I lost my steel rule today, exactly the same steel rule I lost last week, although today I also lost my five-metre tape measure and my ear-defenders. These are not high-priced items, but their value lies in their contribution to the project. In the middle of building a new box gutter between two roof sections, not being able measure or use high-decibel power tools is seriously inconvenient.
There’s an interesting thing that I’ve noticed over the years – amongst the vast array of highly specialised and expensive tools I could have in the workshop, the most valuable and heavily used are often the cheapest. That steel rule has seen a lot of use, and those tape measures are recent minor purchases to replace my old measure which had become so worn that the markings were getting illegible on the first metre or two.
Losing those simple but vital tools can bring a job to a halt.
Unlike last week, the missing steel rule wasn’t so critical yesterday, and I still had the eight-metre tape measure as a substitute for the five, even though it’s a bit cumbersome and awkward for small measurements. The really disastrous absence happened to be the ear-defenders as I needed to run some remarkably noisy power-tools.
Three lost tools, or if not actually lost then seriously hidden.
The steel rule is a shade of grey, and I was working outside when I lost it last week, with plenty of places of a similar shade of grey where it could be perfectly camouflaged. I got by, using the tape measure, but there are times when the only tool for the job is the steel rule. I spent time hunting for it, looking in all the obvious places where I may have set it down, but there came a point where it was more important to get the job finished and make do without the steel rule. As I worked, I even considered the fact that I was going to be shopping in nearby Launceston in a few days time and could buy a new steel rule. Perhaps I ought to get more than one in preparation for losing it again – they cost two, maybe three pounds each, unless you really want to push the boat out and pay a fiver.
At the end of the day, I decided to have one final search. At ground level there was the spot where I had the power tools stacked up, but that wasn’t it. I looked behind a small waist-high retaining wall because it’s a perfect place to put a tool down only to have it tumble off the back, and then all the odd nooks and crannies where I might have put it down. Finally, I climbed the tallest ladder that I had out, to look down on the whole work area, because there’s a whole mess of roof, beams and joists where I might have laid a steel rule.
From my high vantage point, I saw it clearly. There is a white electrical utility box set into the wall that protrudes by just over an inch. I know it’s just over an inch because the steel rule is an inch across and there it was, lying on the rim, which has a modest downward angle making it easier to see the missing tool when standing on the ground. Not only that, but it was at about chest height for all of the occasions I had walked past it in the preceding hours.
So, not so much lost as hidden in plain sight. So plain, in fact, that it shouldn’t have been hidden at all.
Today, at the start of work there were three things missing, and I could only conclude that I had failed to put everything away as darkness fell last night. I was sure that I had tidied up properly, really, really sure, but after the steel-rule incident last week, anything seemed possible. So how hard can it be to find three missing tools? Whilst the steel rule is that unobtrusive shade of grey, my ear-defenders are bright red, and the tape measure is bright yellow – hard to miss, really. Perhaps some part of my subconscious took that as a challenge, because I managed to miss all three during a twenty-minute search.
Fortunately, I have two pairs of the ear defenders, same make, model and shade of red, and the second pair were easy to find in the back of my van.
Then I found the ones that I had lost, hanging up exactly where I left them in the workshop last night, right beside where I was standing when I realised that I had lost them. Sadly, there was no sign of the other items, but now armed with the essential ear protection (and a spare pair) I could get on with the job.
In due course, I reached the point where I needed to cut some small pieces of timber. I did the measurements with that clunky eight-metre measure, headed to the chop saw and there, on the bench, exactly where I had been using it to measure small pieces of timber yesterday, was the five-meter tape-measure.
I looked there. I really did. I’m sure…
Some hours later, standing at the same bench, I glanced at one of my plastic tool boxes. Laying along the bright yellow compartment in the lid, in the plainest of plain sight, was the steel rule…
I put it all down to advancing middle-age, because I never used to lose things so often and so clearly in plain sight. Sometime in the last few years I appear to have lost my youth, but I don’t suppose there’s any point in going looking for it. Of all my lost treasures, I doubt that one will turn out to be in plain sight.
This was written in response to the #BlogBattle prompt of Conceal.