The Work of My Hands


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Room fan, base installed. Around 10 screws, but I found a screwdriver. Piece of cake.

You are reading the main work of my hands. You may like my words or not, but mainly, I am a writer.

I am not a mechanic, plumber, electrician nor handyman. Yet, I am sometimes called upon to use my hands for tasks that don’t involve knowing what a participle is.

I am sure there is a joy to be found to be able to create “things” with your hands. It’s quintessentially human. What makes us not apes is our big frontal lobes, bipedal gate, opposable thumbs and “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.” So I know there are women and men, craftspeople and artisans and inventors and tinkerers, who remake the world through their clever use of human creativity expressed via their use of hands and tools.

Me? Not so much. My dad was a tinkerer, and several of my offspring can create or fix, but that gene skipped my generation, at least in my case.

So I looked forward to my plans for today with some trepidation. Like a hobbit expected to cast a ring into a volcano, I had a daunting journey ahead of me. Only in my case, I had a clear sense of how unsuitable for said journey I really am. My goals for today were:

1) Put a base on a new fan we purchased over the weekend.
2) Assemble a swing set in my backyard.
3) Trim some branches and mow said yard.
4) Repair my bicycle.

Granted, only the even numbered tasks were epic and iffy. I can mow and trim well, now that I bought a new mower, and putting the base on the fan was fairly easy even for my limited mechanical tendencies.

But the thought of task 4 depressed me. I know how to change a bike tire, I just don’t like doing it.

The real killer, of course, was two. “Insert Flap A and Throw Away.” We had purchase a box that displayed a photo of some happy models frisking around a swing set, but between me and that reality stood a box of 10,000 parts and a book translated loosely from Cantonese.

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Three happy people. None of them had to put this swing set together.

Or, so I thought. The reality was not so bad. My compliments to Flexible Flyer—their parts were actually labeled fairly well, and the directions were nicely narrative with actual text descriptions, and not, as some things I’ve assembled lately, apparently meant for a post literate world.

The morning started with task one, which was easily and quickly accomplished. Then I went outside to work on the swings.

We already have one swing set, but wanted a second, partly so we have a sturdy place for a baby’s swing.

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Step one, try to move play house. It’s a twister, Auntie Em!

Step one was to move toys out of the way. We had a playhouse that had to be displaced, and when I tried to move it, it fell apart like a mobile home park in a twister. Sigh.

Then I cut open the box, set out the parts and fished out the directions. An hour later, the frame was assembled, and I was feeling pretty good, but I did know that the hardest struggle lay ahead.

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So many tools! So many mistakes waiting to be made!

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I opened the box. Now I want to close it again.

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An hour later, and this is what I have. I am amazed, myself.

Like Mordor, which one does not simply walk into, there was a slide to attach to this swing set, which one simply could not assembly quickly. The slide had the most fiddly parts. It was not easy to get it to fit together. Some “French” was spoken. I honestly started to feel faint at one point and considered surrender. But I doggedly kept going and didn’t even have to be carried by Samwise.

In the end, the project was a success, I think. We had to order the anchors online and I won’t be able to call it job well done until those are installed. It’s a bit disturbing that you can easily buy a metal swing set in Cedar Rapids but can’t find the safety anchors. Is it a city of dangerously tipping swing sets?

Anyway, job two was done after a three-hour ordeal. Ring delivered, Middle Earth saved and a baby swing available for use as soon as the anchors arrive.

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The project is done! Baby swing has been added.

After that, the day’s tasks turned much easier than anticipated. The bike project was totally anticlimactic because the bike shop said “it’s under warranty and we’ll supply the tires and install them, too.” Mowing and limb trimming took place while the shop fixed the bike.

So I survived my epic day of being Mr. Tool Man. May such a day be a long time in coming again. Back, I hope, to my precious participles.

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