They don’t make ‘em like they used to

Funny how it takes longer to get tools needed for a task than to do the actual task itself

I was psyched to mow grass for an hour today until the temperature reached the 80s, too risky to spend so long in the hot sun. I had a range of small indoor jobs to choose from, the kind that take longer to prep for than to execute.

For months I had put off drilling the handle of a hoe and a garden rake to add a couple stabilizing screws to tools. I was pushed to assemble my shop tools after the D handle of the plastic scoop shovel I use tidying up the yard was left dangling from a porch nail while the rest of the shovel clattered to the floor with a noise that sent me from window to window checking for some major invasion. Without the shovel, I’m hampered tidying dog doo.

Once I had the drill plugged in, and had found the awl, hammer, screwdriver, sensible dimension screws and a drill bit to match, the repair took minutes. So why had I dallied so long before getting at it?

Mainly because it often takes longer to find the seldom used equipment than to do the task.

Recently I prepared to add oil to my lawnmower engine. Normally a chore of five minutes or so. Don’t ask me how I had bypassed that step for upwards of eight years. In my 30s when I had six hours of mowing to do weekly, I had serviced the mower by myself. But this is a different machine; I found adding oil takes a funnel with an offset angle. What to do?

After mentally inventorying a prospective list of kitchen tools, including funnels, the best I could think of was a turkey baster. Of course I couldn’t find my baster, having rarely used it in the past. In desperation I looted an electric rotisserie for the sharp metal injector for stabbing vegetable oil deep into the bird before barbecuing. It did the job admirably though I suffered pangs of guilt as it did so. (Later I was advised to extend a funnel with a length of rubber hose. But where would I get the rubber hose? Picture the eye rolling if I asked at a hardware store for six inches of quarter-inch hose.)

Then yesterday, as I checked the mower’s oil level, I had a flashback to my Dad’s small metal oil can with a cupful capacity and a tall spout that ended crooked to one side. That sideways crook would solve my dilemma. But where to buy something as old fashioned as a simple oil can? I have a newfound appreciation for those who prowl farm and garage sales for vintage tools.

We’ve replaced so many old, simple tools with complicated versions that not only cost more but require more cleaning. For instance, the single layer, hand-held grater for grating carrots or cheddar cheese has been sidelined for an electric grinder with a breakable glass base, razor sharp blades, and a hopper. And if the power quits, forget about grating.

As for cleanup, the hand grater cleans with a swish under the faucet. The electric model calls for delicate cleaning of several parts, being careful not to slash a finger or break the glass bowl. As for assembling it, I must follow printed instructions.

The most ill conceived modern appliance I know of is a washing machine that locks once it fills to capacity with water. No more can a last minute dish cloth or stray sock be tossed in once the cycle begins.

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