“The only tool in my toolbox is my checkbook.”
While I’m not the person who said that first, I’ve adopted the line as my own. It’s not literally true, of course. I do have a toolbox. We keep it stored behind the door that leads into a small storage area behind the furnace. Sometimes I have to move a chair to get to it. Because the area has no light, I have to get a flashlight in order to see what is in the toolbox. No checkbook, but rather a tame assortment of screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers, plus about a half-dozen items whose name and use I don’t know, but they look too important to throw away.
Not that I’m complaining. If I had a fully equipped toolbox, or perhaps a workbench with all the manly tools hung against their silhouettes on a pegboard, then I might be expected to use them. Several years ago I attempted to fix a drippy kitchen faucet by taking the top assembly apart, staring at it, rinsing off the washers and whatever else I could find in there, and then carefully putting it back together. It still dripped, to no one’s surprise, so I tightened everything, and then tightened it all a bit more.
The next day Kim called a plumber. Fortunately, I was not home when he arrived, but he advised her, “Tell your husband to stay away from the plumbing.” I have taken his advice, after a brief but unconvincing performance of being offended. The plumber was able to undo what I had damaged but cautioned us that an expensive replacement was at hand, so we took the next logical step. We sold the house.
My pipe wrench remains in my toolbox except when I need to open a stubborn jar.
Kim has several toolboxes. She has at least two holding her various arts and crafts supplies, and she has this uncanny knack of using the right tool for the right job. None of her tools is bent, and I am told to stay away from them. She also has a tool drawer in the cabinet that stands in the basement, a beautiful piece with drawer pulls made of deer antlers. Kim’s dad made it when he was about 15 – the age when I was struggling to open Band-Aid envelopes by pulling the red thread down the side. I used some tools from her tool drawer once, but I won’t do it again.
Kim and I have one of those progressive, stereotype-breaking marriages. One stereotype we break is the one that says that guys are better at fixing things. When we first got married I figured that one of the special talents I brought to our union was painting, especially painting ceilings and the high areas of walls because I am tall. Apparently my physical height is not a sufficient qualification. After about a half hour of painting walls in our new house, Kim assigned me to paint the inside of a bedroom closet. More specifically, it was the wall of the closet that you can only see when you are standing inside of the closet looking out through the door. I’d gotten most of the primer on when I needed to go on a series of errands – for sandpaper, for sticks to stir the paint, for soft drinks. You get the picture. In our kitchen pantry I painted the bottom side of the lowest shelves – the area you see if you are an ant or a spilled Cheerio.
One of the many benefits to having a toolbox like mine occurs when I’m sitting in an airport or even stuck on the tarmac, my flight delayed because of some mechanical problem, one which, thankfully, I am not expected to fix. While other passengers may fret and complain, I simply open my toolbox and take out the long novel I’ve brought for just such an emergency.