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Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2002
I had little trouble relating to a recent entry from Weetabix bemoaning the state of affairs as regards her toilet seat. The underlying reason for her troubles could be traced to a lack of proper tooling at the time. Which I can very much sympathize with.

Oh it’s not that I don’t have tools. Corporate Outfoxed can at any given moment lay hands on a selection of hand tools to rival that of your average Home Depot and then some. Trouble is, they're all somewhere else, someplace other than at my house. Stashed in the big box truck, shelved in the shop. Never quite close at hand when home repairs come knocking.

My son is to blame.

Ben is happiest when faced with a brand new bicycle or lawnmower or other device having exposed nuts and bolts, screws, tires, flanges. If there is something which has yet to be disassembled, his joy is made manifest in the immediate quest for take-apart-and-see-what-happens. At any given moment, a bike frame, minus all accoutrements which might actually allow propulsion of same, may be found perched precariously on its’ seat on the floor of my garage. Because it is not enough that the bike be modified by my son. The bike must be stripped naked in order to better understand the inner workings of parts which are best left alone.

And if that calls for the gathering of many wrenches and implements to better help him along, so much the better. The trouble begins when the gathering isn’t followed by the returning.

Actual call from my wife, the other day:

Ally: “Hey, I need a big screwdriver. I’m fixing the toilet.”

Now, I know better than to inquire if she has looked in the toolbox I bought her a couple of years ago. The one specifically set aside for times like these. The one I personally stocked with stuff like big screwdrivers and a hammer small enough for her hands and wrenches that would adjust so she wouldn’t have to seek a fixed sized wrench with the stamped sized on the side. I put a lot of thought into that toolbox. Even bought a box with a cord on the side so I wouldn’t have to hear about the lack of electrical connectivity. Creative, I was. And Ben got a toolbox for Christmas years ago, which has a sort of ebb and flow thing going on, depending on how many tools I actually purchase for myself.

Outfoxed: “Have you checked the fourth drawer of my tool chest?”
Ally: “Empty. Next?”
OF: “Ben’s toolbox?”
Ally: “You’re kidding me, right?”
OF: “Floor of the garage?”
Ally: “That was the first place I looked. Nada.”
OF: “Then it must be in the Ben zone.”

Now I know for a fact that there are a half dozen large screwdrivers in the big box truck. Which happened to be in Stu’s driveway at the time, a mile away. Locked, with a special padlock on the rear door called a Cobra Lock. Stu and I put it on there to deter thievery, the very sight of this beast of a case-hardened lock is enough to deter any burglar. Just as importantly, it’s more than enough to deter friends and family.

OF: “Gee, I don’t know what else to suggest, honey. Run up to the hardware store and buy one, I guess. Put it in your toolbox when you’re done.”
Ally: “What, like that’s gonna keep it safe?”

She said this with a snort of derision that spoke volumes for my son’s kleptomania.

At random times I’ve gone through my rehearsed diatribe, complete with impassioned gestures, about the state of tools and the sanctity of the home and the need for “Just a little bit of common courtesy” with my son. Threats to lock up every tool in a vault and loan them out only under supervised conditions. Of course, if I supervised what Ben did, he probably wouldn’t be doing it in the first place. “Why son? Why are you taking apart that bicycle? If there’s nothing wrong with it, for pity’s sake leave it alone!”

Truth is, I’m scared to round up all the misplaced stuff. For one thing, it would shock me to find out just how much is really missing. I’d be down at Sears with my American Excess card, burrowing through the Tool Department with a shopping cart and a gleeful salesman in my wake for hours afterward.

Then I’d come home and put them all away and await the inevitable. The gradual levitation of wrenches and screwdrivers, moving stealthily toward the black hole which is my garage floor.

Last night, I had an inkling that the tide may be turning.

Maggie jerked open the front storm door and the knob sorta fell off. It wasn’t broken, a close inspection revealed that a little allen screw had worked its’ way loose. Simple to fix. Replace knob, tighten allen screw, all would be well. I almost instinctively reached for the pocket of my toolbelt which houses the allen wrenches before remembering that I was off duty and the toolbelt was in the big box truck. Locked up. Heh.

But a light bulb went off.

“Hey Ben, you got any allen wrenches in your tool box?”

“Sure, sure I do. Be right back.” He was eager to help, almost giddy that for once I was the one asking him for a tool. He rummaged in his box for a while and brought back two allen wrenches, both of which were way too big. So I asked him (I had to ask, the set-up for this punchline was too obvious) “Gee. I know I bought you a full set of allen wrenches. Whatever happened to them?”

He frowned over this, brow furrowed in concentration. “You know what? I think my friend Tony borrowed them last time we were working on our bikes out in the garage. And he never brought them back.” He said this with all the amazement a fifteen-year-old can muster. Irony and fifteen-year-olds being what they are, I just whistled a happy tune and gently shut the storm door, with the knob hanging listlessly and unfunctional.

My revenge is sweet, even if it does take a long time to get here.

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