Don't worry, kid, we'll always have plaster of Paris

SATURDAY'S HERO

February 06, 1993|By ROB KASPER

A hole appeared in a kitchen wall. Possible repair methods were pondered.

Should the hole be filled with quick-drying plaster of Paris, known for its ability to spread out and bond with the edges of old plaster? Or should it be slow-drying patching plaster, praised for its longer, more forgiving hardening time? It was a big decision, and like most such decisions it was put off.

In the interim, previous perforators were interrogated about how the hole got there. "What hole?" the kids said.

Next, various hole-making scenarios were studied. The opening was about the size of a baseball, but it wasn't a baseball hole. An errant ball, hurled in a moment of fury or of anti-authoritarian delight, would have landed higher up on the wall. About glove level.

This hole was down near the floor, a few inches above the baseboard. It was an unlikely landing spot for a baseball, a lacrosse stick, a bicycle wheel or any of the other known enemies of household walls.

I didn't have a suspect. But then, in a moment of inspiration, I wheeled a skateboard over to the scene of the cavity. Case closed. The edge of the skateboard struck the wall at exactly hole height. Moreover, the hole in the wall was the precise size of the tip of the skateboard.

The wall repair is just one of the patch-up jobs that I have had to deal with since skateboards entered the house.

The first casualty was the wood molding around the fireplace hearth in the kitchen. It had been happily anchored to the concrete floor for who-knows-how-many years. The house has been around for 110 years. Nothing disturbed the molding until the skateboards, first one, then another, then a third came rolling onto the scene.

Riding the skateboard in the kitchen is, of course, "forbidden." But it is like double parking, one of those rules that perpetrators easily "forget" and enforcers often "tolerate."

After steadily being crushed with skateboards loaded with kids, the molding snapped loose from the cement floor.

I wasn't sure what kind of wood the molding was made of, but after trying to drive new nail holes in it, I learned it was a very hard wood. I freed the snapped-off nails from the wood and used the old nail holes. After some authoritative blows, a few masonry nails sank into the concrete floor. Home, hearth and molding were secure from skateboard assault.

The skateboards have also been tended to. Their big fat wheels were removed and replaced with small, skinny ones. Their supports, called trucks in skateboard lingo, were tightened, and loosened, and then tightened again.

While I have done most of the wrench work, I merely followed instructions. The "brains" behind the skateboard design have been packs of kids, mine and others ranging from 7 to 12 years old, who, as the mood strikes them, decide that parts need to replaced. Putting parts on a kid's skateboard reminds me of rearranging furniture in the family room. Instead of asking "Why are you doing this?" the quicker way to get the job over with is to merely ask "Where do you want it?"

Then there was the patching up of a skateboard rider. A month ago, the 12-year-old came home after a skateboarding session and complained that his wrist hurt. It still hurt after ice was applied and aspirin swallowed. A day or so later he was in a cast. A bone in his wrist had a slight fracture.

I had some hope that during the four weeks the cast was on, the enthusiasm for skateboarding would fade. Instead it flourished. Thrasher magazine, the Rolling Stone of skateboarding, was read, reread and quoted.

When I tried to throw out some old shirts, the ones I wore when I was working around the house, they were snapped up by the 12-year-old. Baggy shirts, it turned out, were the height of skateboarder style.

Now the cast is off. Promises have been made to stay off the board for another two weeks and to wear wrist protection when the wheels resume rolling.

I still can't decide whether to use plaster of Paris or patching plaster to fix that hole in the kitchen wall. But somehow I get the feeling that as soon as I plug that hole, another will follow. Besides, the shirt I used to wear when I patch plaster is no longer available. It and all my other "grungy" clothes are now skateboarding duds.

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