Issue 21

Pneumatic Evangelism


                Rebecca is the power tool user in the family.  This year on our anniversary she said, “Didn’t you know that the 7th anniversary is the pneumatic tool anniversary?”  I wonder who came up with that whole list of gifts in the first place.  I know there’s diamonds at 50, and paper and clocks somewhere else, but there seem to be an inordinate number of tools fairly early on the list.  According to Rebecca, drills celebrate the second anniversary, chop saws the third, fourth is shop vac, fifth Dremel, and last year we commemorated our union with a chainsaw.

                My aversion to power tools goes back to my days as a child when I watched my father spend every weekend of his life working on the house.  I wondered when he ever took any time to enjoy himself.  First he worked all week at his job and then my mother and he would plan and work on the house all weekend long.  I made sure to disappear early on any day I saw the hedge cutters come out (FYI: the electric hedge cutters are anniversary nine).

                I really like to play and don’t really like to work.  Admittedly, there is a fine distinction that can be drawn between these two states of being: play is something I chose to do and work is something I have to do.  The same action, such as cleaning out the van, can be both play if I’m cleaning it out for a camping trip or work if Rebecca has simply gotten tired of driving in a mess.  Rebecca always tries to enlist my help with home improvement, but if I can’t have fun doing it, then I don’t want to talk about it on my Saturday. 

                Recently, Rebecca just started into jobs without me.  I’ll sit in another part of the house reading while I hear her ripping out a wall in the bathroom or cutting tile to lay in the kitchen.  There’s just something about the buzz of power tools that’s like the call of the mythical siren.  I sneak down the stairs and spy in on Rebecca as she wields a Skil saw.  That look in her eye, the one of pure satisfaction as she splits a piece of wood in two, it intrigues me.  I suspect a trap, but then again, maybe she is, dare I think it, having fun?  Suddenly I see my entire childhood again, with my father standing at the top of a sixteen-foot ladder for more hours than he’ll sleep that day, and I realize that it never occurred to me that he just might be enjoying himself.

                I finally decided to give the power tools a chance this Christmas.  Our tree is a special one my parents made over twenty years out of pine cones and chicken wire.  Rebecca and I decorated it for our first Christmas together, back in those newlywed days when we only put ornaments and lights on the front of the tree because we didn’t have enough to cover the backside too.  The tree is beautiful, but like all beautiful things, it collects dust.  Have you ever tried to dust a pine cone, never mind several hundred?  A little nervously I said to Rebecca, “Let’s try the air compressor.”  Rebecca stood stunned for a moment, then answered quickly, “That’s a great idea.”

                Air compressor, hose, and a hand nozzle that fit perfectly in the palm of my hand.  From the first squeeze I knew I was hooked.  It was like using an airbrush, blowing color onto the gray pine cone tree.  I blinked and three hours went by.  “I think you’ve cleaned it,” said Rebecca.  Maybe, but I wasn’t ready to give up this newfound thrill just yet.  “The front porch is a mess,” I said as I blew dust and pine cone chips out into the street.  I could not believe what a good time I was having.  I’ll never look at those gardeners using leaf blowers in the same light ever again.

                Suddenly the spark hit: who needs a vacuum anymore?  I’d just have to be careful not to knock stone sculptures off of shelves with my blasts of air, but I could vacuum and dust a house if it were like this.  I think of breaking out Rebecca’s welding equipment and building special attachments for all kinds of household tasks.  And who wants to drag the compressor everywhere?  I’ll just run hoses underneath the house and put in connectors next to every electrical outlet.

                I admit it.  I’m hooked.  And instead of bemoaning all of the years that I’ve missed out on, I’ve decided to make up for lost time by playing all weekend long with the pneumatic nail gun.  And I can’t wait for my anniversary next year.

                I hear it’s the table saw anniversary.


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