Saturday, September 6, 2008

True Grit

Self awareness is a strange thing. I would argue that in the strictest sense, it’s simply a construct, and not something that anyone ever truly attains. However, by and large, most of us have a sense of what kind of people we are, and our observable behaviors generally correlate with our internal self-image.

Occasionally, though, there are times when we do something that we never believed we would have done. The resulting dissonance can be extremely disturbing, even life changing. It can be extremely traumatic to recognize that we aren’t who we thought we were, that the way we see ourselves is not the way we actually are.

And so I found myself in the driveway this morning, cutting a tabletop out of the boards I’d glued together using my new biscuit joiner, and getting ready to sand it.

The belt sander is one of my favorite tools. It is built solely for turning wood into sawdust. It has no allusions of being a finishing tool, no aspirations of doing final detail work. It makes no apologies. And while I’m far from an accomplished woodworker, I have partnered with the belt sander enough to appreciate and respect its place in the universe.

Imagine, then, the shock that hit me when I discovered that the only belts I had were 120 grit. 120 grit? That’s basically velvet. How did they get into my garage in the first place? I know that I’m usually inebriated when I go to the hardware store, but how drunk must I have been to buy 120 grit? Even 80 grit is a bit of a sheila belt, so with nothing but 120, I felt like I should be wearing a dress. (Speaking of which, as an aside, if anyone knows why I was wearing panty hose and missing my left pinky toe this morning, please let me know.)

So that’s it. There I was, the job waiting, the project prepped, and I had failed myself. I’ve occasionally run out of beer in the fridge before, but there has always been a spare in the golf bag or the glove compartment to tide me over on the ride down to the store. This was different. It’s not like I had some 30 grit stashed in my fanny pack man-purse rugged, manly, waist-mounted pack. How could this have happened? I can’t remember when I’d let myself down to this degree before. How could I have strayed so far from the path upon which I believed I was traveling? It’s like my whole carpentry life has been a lie.

There was no overt breakdown. Just a sigh, and some time sitting on the steps with a beer and some melancholy music; an hour or two of introspection. A true sense of relief that the only person I'd let down was myself. But what are we to do when we’re forced to accept that we’re not who we thought we were? Who’s to say? I guess the best we can do is to recognize our failures and try to change ourselves for the better.

As god as my witness, I will never be without 60 grit again.

[UPDATE:]
I've received several emails from members of BSA (Belt Sanders of America) claiming that my statements about the belt sander portrayed the tool as something of a bully and an overpowering asshole of the shop. I regret the implication. The belt sander truly appreciates the roles that the other sanders play - the random orbit, the oscillating drum, all of them. It has a special fondness for the disc sander, who can, from time to time, bring a real challenge, especially when working with metal. My sincere apologies go out to all.

2 comments:

Sarah said...

What if you discovered that some people were standing around waiting for you to just go buy the fucking sandpaper and shut up about it. Or maybe just suck it up and use the 120-grit even though it doesn't quite do the job right?
What would you do then? Sit on the steps and sigh? Haul your ass down to the hardware store and pick up the sandpaper you were meant to have? Grind away at it with the 120until it shredded all up and probably injured your drunk ass in the process?

Prom queen said...

Blogs as a passive aggressive communication tool. You should write about that. Then I'll take credit for it.