Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Pole

It’s just a wooden closet rod. It connects between the ends of the closet and when installed, one can hang clothing on it. When you buy one of these at Home Depot, they come in standard lengths and it is expected that you will cut it down to the correct length.

I am handy around the house. I can vacuum with panache, empty the dishwasher in a flash, grudgingly wash and dry clothes, build a fence, repair plumbing, and use my handy electric saw to precisely saw wood to the correct length. Actually, I am very good at writing about building fences, repairing sink drains and sawing wood. But actually doing it – well it never comes out exactly as I carefully planned it. I can measure five times, and I will still cut the stupid wood to the wrong length. It’s not that I avoid these tasks…okay these days, I do. In fact my wife now encourages me to avoid these tasks.

My heart is there. I feel like I can do it. I am confident that I can do it. But I have learned over the years that I don’t have that mysterious ‘flair’ that fine, mediocre, or even so-so craftsmen have. They approach a massive project with a ‘no big deal’ attitude and somehow slap it together with seemingly paying little attention to precise measurement or concise determination of angle. They have a vision of the finished product and they take the small steps required to achieve their goal.

And that is my plan. I too have a vision. I can see that closet pole sitting pristinely in the closet. I can see that when a shirt is hung on the pole, it doesn’t collapse to the floor. I know what has to be done. I have the vision.

My wife gently suggests that we just let George do it. She knows that he will have finished this project in ten minutes, of which eight minutes constitutes digging out and plugging in the saw.

George is my stepson, and I know how he would do it. He will take the tape measure and determine that the length is around 68” – for some reason precision isn’t called for – and measure off the pole and whack off the end of the pole, all the while talking and joking and sipping coffee, and will then single-handily slip into those holey things at each end of the closet. And it will be perfect.

Now I know the measurement is exactly sixty-eight and three-eighths inches. I measured three times. Maybe I need to measure again. Those little marks on the tape are kinda’ small.

Do I wish that I was born with a carpenter/plumber/handyman acumen? Well yes, sometimes – especially with that wooden pole stretched out on the hallway floor mocking me. But would I have to subtract something in me to get that? Are we graced with only so many talents that I would have to discard something else? I’m not sure I would want the trade-off.

I think I am kidding myself…furnishing a not-too-brilliant excuse.

It is all in the attitude. If you plant a seed of poison ivy, and you fertilize and water it, the damn thing will flourish majestically. So the trick is to plants seeds of cool plants, not bad plants. I think that somewhere in my pea brain I planted a seed of doubt and fear of fixing things with my hands. And all I have done since is watered that seed with assumptions that ‘I can’t do it’ and fertilized it with ‘See I told you so’ every time the least little thing goes wrong. It’s just a matter of attitude and confidence and control.

I’ll show that stupid pole who is in control! I am the master. It’s a silly little project. No big deal. There is no way that the pole will not fit perfectly in the closet.

One more cup of coffee. I’ll do it within the next hour. The next two hours. One more measurement. It could be sixty-eight and three-sixteenths inches. Those little marks are pretty small.


  1. Oh, I know exactly how you feel, my friend! I'm the same way about cooking...just don't seem to "feel" it...that natural instinct that both my sisters seem to have been born with.

    Sometimes, I cop the attitude of "If you believe it, you will become it." I practice this complex method with cutting da boys' hair...I figure, "How hard can it be? I've seen plenty of ppl cut other ppl's hair over the years."

    I'm still pretty crappy at it...but it grows so fast...and I AM getting better. In another 10 years, I'll be MAGNIFICENT!

    So will you!

  2. You've a great talent with your writing, which, not every one has and wished they did. Bottom line is....don't sweat the small things.

    Layla of L.A.

  3. This blog has expressed its meaning in a very short but clear way, so succinct.
    air rifle range