The Junkie’s Wife
Great moments in building history: When you think a man has a tool addiction, sometimes all you need is a little perspective
My husband is an addict. His drug of choice: tools. Yes, I’m married to a tool junkie, and no amount of interventions will reform him. When he sees a new tool catalog, his eyes glaze over and his hands shake, a condition that lasts until UPS delivers his latest fix. Each new tool charges him, re-energizes his system like the purest smack—which is what I’d like to give him sometimes, a good smack. Here’s why.
Little by little, he’s forced me to give up parts of my house to feed his insatiable habit. Besides banning my car from the garage— aka, the shop—he has evicted the coats in my hall closet to make way for a 14-drawer tool chest, and he relocated my sweater storage dresser so that a pair of rollaways could set up housekeeping in my bedroom closet.
The furniture brands in my house—Drexel, Lane, Ethan Allen—are slowly being replaced by Craftsman, Kennedy, and Gerstner. My home is overrun with tools that are multiplying at an exponential rate. I’m living in that old Star Trek episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles,” only the tools aren’t fuzzy and cuddly, and they don’t make sweet cooing sounds.
What’s even worse is that I’ve become an enabler. Every time my husband asks something like, “Honey, can I move your sewing area over about 6 ft. so I can fit in a new folding router table?” I put up a half-hearted battle, then I cave. I just can’t say no to those happy, hopeful eyes.
If he’d restricted his habit to the closets and the garage, I might have learned to live with his addiction. But when we could no longer eat in the dining room because of the chisels, files, and router bits that had taken up residence on the table, my husband sensed my growing unease. “I’m going to take you out,” he said in a blatant appeasement measure. “Great,” I said, never being one to turn down appeasement, blatant or otherwise. Unfortunately, though, he didn’t take me out to dinner. He took me to see his friend Dave.
Dave’s collection of tools made my husband’s look like a starter set of drills. Dave is a bachelor, and his home—I use that term loosely—resembled a tool warehouse. Not a floor or a countertop could be seen for the storage cabinets, wooden chests,and immense shelf units. But his collection didn’t end there. He’d not only converted his entire three-car garage into a shop, but he’d also filled four outbuildings with every known tool—and a few unknown. (What exactly is a scribing saddle?) Yet even that wasn’t enough space, so he’d dug a full basement under his house and loaded it floor to ceiling with more tools. No wonder he never married. He doesn’t have any room for a wife.
On the way home, my husband, looking quite pleased with himself, flashed a sly grin and said, “See, my habit isn’t so bad.” And I had to admit that next to Dave’s addiction, my husband was a casual user. That visit served its purpose: It made me grateful for the tiny bit of house I had left.
Shortly after that, a friend came over, also the wife of a tool junkie, and she lamented about how her husband wanted to move her washer and dryer out of the garage and onto the back porch so that he could have more space for his workshop. “He makes me so mad,” she grumbled. “His tools are taking over the entire house.”
“Come on,” I said, picking up my purse and car keys. “You need a little therapy.”
Her eyes lit up. “Where are we going? South Coast Plaza, Fashion Island?” “It’s a new place,” I said. “I guarantee it will make you feel better.”
I drove her to Dave’s house. Never again has she complained about her husband’s tools. And she really doesn’t mind doing her laundry on the back porch.
Drawing by: Jackie Rogers