The list of my personal faults is long and varied. I could give you that list, but it’s always been my policy to let people figure it out for themselves. No point in handing out a roadmap. But even those who have plumbed the list’s depths (my husband, my mother, and anyone who’s ever employed me), would not accuse me of blaming my failures on others.
I’m generally quick to take full credit for my mistakes, but it’s not because I’m particularly virtuous. It’s just that it makes for a better story. Nobody wants to hear about how other people screwed you, but a story in which you’re the goat, well that’s riveting.
So it is with some trepidation that I take keyboard in hand to share the blame.
In the last three years, since we moved to Cape Cod, I’ve done many jobs I’d never done before. In doing so, I’ve had close encounters with many tools, some of which – like the power washer – I hadn’t even known existed. Many of those tools, particularly the ones powered by fossil fuels, are excellent labor-saving devices. A few of them, though, just plain suck.
Usually, the inadequacy comes in the execution, as with the cheap metal rake with the tines that opened and closed. They opened, they closed, and then they broke. With the gas-powered tools, the failures are more mysterious. The thing works, and then it doesn’t, and you’re damned if you can figure out why.
Sometimes, though, the failure is more fundamental. Despite being the industry standard, the Langstroth beehive seems to me to have some serious design flaws. And don’t get me started on the controls of our boat.
The wheelbarrow has been with us for almost two thousand years, having been invented in China some time in the second or third century AD. It is not without serious consideration that I dis an invention of the Chinese, since I’m convinced they’re smarter than the rest of us and are headed for world domination as soon as they all have the Internet. But the wheelbarrow just isn’t up there with gunpowder, the compass, or paper.
The fundamental problem with the wheelbarrow is that it has only one wheel. I mean, really, We all know that, in order for a structure to be stable, it needs three points on the ground. When the wheelbarrow is idle, it has those three points. But as soon as you pick up the handles, it’s only got two: the wheel is one, and you’re the other. Oh, sure, you have two feet, but they’re not far enough apart to provide stability, even if you’re Yosemite Sam. Besides, they’re both on the ground only when you’re standing still, and most work that involves a wheelbarrow requires going from one place to another.
The point of the one-wheel design, I’ve been led to believe, is maneuverability. But we all know that “maneuverable” is a euphemism for “capsizable,” which is what the wheelbarrow is. You pick up the handles, you start rolling the thing up a rocky slope. You find it requires considerable upper-body strength to keep it more-or-less level, and you work hard to fight both gravity and instability. Then you trip on a root, and the whole thing goes over.
It’s not so difficult if you have a light load, but if you have a light load you might as well just carry it. The point of a wheelbarrow is to let you transport things that are heavy.
I wasn’t willing to launch into a full-scale condemnation of the wheelbarrow until I checked in with Kevin. He often understands the rationale of what seem to me to be design flaws.
“So what’s the advantage of the one wheel?” I asked.
He considered. “You can only get one flat tire,” he said. And then added, “at a time.”
Well, there’s a ringing endorsement.
There are wheelbarrows with two wheels. I’ve never used one, but I suspect they’re much more stable, if less “maneuverable.” When I get one, I’m sure my garden will be greener, my property will be cleaner, and all my heavy stuff – stones, wood, dirt – will be in its proper place.