July 15, 2012

No good deed goes unpunished

Last week I posted on the nearest Craigslist (actually we're an hour from two different Craigslisted cities, so it's a crap shoot which one to post to) in the FREE section. Wow. We had an old above-ground pool that was standing in the way of some obscure renovation plans we're working on ... including a deck removal, the addition of a screen porch or mud room or something. So we decided to give the pool away.

You can meet some interesting people this way. Some of the responses were clearly bogus (though I don't see how they intended to scam me under the circumstances, I don't doubt that they could have ... I'm naive, but I know it). So the lucky winners (third responder out of the thirty or so who answered in the hour the ad was up) showed up yesterday to remove the pool.

The delightful young couple and their raised-by-wolves offspring (only one of the four, and, I was assured, the worst of them, whom the babysitter refused to watch) showed up in a ramshackle minivan with only two seats. So no carseat for the kid. God help me, after a couple of hours, I could almost understand why. To me, the mom and dad didn't look much older.

So Hansel and Ungretful show up apparently expecting some kind of inflatable pool. They brought a handful of tools: some pliers, assorted wrenches, and a couple of screwdrivers. Of the origin of these tools I believe I have some belated understanding. Anyhow, folks, this is a metal pool. LOTS of screws. So we broke out the impact driver and cordless drill. This ended up being a four-person four-hour fiasco, during which time I learned that there's a lot more to a pool than what I thought, including a lot of sand that has to be moved, in between hunting down the Artful Dodger, who keeps running off with the shovel, apparently intending to use it on the cat.

What I realized during this time was that I take many things for granted. Now, I'm not talking about the most obvious things, e.g. the stuff we have vs. the stuff other folks don't have. I don't downplay that--I actually think I'm generally sensitive to that sort of thing--but in this case it's more the stuff that I guess comes with it I'm talking about. For one thing, the kids I helped raise were comparatively pleasant, polite, and well-behaved. And clean. Mowgli was cheerful enough, I must admit, but his ignorance of his parents' requests and suggestions left me agog. They were clearly afraid of him.

And another thing: I'm no anthropologist, but I have seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, and what I learned from that film was what makes humans human is tool use (also murder, and then something about a space baby--sorry, belated spoiler alert). So apparently because I'm so insecure in my humanity that I feel the need to prove it, I like to use tools. Well, I like to own tools, and I'm the first to admit I have more tools than I need ... but to me they represent possibility as well as the power to affect the physical world that surrounds me. So I like tools. I don't like the cokey buffoon Tim Allen though.

Anyhow, please try to focus on the story I'm telling here. You've heard me before on the topic of Robertson screws. Another little-known use for the square-drive screwdriver is in turning stripped, rounded-out phillips screws that won't respond to a philllips screwdriver (in other words, most of them, especially if you've tried to use an electric driver on them). Try it!

Well, Dennis and the rest of the Menaces were pretty impressed with this magic trick, and Mrs. Menace even remarked, a couple of times, how they needed to acquire such a tool (I'm paraphrasing; If I were to quote, I would sound like even more of a snob than usual ... and you know I hate to hear people correcting or mocking other people's spoken English ... but it would be hard not to in this case). So in the chaos of packing up the minivan, which they'll Joad back home relying as much on gravity as on such luck as accrues to people, two things happen. One is, they need to tie stuff to the roof rack, so I give them several bungee cords to facilitate this. The second is, and I know you saw this coming even though I didn't realize it until today, the magic Dr. Whoish Robertson screwdriver seems to turn up missing.

Now, this is not a particularly expensive screwdriver, and in the bugout, it's conceivable that it was tossed in the van in error, by young Grendel if not by his dam. Nonetheless, it was one of a set, and it's missing. And it's not the sort of thing they stock at Lowe's, it turns out. And she mentioned more than once to her husband how much they could use such an implement. So I'm a little irritated.

I hope my suspicions are wrong, because it seems to me that stealing little crap is kind of sadly pathetic, and doing it under such circumstances when you know it will be noticed and probably ignored because it's too much trouble to follow up on it bespeaks a certain lack of character.

With all due respect.


Michael said...

Great post, but didn't you steal this tale from Raymond Carver?

JB said...

1. Maybe, but he'll never miss it.

2. Anyhow, I meant to steal it from John Cheever.

3. Did I??? My relative ignorance of American lit is clearly a problem here.