You don’t need to have watched old Home Improvement reruns to know the deep connection that men seem to have for tools. Sociologists and anthropologists attribute this to the male need to build, to create. They maintain that men see themselves as builders, creators, and productive do-it-yourself fix-it guys. The fact that most of these sociologists and anthropologists tend to be men, and that this so called trait sounds like a playground excuse for playing with hardware tools should not detract from the statement itself.
Close friends would know by now that I can hardly be described as a handyman. The last time I used a screwdriver was for tightening the handle on my frying pan. And that only held together for three weeks before falling apart again. My last attempt at plumbing was in 2003, where I assisted my dad by turning the main valve open. And by ‘assisted’, I mean ‘turned the valve in the opposite direction and gave him a quick shower’.
My point is that my credentials as a handyman are woefully inadequate for anything more complicated than screwing on light-bulbs (in which case, I’d expect the sockets and compatible light-bulbs be clearly marked out first). Most of my friends realize this, and consciously avoid asking for my ‘help’ for DIY projects. I think this is fair in more ways than one; they’re called Do-It-Yourself, and not Do-It-With-The-Help-Of-Hamish projects after all.
This doesn’t mean that I am completely detached from such activities, though. I am more than happy to involve myself in small household projects, as long as they can be done in 5 minutes – my average attention span for non-movie related activities. I think there is an innate need built into the male DNA that makes one crave heavy machinery. Heavy machinery may mean different things to different people. Men generally want to handle machines that are heavier than what they are actually competent at handling. So a construction worker may feel the need to handle a bulldozer, a boatsman may dream of captaining ships, a welder may feel the need to use a flamethrower, etc.
Having moderate competence in using the simple screwdriver, my interest, therefore, rested with the drill set. I can’t say that it had been a lifelong dream to operate a drill, but a monthlong one? surely. I had been thinking about buying one for the past month, and I thought about it everytime I strolled past the drill section in Carrefour. Now, buying a drill set is not a task to be taken lightly. Being a bona fide marketing graduate, I knew that I had to ask myself some hard questions to locate the tool that was right for me. I devised a short checklist to this end. The next time I went to Carrefour, I walked up to the first brand of drills that I saw, and then looked up my checklist.
Identifying the right drill set
Is this drill set in front of you right now? Y/N
Do you have enough cash in your pocket to buy this? Y/N
Granted, it wasn’t a very thorough checklist, but I finally got my drill set. But sadly, this did not make me happy. Alas, buying a new tool doesn’t bring you the kind of happiness you would expect, unless you get a chance to actually use it somewhere. I have, in my subsequent researches, figured out that many people – I swear this is true – buy tools only after they figure out what to use it for. They are the sort of people who would, for example, buy a pen drive only after buying a computer. The next time I buy a drill, I’ll be sure to include a new question in my checklist – Do you have any possible use for a drill set? Y/N – Being a complete novice, I went ahead with the buy first, think later approach. As soon as I got home, I opened the package and plugged the drill in. Then I started looking around for walls/ furniture/accessories I could drill. I came up empty. There was not a single thing at home that I could plunge my drill into. No pictures to hang, no shelves to put up, nothing at all.
But being an alert marketing graudate, I was quick to identify the solution. IKEA. It’s a long way off from my home, but I knew that the next time I went to IKEA, I would be able to source shelves, wall brackets, and plenty of other equally drillable items. With this in mind, I put my drill back in the drawer, gently stroking it as if to say “There, there, my precious. Your time will come”.
There in that drawer, the drill remained. Months changed, seasons changed, and eventually, my marital status changed. But finally, after a long wait, I finally went to IKEA. I finally got myself some shelves, wall brackets, wall mounted lighting, etc… I was set.
I could not wait to get home and start drilling. I had the tools, I had the shelves, and I had walls. I definitely had walls. Nothing could stop me now, right? Well, no. If you paid attention in the last paragraph, you would have noticed that one of the changes in my life between the drill purchase and the shelf purchase was my marital status. I now had my wife as the voice of reason. Wives tend to be like that. When you are planning to operate dangerous and potentially lethal heavy machinery with absolutely no experience, direct or indirect, and your entire plan depends on wiki articles on ‘how to drill’, the one thing you should avoid at all costs is the voice of reason.
My wife was very happy with the shelves and other paraphernalia we bought. She kept on being happy right until the moment it dawned on her that I might try to install them myself.
“You’re not going to install it yourself, right? I mean… of course not… ha ha… forget I asked”
“Errmm… of course I’m going to install it myself”
“What?? Hmm… ok. ok… Fine. I’m just getting worked up over nothing. You have probably used drills like these all your life, right?”
“What do you mean ‘Hmm’…? Tell me you’ve used this thing before”
“Well, I have seen it in use”
“Ok… So you’ve been taught how to use drills”
“That’s right. Exactly. If, by ‘been taught how to’ use drills’, you mean ‘seen TV characters use things that may have been drills’ “
For some reason, she flipped her lid at this point, and effectively banned me from coming within two feet of the drill. She insists that we use someone more experienced for installing the shelves. I protested, because that would defeat the whole purpose of the shelves. I tried to reassure her by explaining how well I deal with electrical equipments in general, and how I have come close to eloctrocuting myself only half a dozen times. In retrospect, this was a very ill adviced notion. She is now thoroughly convinced that I am incapable of operating a pencil sharpener without cutting off major appendages.
She then sat me down and explained how it was only for my own good, that it would be more sensible for me to watch and learn for now, and start slow – such as by using not-too-sharp pencils to make marks on the wall where the holes need to be drilled – and then learn by watching professionals in action, so that some day, I can advance to bigger and riskier procedures, like maybe erasing the pencil marks. I listened to her calm, rational, and sane explanation and came out convinced. I was convinced that there was only one thing left for me to do – wait until she falls asleep so that I can start drilling away.
So far, this has been thwarted by the fact that by the time she goes to sleep, I am too sleepy to distinguish a drill set from a crayon set. I can only hope that she sleeps early some day. Right now, I can do nothing but stare at the shelves and the drill set and murmur “There, there, my precious. Your time will come”