handy duct tape

“You want what!? For your birthday this year?” I held the list of suggestions my son had handed me.
“Duct tape.”
“That two-inch wide gray sticky stuff with strings in it?”
“Yep.”
I really do try to accommodate, but duct tape?! Why?
Because my “pinch every penny twice” son uses it everywhere. Before he ever hangs posters he reinforces the corners with patches of gray. His notebooks are securely edged with duct tape when he first gets them. The hole in his suitcase sports a tidy gray square. Packages are not ready for mailing until they are duct-taped shut.
When his vinyl Bible cover ripped in the middle, I mentioned buying another one. He shrugged off my suggestion and reached for the duct tape.
I think the stuff was originally intended for fixing something in the house, but I’m not sure exactly what.
I do know that its handiness is not a family secret. While visiting the newlyweds this fall. I saw the most extensive use of duct tape ever: An elderly hippy had converted his many windowed, vintage van into his home. The back door had been insulated, then taped shut – literally and liberally – with hundreds of strips of duct tape. Even if the hinges had fallen off, I doubt if the doors would have.
It seemed an appropriate reminder of the tape’s versatility. My husband had taken a package of tools as wedding gifts to our oldest son. He included a huge roll of duct tape.
This from a man who has screw drivers, hammers, saws, squares, levels, wrenches, various kinds of glue, nails, staples cluttering his tool room. He knows how to use all of them to put together, take apart, balance, repair and build any number of pieces of furniture, fix the plumbing or car engines.
Hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of tools line the floor, walls and tool shelves. And what does he give his son for a wedding gift of essential tools when setting up his household? Duct tape. Can’t live without it, you know.
I did think my pinch penny progeny had gone too far when he returned from college with the ever-present duct tape wrapped around a pair of shoes. They also sported odd bits of wire carefully bent and hooked precisely to help hold them together. I would have assigned them to the trash heap ages before that.
“Looks like you could use a new pair of shoes,” I commented.
“This pair is fine. They’re finally broken in enough to be really comfortable.”
Looking at the wires and tape surrounding his feet, I doubted that, “I’ll buy you a new pair.”
“No. No thanks. I like these.”
The duct tape kept the rain for a while longer, but after the third or fourth time he duct tape wore off, he formally declared them too threadbare to repair ad placed them lovingly in the trash (I don’t know which loss he regretted more, the shoes or the duct tape.”
I promised that the next time I see duct tape patched shoes, he’ll get new shoes, or I won’t give him duct tape for his birthday ever again.

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