Hammer and Nails by Tim Darby
I generally admire people who manage to be punctual but when I got the call telling me that the sales rep would be late it didn’t actually bother me at all, in fact it actually put a smile on my dial. You see I didn’t want to see a sales rep at all. I don’t want to be “sold” anything. When I had called the company selling insulated roller shutters I was hoping for someone with a job description like “product information provider”. I wanted someone who would tell me about the shutters, their strengths, weaknesses, cost and availability . . . . and then bugger off and leave me to make up my own mind.
So anyway when I got the word that the sales rep would be late I breathed a sigh of relief, slipped into something comfortable ( in this case my trusty old nail-bag ) and went to work replacing a couple of split floorboards.
As I knocked in the first nail I was reminded how much I enjoy using good quality tools. Like my old hammer – it’s well balanced and feels just right, like an extension of my hand. (Call me a romantic if you must) When I was at Uni I learned about a bloke (architect I think) who became famous for saying things like “form follows function” (nice piece of alliteration) and “functionality is beauty”.
I think the idea was that if you make something really well, based on what it was intended to do then the resulting form should have an intrinsic beauty of its own without the need for decoration or embellishment.
Take my old hammer for instance – an ancient Estwing with a leather handle that I bought secondhand and used for years until it disappeared from a building site I was working on. To replace it I bought a cheap nail gun….Yes I know. It was imported from China and was only cheap because it made by exploiting the mineral resources from somewhere and the sweatshop labour from somewhere else and shipped to Australia using a very crude and polluting grade of diesel. I know. I admit it. Bad, bad, bad….but just think how quick it would be!
Well as it turned out the only really quick thing about it was how quickly I took the thing back when it blew a gasket and stopped working the first time I tried to use it.
I guess I must have been in a hurry because when I took it back to the large franchise hardware shop where I bought it (I won’t mention any names but everyone seemed to be dressed up in Christmas colours) they offered me credit and I made the unusual decision to buy a new hammer. The hammer I chose from the glittering array looked pretty similar to my old Estwing but cost about a quarter of the price. Seemed like a bargain, but as my mate Greg says “cheap now, expensive later”. I took it home and started work. By the time I had denailed a couple of four by twos the claw of the hammer was so torn up it couldn’t pull a splinter out of your thumb.
On my third trip back to the nameless hardware franchise I happened to go past a garage sale where, much to my delight I discovered another old Estwing ( better luck than I deserved ) and I’ve been using it ever since.
Now every time I drive in a nail I think “You Beauty!!” See what I mean? Functionality is beauty.
Just at that point in my daydreaming I was interrupted by the arrival of the sales rep. She arrived amidst a cloud of lipstick and hairspray in a tight skirt and heels high enough to give you altitude sickness. I’m not sure if it was the skirt or the heels but as she came through the front door she managed to trip over, spilling the contents of her handbag all over the floor and ripping her stockings.
I picked her up and made her a cup of tea while she gathered up her gear and started on a heartfelt story of how she really, really, really wanted to help us out by offering us a super amazing never to be repeated discount which we could get just by putting one of her signs at the front of the house, but the offer was only good for the day, and only if I signed up right away, and by the way where was my girlfriend ‘coz she needed to sign it too. . .
O.K. As luck would have it my girlfriend was not available so I figured we would just have to survive another day without her amazingly generous, never to be repeated offer.
As she struggled towards the door I noticed that the coins she had spilt from her handbag were still lying in a pile on the floor. Maybe the hairspray had affected her eyesight? Maybe she was so generous that since we weren’t able to take advantage of her generous offer she was leaving me all her change? Maybe she was such a successful sales rep that loose change was just a burden to her?
In any case, I scooped up the coins and handed them to her. Blushing she explained that she had abandoned her coins because she had glued 4 inch glittery resin extensions onto her fingernails which meant she couldn’t pick up anything that small from a flat surface.
Then she tottered off down the street.
As I opened the windows and doors to let the air clear I went back to my daydreams about form, function and four inch nails.
MMmmm…. Maybe my hammer should get together with her nails!