The nuts and bolts of hardware therapy

By Bill McConnell

Let’s be brutally honest: We all desperately need it. It can transform a moment from mundane to memorable, capture our imagination, fuel our inspiration and send us gleefully tripping down memory lane. Of course, I can only be talking about one thing — hardware therapy.

Don’t laugh, it’s a real thing. I’ve seen it, lived it, in fact. One minute you are kind of down, a little depressed. Not to the point of being suicidal, but not quite ready for prime time. Hmmm, you think, What are my options?

You could quell the funk with an ice-cold adult beverage. Lots of folks do and far be it from me to be a buzzkill. But just for the sake of silly argument, let’s say you’re not in the mood for booze. You could resort to one of the fine mood-altering pharmaceuticals advertised incessantly, if you can manage to ignore the pesky side effects the fast-talker spends half the commercial warning us about.

Or, option 3 — trumpet fanfare — hardware therapy. Surely, you’ve heard of it.

It typically starts with a hardware store shopper in the loosest sense of the word. These shoppers, women as well as men, normally have no shopping cart or basket, no friend or business acquaintance to interrupt the dream-state. They have no real intention of buying . . . well, anything.

Therapy is serious stuff, and thus must be done with a singular mindset. You wouldn’t want to compromise any gains with idle chitchat or — an actual purchase. Instead, the dreamer ambles along the aisles of the local hardware store, perhaps munching some free popcorn, stopping occasionally, carefully inspecting a New Age glue guaranteed to fix a boat or stick your fingers permanently together.

The shopper-turned-dreamer may wander down the aisle of death where all manner of potent pesticides and traps await. The happily illustrated label of a fire-ant poison looks inviting. A plastic owl with a rotating head watches every move. One might wonder why the fire ants haven’t figured out why everyone’s suddenly dropping dead.

Pushing on, our patient of hardware inevitably runs into the Pinewood Derby display, a sure trigger of lost youth. The 7-inch-long wooden blocks call out, beckoning to be transformed into Indy racers. The display has weights, shaping tools, body skins and polishing compound that promises to make the axles spin faster. Wind tunnel testing would be a nice touch, the dreamer muses.

Finally, like a hammer drawn to a sixpenny nail, the dreamer comes to the tool aisle, a must-stop on the therapy tour. This is where hardware therapy truly taps into the gray matter twixt our ears. Souls are soothed by the anticipation of the gentle buzz of the palm sander and the quiet whir of a compound miter saw. Problems fade away like sawdust in the breeze.

The tool aisle is the retail equivalent of an old-fashioned river baptism. Here, the sins of past projects are washed away. Dreamers know this and immerse themselves shamelessly in a sea of router bits and wrench sockets. About this time, a beautiful thing happens: Tranquility sets in like a slow-drying caulk and real hardware healing takes place.

It starts with a quiet self-confession: “I’m not sure I can do this.” This is the ground zero confession of all do-it-yourselfers. We know the deck has to be rebuilt and the sink isn’t going to stop dripping on its own, but are we worthy? Jesus was a carpenter and he didn’t have a set of modern tools, so maybe there’s hope, the dreamer reasons. Slowly but surely, hardware therapy works its magic. It illuminates the possibilities.

Before you know it, the clouds of doubt are parting. The time to hesitate is over. A plan begins to take shape. Boom! Just like that, our dreamer transforms into a do-it-yourselfer. So next time you need a little lift, consider a session with the nuts at your local hardware store. Where the next project is but a dream away. Oh, and don’t forget the popcorn. OH

Bill McConnell is an award-winning freelance writer and reluctant DIYer. You can shoot the nuts and bolts with him at mcconnell@carolina.rr.com.

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