Tool Time

tool timeThe message comes at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night.

Collin: Are you free tomorrow evening?

I pause. Are you free? Can mean lots of things. Of course, it can mean “Do you want to get a drink” or “Let me buy you dinner for being awesome.” However, it can also mean “Can you help me remove a wasp nest?” or “I need help dumping a very heavy sack in the river. No questions asked.”

Also, it’s 9 p.m. on a Tuesday, and almost no good messages come at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday.

Could you give me a hand with something?

With what?

I need to put something together.

Put something together? I look around me. I’m lounging on the couch, utilizing all three pillows. A cat is sleeping on my back, I have a warm glass of milk, and I am wearing a floral-printed Yukata. I don’t exactly feel like a “put something together” kind of guy. But then I remember that Collin has spent his summer feeding and cleaning up the poop of my cat, the B Monster. I relent.

Sure, I’ll see you at 6.

It’s a bed frame, or it should be. I throw down my briefcase, wipe off my glasses, and walk around it slowly, taking it all in. I don’t know why I’m doing this, other than it just seems like the thing to do. A dormant instinct overtakes my otherwise non-DIY personality. It’s the same instinct which has me open hoods of broken down cars to scan the interior, the contents of which so foreign to me that they might as well be a PhD thesis on string theory written in spaghetti.

I nod and rub my chin as Collin explains what needs to happen. He picks up a power drill. It’s old and dirty and chipped and greasy. An involuntary buzz runs down my spine as the drill’s whine fills the room. It feels perfect in my hands, a tool, a stocky conglomeration of metal and electricity whose misuse can destroy one of my fingers. I grunt as it clashes and grinds the metal. Soon there are screws and wrenches and nuts and bolts on the floor, ignored safety precautions rampant.

For a short while our talk becomes that of manual task, of building something, of logistical problem solving. There is sweat and curses sans embarrassment. We are building something, sweat and curses come with the territory. We enter a euphoric passage of tools and work.

It’s tool time.

A question: why does this excite me? Surely there is some inborn masculine instinct being served here. The instinct to build something: a house, barn, plough, solid pine bed frame and loft. This was essentially lacking from my childhood. My father did sometimes ask me to help him with a household project, but my father’s definition of “help” had three parts. It meant “Don’t say anything,” “Don’t touch anything,” and “Stand in the corner and watch me weave a tapestry of vulgarity that could have a Norton Anthology.”

I was never allowed to get my hands dirty and so this aspect has not been a terribly large part of my life. However, when I am given the opportunity to work with my hands, I thoroughly enjoy it. There’s a task, a thing which must be fully and physically completed and afterwards there is that sense of pride. I made that. I fixed that. Then there is beer and talk about women and trucks. Or maybe a stalk in the park to bludgeon something for dinner, like a small dog or a pigeon.

Today, as we finish the bed frame, there is that moment of completion and success. Collin suggests a drink. Yes, we have earned it. My sore hands and sweaty armpits are badges of work. I drink red wine instead of beer and we talk of linguistics instead of trucks. Still, tool time was nice while it lasted. Maybe I’ll go home and build a hutch for my Japanese robes.

I’ll need to borrow the drill.

  1. No comments yet.
(will not be published)