Prodigious Procrastination and the Great Big Box

When I walked into my office suite today, I saw a great, big box. According to the printing on the box, it contains a new printer for the office. That’s good news, because our old printer is biting the dust, day by day, bite by dusty bite.

There’s another bit of good news here. Where I work, we have an IT team of top-notch experts who can do things like setting up new printers in their sleep. Therefore, I will not be spending the rest of the week trying to get the printer to work.

When I first saw the printer box, I was reminded of an experience I had about twenty-five years ago. My wife and I had bought a small home in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California. This “post-WWII” house included a modest, detached garage, which I determined to turn into my workshop. Though I had a decent collection of tools back then. With ample space afforded by the garage, I was ready to add larger, power tools, manly items like a table saw and a drill press.

A Sears radial arm saw with an attached cabinet. This looks to be exactly like the saw I bought 25 years ago.

At about that time, Sears was having a sale on radial arms saws. If you’re not familiar with tools, you may not know this sort of saw. It has a wide variety of uses, and is especially good for cross-cutting long boards. The sale was a good one, as I recall, something like 40% off. Radial arm saws aren’t cheap, but I knew I would get lots of use out of it, and with caution, it would last me for a lifetime. So I bought a deluxe saw, one that came with a large storage cabinet built into it.

The box for the saw and its cabinet was huge, perhaps three-and-a-half feet tall, three feet wide, and five feet long. It was also extremely heavy, and had to be delivered to my home. The delivery people placed it in my empty garage, because there’s no way I could have moved it very far on my own.

Excited to set up my new saw, I opened the box and took out the assembly instruction booklet. I call it a booklet today. At the time it felt like a modest telephone book. Thumbing through page after page of detailed instructions for how to put the radial arm saw together, I felt overwhelmed. “I can’t do this today,” I thought. “I’ll have to wait until I have more time to put this saw together.” I was disappointed, but not crushed. I put the instructions back in the huge box and planned on attacking the assembly on the weekend.

But the weekend came and went. And then the next weekend came and went. And then the next month. And the next. Meanwhile, I had lots of home improvement projects to do, and found that the giant saw box served nicely as an extra workbench. I used to joke with myself that I had the most expensive workbench in the world. Talk about prodigious procrastination!

When my wife and I moved from North Hollywood to Irvine, California, my “workbench” came along for the ride. Soon, it filled the garage in our new home. My wife had plans for that house, plans that included lots of crown moulding. Since I didn’t own a chop saw, I knew that the best tool for cutting long strips of crown moulding was . . . you guessed it, a radial arm saw.

So, after four years of feeling ashamed because of that unassembled saw, I knew it was time to tackle my Mt. Everest. I arose early one Saturday morning, opened the box for the first time in four years, and took out the intimidating instructions. I spent the better part of the day deciphering them, patiently assembling the saw and calibrating it for cutting. Sometime in the afternoon, I finished. And you know what, the saw worked. Flawlessly.

I still have that saw. It still works well. Suffice it to say, I did have to build another workbench, though. I used the saw.

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