I bought a tool last week.
For some people this is a wholly unremarkable event, on par with eating breakfast or getting dressed. There are people – mostly, though not exclusively, guys – who don’t consider a week complete without the acquisition of some implement of construction, destruction, or alteration. These are the people who keep the hardware stores in business.
I am not one of those people.
To the best of my knowledge, this may be the first time in my entire life that I have actually gone out and intentionally purchased a tool of any kind without being commanded to do so by someone else. The hardware stores do not get rich off of my patronage.
At least not for tools.
I have bought more than my fair city-dwelling share of chicken and turkey food in the last few years. I’ve bought rabbit pellets and car batteries and various grades of ropes, clips, and fasteners, as well as any number of small mechanical items that my ancestors probably lived just fine without. But never tools. Not on my own initiative, anyway.
For most of my life I had a fairly limited number of tools.
One was my Swiss army knife – a necessity backstage and something that can be substituted for almost anything in a pinch, especially the older models that came with a corkscrew. I put together quite a few things with that, and took apart a few others. It’s handy that way. I've had about half a dozen of these things since the first one I bought. One I carry with me at all times. The others I have mostly donated to the TSA over the years, though at least one was stolen from a gym locker when I was in 11th grade. I remember marching up to the assistant principal in high dudgeon demanding satisfaction for my missing knife. He patiently filled out the forms, and nothing more came of it. I imagine I'd be arrested on the spot for that today. Times change.
Another was my crescent wrench – also useful backstage. I actually got that backstage, come to think of it. There were about eight or nine student drama groups where I went to college and one of them spent some money on 8” adjustable crescent wrenches which the lighting designer handed out to those who had served well. I still have it, complete with the tie-line that kept it from falling on the heads of troublesome actors from the catwalk.
There was, in addition, a small box of tools that the firehouse gave out as a door prize one Christmas back when I was in eighth grade or so. They’re adorable, really – a tiny little hammer, a screwdriver handle that can be fitted with everything from a Philips-head to an awl, a box cutter, and so on. They came in a little leatherette box about the size of a carton of cigarettes and you could stuff the whole thing in a desk drawer, where they sat for decades.
I have also acquired a complete set of Allen wrenches from IKEA, because that’s how it is to set up a household in 21st-century America.
And that was it.
Then I got married. Kim is the tool person in our house. She likes tools, enjoys household projects, and generally sees hardware stores as desirable places to be (in stark contrast with myself – I tend to see them as punishment for some mid-range sin I have committed and only wish I could remember better). I may be the only husband in America who gave his wife a power tool for her birthday and didn’t spend the night on the couch.
But we had a friend who is a tree guy come over last month to get rid of the brush pile behind our garage, after two decades of accumulation, and when the tree branch fell down a couple of weeks ago it just didn’t seem right to start a new brush pile. Nor do we have any decent handsaws. We do have a couple of power saws that are a crashing nuisance to set up as far as I am concerned and which I avoid if at all possible. But the handsaws we had were mostly good for exercise and, really – this was a single tree branch about as thick as a historian’s forearm. Hauling out the power tools seemed kind of overkill.
So I went to the local Giant Hardware Store and bought a saw.
It is a nice saw. It cuts things when you use it, which is what a saw should do.
And now we no longer have a tree branch. We have firewood.
I will never be a construction guy. But now I have a saw.