A duty-free weekend requires a strategy

February 01, 2003|By ROB KASPER

YESTERDAY, a wave of panic washed over me as I realized I had no plans for the weekend. I figured I had better gin some up or I would be suffering.

In my world, the phrase "plans for the weekend" does not mean slaloming down the slopes, or jetting to distant, sun-dappled isles. Instead, it usually means fixing something that is broken or roaming through hardware stores looking for parts.

Long ago, I learned that if you don't have an agenda for a weekend, you are likely to get dragged into the projects of family members. In other words, if you don't grab a wrench and disappear into the basement, you could easily find yourself spending the day looking at wallpaper samples.

On winter weekends, there are plenty of frightening scenarios lurking out there: shopping for upholstery fabrics, stripping wallpaper, rearranging furniture. I let my guard down a few weekends ago, and before I knew it, I was yanking old rugs out from underneath heavy beds and replacing them with newer, more colorful floor coverings. Ugh!

During warmer times of the year, it is easier to avoid getting roped into other people's projects. You can flee to the great outdoors and putter in the garden or tinker with the lawn mower. In drought-free times, for example, I have spent entire weekends leisurely washing and waxing two cars.

But in the winter, there are fewer places to hide out. If you happen to have a kid who is playing basketball, or wrestling or swimming, you can play the "dutiful parent" card and sit in the bleachers for hours cheering on your offspring. This tactic allows you to escape homefront tasks, but there is a cost, usually lower back pain, that comes with it.

A better course of action, I think, is to draw up your domestic docket for the weekend and to announce it at supper Friday. This is the strategy of pre-emption. It seems to be popular these days.

Yesterday, I paged through home repair books, looking for simple, appealing tasks that could give me "first-strike" capabilities and fill up the empty spots in my weekend with projects of my own devising.

At the top of my list was "lock lubrication." According to the experts in such matters, every six months the household locks need lubrication. Who knew?

The suggested lubricant is a tube of powdered graphite, which you are supposed to apply to both sides of the appropriate key, then push the key in and out of its lock a few times.

I have worked with powdered graphite before. It is slippery dust. Moreover, the tip of the tube clogs easily. Nothing comes out until you put your face close to the tip to examine it, and squeeze the tube. Then the clog suddenly disappears. A plume of dark, powdered graphite shoots out, covering your hands and face.

It takes a fair amount of time to get the graphite off. It might take me all weekend.

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