As I recently attempted to unscrew the top off a disco ball with a butter knife, it occurred to me how so many of us use the wrong tools on a regular basis either out of laziness, impatience or unavailability. I probably had a flathead screwdriver somewhere in the bowels of the utility closet, but why bother to look for it when I had a perfectly good utensil usually reserved for cutting carrots in two? After wrestling with my relic from the days of Studio 54 for about ten minutes without much success, I finally gave it up and made the effort to find the screwdriver. It’s amazing what a difference it made. Imagine – using a screwdriver to remove screws! I reeled at the logic.
There have been so many occasions like the above example where I have substituted everyday items for the correct tools with varying degrees of success. I am presently enjoying the rare privilege (for me) of having a full kit of everything necessary to change a tyre on my mammoth SUV, but it was not so long ago that I suffered a flat on a previous vehicle and found myself scrambling to locate a jack and wrench capable of doing the job. I first grabbed a jack from a friend’s car, and after lying on the ground long enough for the gravel to really penetrate my skin, I realized that not all jacks are alike. Designed to lift an automobile with small tyres, even at full stretch it was barely reaching the jacking point. Screams of frustration and two cans of Fix-a-Flat later I resolved to a) Invest in the proper kit; and b) Buy knee pads for future similar endeavours.
When my friend Lynne and I treated ourselves to a voyage on the QEII in the year 2000, we bought a number of bottles of wine to take on board. There are many restrictions these days on the amount of alcohol one can take on a cruise (obviously the ships want to make their money) but back then they didn’t seem to mind so much. We figured we’d save a fortune with our savvy BYOB attitudes. Unfortunately we were so busy with the BYOB that we forgot the vitally important BYOC (Bring Your Own Corkscrew) part of the plan. There we sat on our single beds facing each other with the bottle between us, trying to devise a way to uncork it. Room service was either unable or unwilling to produce the implement, so it was left to us to MacGyver it. We had a relatively sharp knife in our box of tricks. The art of delicate prising quickly descended into savage hacking motions as bits of cork launched into the air only to disappear in the nooks and crannies of the cabin. As it looked like we were about to push through, the trick was to prevent the sorry-looking remnants from dropping into the bottle. Alas we were unsuccessful, and with a gentle “plop” the largest chunk hit the wine and began merrily bobbing about. The first pour revealed a glass that was 90% liquid and 10% cork. Back into the bottle it went, and we ended up filtering the substance through napkins. Two cheap passengers resolved that night to join the rest of the travelers in the public areas instead of hunkering over a bottle of wine stabbing at the top like a couple of crazy people.
Never much of a cook (as we have established over several of my columns) I have therefore kept staple kitchen measuring cups and spoons to a minimum. Why waste good money on such frivolous things when I can guess and approximate? I have hence created fudge that would demolish the strongest of teeth, and bread so mushy that it instantly took the shape of the toaster into which it was shoved, never to be seen again in one piece. Then there was that sauce that was so overpoweringly dominated by vinegar that it made eyes water, or the cake that not so much rose as dived. It took a while for me to grudgingly admit that perhaps there was something in the whole correct measuring myth, and now my skills although not award-winning have at least begun to create palatable dishes. As a final note on the kitchen front, who has ever tried to eat ice cream with a fork? It was all I easily had on hand at a hotel one night, and not being bothered enough to call the front desk for a spoon, I gave it a whirl. I’ll give you some advice – if you’re going to try this advanced Karate Kid-type test of the reflexes, be prepared to get that forkful of Ben and Jerry’s up to your mouth PDQ or you’ll be slipping in the melted Cherry Garcia that just fell through the tines onto your nice clean floor.
Many of you know about the sailboat I acquired at the end of 2008. I may also have gone on at length about the fact that we had to change out the battery about every two weeks lest the bilge fill up and my beloved Xanax join the fleet of Davy Jones. For months I used substandard wrenches to loosen the awkwardly positioned nuts around the terminals as I crouched in a tiny area, purple face completely exposed to the sun. It was a thankless job made far more miserable by what I thought were my only wrench options. Thankfully my dear brother Dominic finally took a stand and purchased a simple little item that made the task nearly effortless. Maybe it was my open weeping that pushed him over the edge. I then subsequently bought a solar trickle charger that has made maintenance almost unnecessary. Harnessing the sun’s energy to charge a battery? That’s jes’ crazy talk!!! So slap a jester hat on me and call me crazy – I’m on board baby!
I don’t know that I’ll ever change my ways altogether, yet I have to say that it takes so much less work to get a job done when you have the right tools for that job. A screwdriver may cost a bit more than a butter knife, but if you have to put a price on your time, you’ll be saving money in the long run. Full disclosure: I may be using super glue tonight to “temporarily” fix a metal part of my BBQ. Baby steps my friends, baby steps…