathon, but that’s because there’s food at the end. Fixing stuff? Nah. Wrong guy. If I had been with Dorothy and we found the Tin Man, he would have died.

This is especially difficult to admit in my town, where the fifty percent of men who are not contractors are, in fact, also contractors. Our neighbor very kindly gave us a swing set his boys had outgrown, but it’s been sitting out there disassembled because the ideal spot for it happens not to be level. I told our generous neighbor that I was planning to shorten the supports on one side and he got very alarmed — even though, you know, it would take a saw, which I thought was quite the burly thing to do.

“No, no, you don’t want to do that,” he said. “You gotta dig down.”

“But it’s bedrock.”

“I gotta pick!” he started toward his Tool Dungeon.

I immediately thought how great it would be to drive a couple hours in a direction away from the pick and the Pick Project. Next thing we knew – woop! – we were on Long Island, studiously not engaged in backbreaking labor of uncertain utility. (Look, I own a pickaxe, too – you can’t really live up here and not have a few tools – I just don’t like using it, especially on my precious, precious bedrock.)

I started this off intending to talk about the baseboards. Or, rather, the bases. There are no “boards” attached presently – we took ’em off when we moved in and got the floors fixed (good people helped us do that – I drove to Home Depot a lot for them) and haven’t yet mustered the will to get new ones (the old ones? crappy).

Which brings me to my next rejoinder, this one to myself: People don’t install baseboard moldings either, if you can’t afford to pay them.

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