Now I understand why power tools are called power tools: because they make the person using them feel powerful.
This weekend I installed brackets and rods for new curtains in my living room, something I’d been meaning to do and procrastinating about for four months. I kept saying to myself that I liked the fresh, uncluttered feeling of the room without curtains. Then one night as I was sitting alone watching TV I looked outside across the courtyard into a neighbor’s apartment and directly at my neighbor, who shot me a glance of disapproval before drawing his blinds. I knew I needed to put up curtains.
My friend Lenore, a resourceful homeowner who installed her own kitchen flooring, offered to lend me her electric drill. Walking back home from her apartment with the drill and its bits weighing down my shoulder bag made me feel a little bit dangerous, as if I were carrying a concealed weapon.
I’m no stranger to power tools. I took wood shop and metal shop in grade school, where I learned to use a band saw, sanding machines, and welding tools. In architecture school, to complete models and prototypes, I constructed plywood framework, poured concrete, and carved massing models from solid wood. But there was something intimidating about bringing power tools into my own home, and taking a drill to my own wall.
Lenore’s drill was impressively banged up: scratched, stained and dusty. It looked lived in, as if it had been through battles with her. Although it was heavy it felt comfortable in my hands. When I was perched at the top of the ladder on Saturday afternoon, wearing oversized sunglasses in lieu of goggles, drilling holes at the intersections of carefully penciled guidelines, I felt anxious but also powerful. The first few holes I drilled were a little wobbly, not exactly perpendicular and not exactly round. But the final holes I drilled were just about perfect. I now feel like a master, or mistress, of the power drill.
Just like every girl needs to have access to a sewing machine to do simple things like hemming and mending, every girl needs a power drill to do simple things like hanging paintings and installing hooks. Now I’m ready to go out and get one of my own.