It’s a wrap

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

This is the phenomenon at the root of all our health care problems. It’s why, when doctors get MRI machines, patients get scans. It’s why back surgeons operate on backs that won’t benefit from surgery. It’s why breast cancer professionals – doctors, nurses, technicians – tell you to get screening mammograms in the face of data that show they don’t improve outcomes.

It’s also why I live in fear of Kevin’s getting a welder. Sure, today he makes a new firebox for the smoker, but tomorrow I can’t open the car door.

Kevin dearly loves a new tool. When he got his nail guns, we had a rash of new construction around here. When he got his tree limber – a heavy duty pruner on a long pole – our vista was suddenly much clearer. When he got his big hairy F250 diesel, with its 650 foot-pounds of torque, he waited until I was away for the afternoon and then pulled out the stumps in the back yard. From the front yard.

A couple weeks back, our friends and fellow oyster-farmers Scott and Tina came over to shrink-wrap the boat. Scott is one of these guys who can do pretty much anything, and one of the things he does is shrink-wrap stuff. He comes over with a huge roll of plastic, a heat gun, and his wife. Tina (who manages to look well-dressed and put-together even when doing hard, dirty work) gets on the deck, and Scott hands her the end of the roll of plastic. She pulls the sheet over the length of the boat, and he secures it all around.

Then the fun begins. Scott fires up his heat gun, a propane-fuelled wand that looks like a giant hair dryer, and goes around shrinking the wrap, after first making sure that his wife is safely off the boat.

I know how this works, because I looked it up. The roll of white plastic that Scott and Tina use is a super-duper co-polymer called ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA). Polymers, in their natural state, consist of molecules that are tangled up like spaghetti. But shrink wrap is heated and stretched, so its molecules all line up neatly. Then, when heat is applied, the molecules tangle up again, and the plastic shrinks.

When the shrinking is all done, Scott patches any holes and – here’s where we got into trouble – trims off the excess. The excess, he leaves behind and, all of sudden, everything looks like a nail.

We don’t have a heat gun, but we do have a propane torch. Kevin waited until I was away for the afternoon, and started shrink-wrapping stuff. First was the wood-fired oven.

Then came the fig tree.

He was running low on EVA, but eyeing last night’s leftovers with intent, when I came home.

I have to admit, it worked pretty well. Kevin is no Scott, but then I’m no Tina. There were a few holes and a few blackened spots where the flame got too close, but it looks like the fig tree and wood-fired oven are going to make it through the winter. Kevin made some noises about buying a real heat gun and his very own roll of EVA, but then he got distracted.

He got distracted by the arrival of his brand new sausage-stuffer. I swear some of my socks are missing.

19 people are having a conversation about “It’s a wrap

  1. Growing up I thought it was fun, but now as an adult I know why my mother stayed in her bedroom every time my father got a new toy. Whatever it was would be used for purposes that sometimes were only theoretically appropriate, and then came the part that drove my mother mad: my father would grow bored and store the wine making equipment/bonsai equipment/deep sea fishing equipment/fly tying equipment and supplies/model airplane equipment and supplies/etc. in whatever space he could find and then never touch it again. One thing you have to be thankful for is Kevin was nowhere near the estate sale we had after my father passed away. There were many people who walked away with that fevered glaze to their eyes and I was glad that I would not be present for the fight over where they were going to keep whatever was purchased.

  2. Accidental Mick says:

    It’s a man thing. 🙂
    I once drew up along side a pick-up truck that had such huge wheels that the bottom of the driver’s door was at my eye level. There was a sign on the door that read “He who dies owning the most toys, wins”. Take note that the sign said he not she.

  3. As reluctant as I am to avoid trafficking in gender stereotypes (OK, I’m not *that* reluctant), this does indeed appear to be a man thing. Three out of five commenters (so far) back me up on this, and that’s definitive evidence as far as I’m concerned.

    And, Trish, that was funny!

  4. I always enjoy your posts but today not only was I giggling out loud at the post but also at the comments. I’ll confess to falling prey to mostly gender appropriate gadgets too, however for me the smaller the better which does help with the storage problem. And yes, I’m afraid that eventually the novelty does wear off. But, oh that moment when years later you need that gadget on a Sunday afternoon – or more likely the middle of the night – when all the shops are shut. Priceless.

  5. This post was a side splitter. I love how you introduced us to your shrink-wrapped plight. My goodness, you are a talented wordsmith. Thank you for the background information on shrink wrap. Honestly, I was always wondering how that stuff worked. I wonder if you suggested that shrink wrapping items such as your fig tree and pizza oven is much like making shrinky-dinks, that perhaps your husband may calm down a bit with his newest obsession. Perhaps?

    Good luck with that. Please keep us posted (and entertained).

  6. No, it’s not a man thing. I totally get it.

    If you can do things, and you get something that enables you to do something else or something more, you know, you do it.

    I so get that.

    Go Kevin, go.

  7. Paula’s right, of course. And one of the reasons I admire Paula is that she’s got no time for gender stereotypes — she’s too busy doing carpentry.

    Pamela and Brooke — It makes my day if someone enjoys something I write. Thanks.

    Jean, that’s genius!

    Rick, in the meantime, if you’ve got sausage to stuff, just come on over!

  8. I had to read this post outloud to my husband so he could laugh too. As I read your post my first thought was ‘You can shrinkwrap and entire boat?!?’ followed closely by ‘I WANT that tool’. My yard would look like a Christo installation. At the moment, I’m obsessed with vacuum-sealing machines. Kevin always does it bigger.

    His new motto could be ‘Suck and Cover’…

  9. I thought of this post today when I was volunteering at the Sundance Film Festival. I was talking with another (female) volunteer about my espresso maker that I use on the stove top and how she and I both had electric ones stuck in a cabinet because we got tired of dusting them all the time. That led to the story of how she got an electric pressure cooker for Christmas that she has been using frequently but she knows will end up relegated to the closet when it isn’t “new and fun anymore.” “You can always tell the new toys because they aren’t gathering dust or sitting abandoned on a closet shelf.”

    Evidently it’s not just boys and their toys.

  10. Jen — I had the same thought when I first heard about boats being shrink-wrapped. I pictured a huge assembly line where you put the boat in one end and a few minutes later it emerges, wrapped, from the other. And you’ll notice that I didn’t include a photo of the entire yard — because it *does* look like a Christo installation.

    Brenda — I think you put your finger on the distinction. We all, men and women, have the hammer-and-nail tendency, we just often have different tools. But I’m betting that your friend’s pressure cooker may not meet the same fate as your espresso maker. I’ve had one for a couple of years now, and I use it for beans and stock all the time.

  11. Stephen Andrew says:

    Isn’t my comment insightful? Haha sorry about that. I just realized I had done that. I was going to surprisingly put my vote down as gender stereotype. I can’t resist specialized equipment. The smaller and more specific the purpose, the better.

  12. Lee tells me I need more hobbies. I tell him that I would have no place to put stuff because all his stuff takes up space. I dread it when he gets a new tool. I like the burst of work that comes from it, but I hate the “where the hell am I going to store it so I can get it off my kitchen table,” moment.

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