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Cordless tools threaten men's value in society

November 23, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

Sears is merging with Kmart. So which celebrity pitchman is going to get laid off, Bob Vila or Martha Stewart?

Even though she's temporarily indisposed, only a fool would bet against Martha. Smart money says in six months she's got her own line of tools, "Craftchick." You don't get the money-back guarantee, but if you boil them long enough, you can make soup.

I think there is cause for us guys to be worried. I was discussing the sociological implications of the cordless drill with my friend Karen last week (all right, so maybe there were some other topics we'd missed) and I came to the conclusion that, even if you include women's suffrage, the cordless drill has done more to empower the female species than any other development in modern history.

Hold that thought, I've just been handed an urgent bulletin, so I interrupt this column to bring you a TOMATO UPDATE. As you may recall, last week a caller to our paper's phone-in message board was decrying the disappearance of tomatoes from area spaghetti-supper salads.

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As it turns out, we are in the middle of a serious national tomato shortage. According to The Washington Post, the Florida hurricanes, California floods and some Mexican pests have combined to drive up the cost of tomatoes more than 100 percent. And the surviving tomatoes are of very poor quality and hardly worth the price.

The good news is that it should be resolved in the next six weeks or so. So there you have it. Leave it to "You Said It" to be on the cutting edge of a major national issue before it hits the mainstream media. I have to say, I am impressed.

But speaking of major national issues, back to the cordless drill, which I believe is just one more nail in the coffin of male usefulness.

Time was, a woman needed a man around the house if for no other reason, and there wasn't, to perform the little tasks of hanging pictures and putting up curtain rods. But with the invention of the quiet, nonthreatening power tool, all that began to change.

I noticed this in my own home recently, when the Bob Vila in High Heels suddenly decided we needed new bedroom curtains. Actually she suddenly decided that due to guests who are coming this week we needed new bedroom curtains, dining room chairs, a china cabinet, a futon, artwork, a rug, a staging-area table and chairs. I may be the only man who gets bankrupted every Thanksgiving. Makes me sorely wish the Pilgrims and Indians had made do with a simple afternoon tea.

So she mentions she's going to install the curtain rods one evening and I brace myself for The Call that signaled her need to tap into my keen mechanical skills, which extend up to, and including, changing the light bulb in the refrigerator.

I sat darkly in the bat cave, knowing full well the ballgame soon would be interrupted and I would miss at least the second quarter through the high crime of assault with intent to decorate.

But the second quarter came and went, then halftime, then the third quarter, and no call. Six minutes and 32 seconds into the fourth quarter, I couldn't stand it anymore and even though the game was close, I went upstairs to see what the deal was. And there stood Andrea on a stepstool with a bracket in one hand and a cordless in the other. Two of the curtains already were in place. I "put out a feeler" to see what the situation was.

"So, uh, hi there. I guess you'll be needing some help there pretty soon?"

"No, I got it."

"Oh. Well, if you need ... I mean I could probably make a little time to ..."

"No thanks, I'm fine."

"I see. Um. You know, you got those first two up there pretty good I guess, but just in case you run into a ..."

"No, really, I'm good. Why don't you go back to your game?"

So I did, but there was no joy in it. It would have been easier if she'd been mad about it, but clearly she wasn't. She was humming along, just as carefree and unbothered as if she'd been watering plants. But I worried that if a woman doesn't need a man to install hardware, what else might she not need him for? I had taken a body blow to my usefulness.

There still are a few chores only I can do, most of which involve crowbarring up old concrete sidewalks and driving to the dump. But guys, I'm warning you, we'd better watch our backs. Because if Sears or anyone else ever comes out with a quiet circular saw, we are in for serious trouble.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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