ALL BANGED UP

GUYS INVARIABLY come to a point where imagination exceeds ability, and that's almost always the point at which a man will stand back, rub his scrubby,
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ALL BANGED UP

Apr 1, 2002 12:00 PM, By Ed Ditto

▪ GUYS INVARIABLY come to a point where imagination exceeds ability, and that's almost always the point at which a man will stand back, rub his scrubby, square chin and think: “You know, if I just had an inch-and-a-quarter socket and a three-foot cheater bar, I bet I could get enough leverage to break that sucker loose from there.”

The controlled and constructive use of force — the properly directed application of precise amounts of energy — is something that will hypnotize a man like a snake hypnotizes a bird. Men are primed with this instinctive fascination with deadly fun. Tools are deadly fun — make no mistake about it.

Back when I used to run medical calls for a volunteer department, I would have to clean up after the tool fools who managed to carve giant round swirls across their thighs with routers, blast roofing nails through their kneecaps with compressed air guns, or mow over their own feet. One of my best friends almost wrecked his golf game because he ran a circular saw across his thumb while glancing at his watch. The specialist who put him back together misconnected some of those spaghetti-like tendon ends. (The specialist, also a tool fool, was distracted by his new set of color-coded surgical clamps and labeled them incorrectly.)

Not too long ago, while replacing rotted support beams in the rear deck of my house, I dropped a hammer on my face. That may sound funny, and it is in hindsight, but at the time I was stiff from the cold and was trying to move a stepladder out of my way. Apparently the hammer had been waiting to pounce on someone from the top step. It fell (at 32 feet per second squared) about four feet, turned over once, and whacked me on the bridge of the nose, right between the eyes. I winced and squinched my face up tight. One of my friends looked over and asked me if I was OK. I gasped, “yes,” both a feat and a lie.

Earlier I was organizing the garage, which, by the way, is the epitome of manly work. The garage is, or should be, where the tools live. When a guy gets up to worship on a Sunday morning, God's house is just down the hallway and out the kitchen door. I like cordless tools, but because I have pieced my collection together over the last ten years, I haven't been loyal to one brand. That means that I have a half-dozen battery chargers of assorted shapes and sizes, which is clearly a problem in a well-kept garage. So I devised a clever vertical shelving system next to an electrical outlet. I was screwing this nifty homebrewed thing together when one charger — a big, 18V beast — vibrated off its shelf and, you guessed it, fell (at 32 feet per second squared) about four feet, turned over once, and whacked me on the bridge of the nose, right between the eyes.

I would never smash a nice tool in a fit of rage. Being all banged up is what makes a man a man. Somehow this whole work ethic implies that only suffering brings redemption, and it takes visible, tangible accomplishment to make a man feel worthwhile. It makes sense to me to theorize that women beat themselves up with emotions, and men beat themselves up with blunt objects. The difference between “a good cry” and “a good socket set” isn't all that much, if you take each thing at its fundamental level. I guess religion works here, too. We don't bleed from the palms much anymore, but I could walk out to my garage and free-carve a plaque of Jesus high-fiving Elvis with my router in about 20 minutes. If I routed a groove across the ham of my hand in the process, well, I'd deserve it.

Ed Ditto is a weekend warrior in Boston. Send comments and feedback to gratefuled@rcn.com.

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