I was sitting at the breakfast table clad in a bathrobe the other morning when a thought flashed through my groggy brain. This was a chance to fix the pencil sharpener.
It was early, I was half-dressed and only half way through my coffee. But I knew I had to act. This was a segment of uninterrupted time. A chance to actually get something done.
They are rare. I liken these occasions to launching a satellite. There are only certain windows of opportunity. If you don't act when you have the chance, you have to wait days, sometimes weeks, to get another shot.
And so, my bathrobe flying and slippers clogging, I hurried into the basement. I found four freshly charged AA batteries. I grabbed a screwdriver and pryed the battery-powered pencil sharpener off its wall fixture. I tossed out the old batteries and put in the fresh ones.
Then I tested the rejuvenated sharpener, put it back on the wall, cleaned up and put away the tools. It was just me and my project. No one bothered me. No one tried to borrow my tools. No one offered unsolicited advice. It was a small victory in the thousand battles of household chaos, but it gave me great satisfaction.
There is lot to be said for undertaking repairs in improper a.m. attire. First of all, it encourages you to act quickly. If you take the time to get properly dressed for repairs, the moment is lost. The kids are up demanding breakfast. The phone is ringing. The meter man is at the door.
But I have found that if I act impulsively, if I get out of bed and tighten that loose doorknob before the household is stirring, there is a pretty good chance that the repair project will actually be completed.
Another appeal of working in your bathrobe is it puts you in the proper frame of mind. Namely you're willing to linger a while at home before hitting the road.
As long as I've got my bathrobe on, I have not committed myself to going to work. This means I can talk myself into performing one more task, like getting down on the floor and vacuuming the dust off the refrigerator coils, before putting my office clothes on, and heading out the door.
Conversely once I put my shirt and tie on, I become, like most white-collar workers, totally unwilling to do anything that resembles physical labor. It might stain my shirt.
Another wonderful aspect of bathrobe labor is that robes have built-in defenses against serious work.
First of all, the pockets are too small to hold serious tools. A screwdriver, a pair of pliers, and a couple of screws, maybe. But whenever a job requires more material than can be carried in two pockets, I take it as a signal that this task calls for another time and another outfit.
Moreover, since bathrobes aren't comfortable for very long -- the belt comes loose -- there is a limit to how long you can labor, about 30 minutes. That is time enough to haul out the ladder and change a few light bulbs, or reset a balky clock radio, or balance the clothes washer, or caulk around the bathtub. But any task lasting longer than that, and you have to put some clothes on.
There are drawbacks to adopting the bathrobe-repair lifestyle.
You transform what was once an opportunity for quiet contemplation into a time of frenzied ambition.
And I have given up trying robe repairs on school mornings, at least until the major undertaking of the day, getting the kids off to school, has been accomplished.
Finally, the lifestyle is hard on robes. Few are made, I have discovered, to withstand the rigors of plumbing repair.
But on those occasional Saturday mornings when I wake up while the household is still slumbering, I smile at the knowledge that if I am quiet, and if I hurry, I can wrap my robe around me and fix something.