Seeking a good fit, if not in clothes then maybe tools


November 14, 1992|By ROB KASPER

My Saturday afternoon mission was to find the right tool to fix the stove and to find the right pants to fit the kids.

I got the tool, a real nice nut driver. This is a device that surrounds a nut and removes it, sort of like the way the Indians took care of Custer.

But I fell down in the pants department. Of the four pairs of pants I bought for the kids, not one of them fit.

Besides being a colossal inconvenience, taking the pants back to the store was also a blow to my pride. It signaled a failure in the leave-the-kids-at-home method of buying children's clothing, a method I support.

I believe that dragging your squirming kids along only makes the unpleasant business of clothes shopping more stressful. If the kids are with you, the shopping trip gets longer, your temper gets shorter, and you end up making the requisite frantic search for the kid who wandered away when you were studying pants lengths.

One disadvantage of the leave-the-kids-at-home system is that the items you end up with may or may not fit your children. Mostly not. When that happens, not only do the clothes have to go back to the store, but the believers in the leave-the-kids-at-home system also have to put up with major gloating from non-believers. The gloaters, also known as spouses, have that "I-told-so-you" look about them as they watch you stuff your purchases back in the bag.

It is a look I am familiar with. This problem of ill-fitting clothes has popped up a few times before. As I have said on such occasions, these setbacks do not, repeat not, mean the leave-the-kids-at-home system is a failure. Rather, it just needs to be fine-tuned. Better measurements, for instance, need to be taken.

Buying children's clothing is like buying replacement window glass. If the proper measurements are taken, there should be no need for a return trip to the store. Accordingly, before leaving home Saturday I got out the tape and measured the kids' inseams, outseams, waistlines, neck sizes, updrafts and downdrafts. I scrawled all these statistics down on a scrap of paper along with a record of their current clothing sizes and set sail for the mall.

But by the time I returned home, the kids had grown; one had jumped from a size 7 to somewhere near a 10. The other had mutated from size 10 to a 12. Windows don't do that.

The clothes-purchasing part of my mission might not have been successful, but at least it didn't last long. The tool-purchasing part, however, was much less rushed. Acquiring tools, after all, requires careful study.

Not just any old nut driver would do. I needed one that would loosen the seven nuts that were holding together a part of our defective electric stove. One of the two stove-top burners didn't work, and I was going to fix it. I already owned one nut driver, but its attachments didn't quite fit the six-sided or "hex" nuts.

Moreover, there was a sentimental reason behind the nut driver purchase. I wanted to repair the faulty stove burner as a birthday present for my wife. But before I could yank out the defective burner part and put in a new one, I first had to open the sealed unit the burners and their various components called home. For that I needed a new nut driver.

My wife's birthday had already passed. I hadn't been able to fix the stove in time for the family celebration, so she had to settle for flowers. But since I knew how much a working burner meant to her, I went ahead and bought the 42-piece screwdriver and nut driver bit set.

When I got home, I hid it. I wanted it to be a surprise. Sunday morning, when my wife was away, I pulled out the nut driver, armed it with a hex bit and did battle with seven screws. When that bit first grabbed hold of that greasy nut, I could tell it meant business. No wiggling. No waggling. Just straight, no-nonsense nut driving. It made quick work of once-stubborn nuts. Victory was sweet.

The rest of the job didn't move as quickly. Once I got the electric stove burners opened up, I followed a diagram that came with the new parts and told me where to put the new wires. I put a few things upside down. But eventually I got it all right side up and stable.

I gave the stove top a test. I boiled two pans of water, one on each burner. Both bubbled. So now when a certain non-believer starts to give me trouble about my newly refined version of the leave-the-kids-at-home method of clothes purchasing, I remind her of the unexpected benefits of this shopping technique.

I go to the stove, turn on the burners, and sing "Happy Birthday."

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