April 2009 On The Floor Editorial - Grown Up Tools
On The Floor
I've been cut, bruised, burned, electrocuted, and stabbed, and none of it was at the hands of a terrorist, arsonist, robbery suspect, carjacker, or angry ex-girlfriend. No, every one of my injuries has been self-inflicted and resulted from my need to find out how things work and how to make them go farther, faster, louder, lower, and higher. I blame my dad.
Back in the day, Dad was a typical gearhead. He enjoyed the roar of a V-8, and his time-off from work was spent working in the garage-and he always had tools lying around that I could get in trouble with. I wanted to be like Dad, so I disassembled every toy I owned and almost never put them back together working properly. My toys routinely ended up being used for something other than their intended purpose. For example, Tonka trucks became low-budget roller skates when enough duct tape was employed around my Zips sneakers. I was the kid who would ruin a complete Lego building blocks set in just one afternoon, rendering the blocks unsuitable for any other kid to play with. Sure, you couldn't build anything with my Legos, but they made great projectiles when tossed into the rotating blades of the ceiling fan in my bedroom. Thank god my dad worked long hours, because he didn't see most of the shenanigans I pulled at home unless they resulted in a trip to the hospital, at which time my mom would make sure he got an earful about what his son was up to.
By the time I was a teenager, my escapades reached legendary status in my neighborhood, and not because I was necessarily building great or safe stuff. In my hands, Dad's Craftsman box end wrenches and a 9-volt battery made for a shockingly fun gag for any kid foolish enough to grab one. One time, I turned my RC10 radio-controlled car into one helluva flame thrower with a pair of spark plugs, some gasoline, a lantern battery, and a handful of bottle rockets. The dogs in my neighborhood loved it! Having Dad's woodworking tools handy ensured that any loose plywood and cinder blocks lying about the yard became poolside launch ramps for skateboards and bicycles. Our backyard was the spot to play at because that's where the action was in my neighborhood.
It wasn't blood, guts, and cuts in the Finnegan garage all the time though. During my junior year of high school, I was so stoked about my first engine rebuild that once the small-block roared to life, I slammed the hood shut on my Camaro, and took off down the street, tires blazing. The clanging noise I heard as I rounded the corner of our block wasn't the engine seizing up either. It was my dad's tools falling off the inner fenderwells of my car during a four-wheel power slide. I never did find all of his sockets and screwdrivers that were launched out of the engine bay and into the street that day. I still get Dad a new screwdriver set every year for Christmas as a joke.
If college is the place where one matures and grows into an adult, then that must have been the period that I got a bit more serious about what I was doing. I can vividly remember the look on Mom's face the day she came home and found my brand-new Tacoma stripped down to the bare frame in the garage. She took it pretty well considering that I had pushed her Corvette outside into the snow in the dead of winter to make room for the cab and bed of my truck. I also vividly remember that a few weeks later, after I completed the airbag suspension and body drop, I put her car back in the garage and she simply smiled and said, "Nice work." I think it was the first time I'd ever really finished something in her eyes.
These days I still enjoy the occasional act of senseless destruction, but for the most part it's of the safe and sane variety. Dad lives in another state so he's no longer the bad influence he once was, and now that I'm buying my own tools I tend to take better care of them. At my age, fireworks and smoking subwoofers are still OK. However, wrapping myself up in the drill press because I didn't clamp the part I'm working on to the table is not. I've come a long way since the days of lawn darts and broken truck parts. The toys have just gotten larger and the tools are way cooler!
See ya next month.