Paul Andersen: The nuts and bolts of spring cleaning
April 15, 2002
Any guy’s workshop worth its spilled gasoline, oily rags and pin-up calendar has a dish full of odd nuts and bolts. These catchall receptacles are the end of the line for parts that have no immediate use but that guys are attached to and refuse to throw out.
My nut and bolt dish is bristling with rusty nails, stripped-out bolts and strange plastic gizmos of absolutely no value. I fished through it Sunday afternoon in an effort to water the lawn and switch out my snow tires.
There wasn’t a nut or bolt in the dish that was necessary for either job, but the search was a critical step in the ritual of spring cleaning. It all began at daybreak on Sunday when the warbling of robins woke me from a sound slumber like the clanging of an alarm clock.
“This is the day!” I declared, sitting bolt upright in bed. My wife pulled the covers over her head, but I leaped onto the floor and landed directly on the cat, which is better than any alarm clock for waking up the household.
“This is the day for spring cleaning!” I announced to my bleary-eyed family as they gathered around the kitchen table. “Breathe in that pure mountain air. Let’s all sing like the birdies sing …”
“Can we have breakfast first?” begged my wife. “This is gonna be so boring,” complained our son.
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I had only two jobs in mind – gather the garden hoses from the basement and round up the summer tires. If I could accomplish these projects, I would feel productive.
“I’ll be in the shed!” I announced after gulping some coffee. “Okay,” said my wife, waving me off while chatting on the phone with her mother. “You know where I’ll be if you want to help,” I told our son, who shot me a look of abject suffering. “This is sooooo boring,” he moaned.
The summer tires were stashed in the shed behind some garden tools, which were stashed behind two bicycles, which were stashed behind several sheets of plywood, which were stashed behind a box springs and mattress.
I dragged out the box springs and mattress, then tackled the plywood, which I decided to stack with a pile of scrap lumber I’ve been saving for God knows what. Half an hour later, the plywood was out of sight and out of mind.
Next I wheeled out the bicycles and realized they needed a place to go, so I dug through the nuts and bolts dish, found a couple of large hooks, screwed them into the wall and hung up the bikes. This required moving a table saw and a few boxes of nails, plus pre-drilling the holes. Forty minutes later, the bikes were hung.
Now the garden tools needed a place to go, so I dug through the nuts and bolts dish, found some nails, bent them into hooks in the vice and hung the tools. I then rolled out the summer tires and finally discarded an 80-pound sack of hardened Sacrete I had been saving since our home was built.
Next came the garden hoses in the basement, which were buried by camping gear, spare bike tires, an old black and white TV and several folding chairs. The camping gear needed to go on a shelf, which displaced a cardboard box full of vinyl LPs that I’ll never play again, and which had to fit individually in an old book case.
I thought my son might like to look through these old rock albums while he stacked them for me, but his answer dispelled any such illusion. “Dad, that is the most boring thing I can imagine. Do I have to?” I did the job myself.
The old bike tires hadn’t held air for decades, but they needed a home, so I went back to the shed, fashioned a few more bent-nail hooks and pounded them into the wall. This meant moving the bikes I had just hung. The old TV, which hasn’t worked since college, I stashed in a corner, knowing full well it’s junk.
The folding chairs came out next, but one was missing a screw and hadn’t been used in a couple of years, so I decided to fix it. That meant pawing through the nuts and bolts dish again. But by then it was too dark to see, I couldn’t find a matching nut and bolt, the weekend was over and those hoses never saw the light of day.
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