All in all we are all just bricks in the wall.
— Pink Floyd
Tim Allen made a few zillion dollars back in the ’90s by exploiting one inexplicable but undeniable phenomenon: There’s something about construction work/building things that notches up the testosterone level in men.
“Aaaoooh, aaaoooh, aaaoooh” indeed.
(Quick note here: Before you point it out, I’m quite aware that there are plenty of female women who can build rings around any guy home improvement buff who’s ever picked up a hammer — aaaoooh, aaaoooh — but since I am currently a man and can only approach this topic from that gender-specific perspective, I will not worry about offending anyone missing a Y chromosome.)
I know this next confession is going to be hard for some true believers to digest, but typing words into a computer every day is not exactly one of the most manly exploits a dude can do. Get into a “worst injury” dozens contest with some strapping, macho dude who wrangles cattle or builds houses for a living and try to convince him that carpal tunnel syndrome is as bad as that steer goring or shooting a 12-penny nail through your fist with a pneumatic nail gun, and you’re going to lose every time. You just are.
So, I was excited over the weekend when my wife told me she wanted me to build a wall for her. I felt my tosterone level notch up a couple of degrees just thinking about it, and when I went to one of the local building supply places to pick up some 2-by-4 studs, 12-foot 2-by-4 plates and 4-foot-by-8-foot sheets of drywall … well, you might guess that I was all but glowing in my manliness.
The fact that some of my building exploits tend to turn out a lot like the ones Allen’s “Tim ‘The Tool Man’ Taylor” did on his show “Home Improvement” did not deter me in the least. When it comes to men’s beliefs in their ability to build things, well, let’s just say they tend to have very short memories. So the doghouse I built for Fido a few months back fell apart when she tentatively stepped inside to get out of the rain? Can I help it if the building supply place sold me shoddy materials?
I was veritably humming when I unloaded all the building materials and my trusty tools, ready to tackle “The Wall.” Flashing back to my days in the construction trades, I wore a pair of my holiest and most low-slung jeans (the ones I usually save for Fridays in my job here at The Herald) and one of my manliest concert T-shirts. (No Crosby, Stills & Nash for this boy; I went straight for the Bob Seger.)
(This next little confession is a bit painful to admit, but since I was getting my construction on around a couple of hot chicks, I figured the low-slung jeans would get me a few appreciative wolf whistles. Whenever the girls were around, I made sure to strategically work low on the wall, giving them an opportunity to check out the obligatory construction dude butt cleavage, the “coin slot” we call it. Sadly, all I got for my efforts was an “Ummm, dad, really? Ewww …” from the 11-year-old.)
So, I worked on the wall, carefully measuring each board before I cut it with my trusty skill saw, driving in those 12- and 8-penny nails with precision. Around 6 p.m. on the second day of work, as I looked on my almost-done creation with pride, a thought accurred to me. I was tired. So dadgum bone-weary tired, I thought I would fall asleep on the drive home.
A soak in a steaming hot shower helped some, but when I woke up the next morning, I was barely able to walk from the bedroom to the shower. Work the next day — and, yes, I call typing on the keyboard work, OK? — was an ordeal, and by 4 p.m. I had to go home and crawl into bed.
Yes, I reminded myself, it was a “good kind of tired,” but I started thinking that maybe when it came time to build the next wall, I’d recruit some help. The thought surfaced that maybe my building days were drawing to an end, that I was best suited to typing those words. But I’ve got my own short memory, and I’m sure I’ll be ready to answer the bell when the next project pops up.
Aaaoooh, aaaoooh … owwww.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at email@example.com.