M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Monday, January 14, 2013  

Uncontrolled Panel

I was pretty pleased with myself after finishing up the bathroom-paneling project. Not just because it looked pretty good by my own admittedly unprofessional standards, but because I had materials left over. Including one uncut eight-foot-by-four-foot piece of paneling I turned out not to need now. Knowing I could now tie it back onto the roof of my car and drive it back to Home Depot made me feel unaccountably smug.

The cure for that feeling turned out to be attempting to actually do so.

Saturday morning was errand time. There were several things to return and/or exchange at several stores (not your gift, of course, your gift was awesome and we will treasure it always), and it made sense to start with the leftover remodeling materials. I had gotten three of the panels home in the first place, so I assumed it would be that much easier to get just one of them back. And this time I already knew it wouldn't fit in the cargo area even with the seat down, so having M. Edium along wasn't going to be a problem. As long as I could get him to quite fiddling with the eight-foot-long pieces of unused trim I was also returning, which ran from the inside of the back window to the shift lever.

So I loaded the remaining segment of paneling on the roof and set about securing it. I still had some twine left over from bringing it and its fellows home, but this time I also used the rope in the garage that I'd forgotten to bring along on the pickup errand. When I'd driven it home, even with twine going across the three panels and lengthwise, I had to stay off the freeway the whole way. The panels were about a foot longer than my roof, and the radio antenna sticking up in back like a dorsal fin meant I could only position them so far back, which left the ends protruding out over the windshield. Not ideal, but I managed to get them home safely. It helped that I wasn't on a particularly busy road when they slid forward off the roof, and I'd managed to ascertain that there was a clear space to pull over in the fraction of a second before they covered the windshield completely.

Which I did, and tied them on more securely, and also stuck my hand out the window to help hold them in place. So now I know how hard a freezing wind has to be blowing before it doesn't feel like I have gloves on at all.

So that was a learning experience. For the return trip, I did my best to tie the remaining panel more securely to begin with, looping the stout rope several times over the roof through the door openings (even remembering, shrewdly, to open all the doors before I did so in order to allow me to get in and out) and then stringing the leftover twine over it all from the front bumper to the trailer hitch. I still wasn't getting on the freeway, but I figured I was in good shape.

But I wasn't done learning. Specifically, I wasn't done learning about knots and how to tie them. I don't think I'll ever be done learning that.

And there's no excuse for it, really. My dad was in the Navy, back when every sailor learned every knot, and he still knows all of them and all their names and which ones to use. I know names like "half-hitch" and "bowline" and "square knot" but don't know how to actually do any of them. And I used to. Not only did I help rig stages back in my theater-punk days, I earned the Using Rope merit badge when I was in Cub Scouts. Not that I have any idea where that thing is now, which is probably just as well. It's a lie now at any rate.

So anyway, M. Edium and I were on our way in our rolling collection of grannies (the one knot I can both name and execute), and I realized a few things. One was that it was a lot windier than the day I'd brought these panels home. The second was that one piece of paneling is a lot more flexible than three are. These two facts were combining in such a way that if I drove more than twenty miles per hour, the front end of that paneling was beginning to whipsaw inside the half-inch or so of slack my frozen (and, let's face it, incompetent) fingers hadn't been able to avoid leaving in the longitudinal line.

Which probably still would have been fine, but somewhere on Excelsior Boulevard, the busiest road I wouldn't be able to avoid taking, I realized that the amount of slack had grown. The wind was getting between that piece of paneling and the wind, and trying to lift it up like a heavily starched sail, pulling loose my crappy knot in the process. Every time the front line went taut, I had to lean a little further forward to see the front end of the panel levitating somewhere above my windshield. The only thing holding it down now was a bunch of rope, a length of twine, and okay, my hand again.

It's probably just as well I had my hand up on the roof, because that way I could tell exactly when the panel snapped in half crossways.

Well, at least now I wouldn't have to lug the thing back into the store. And this was still vastly preferable to having it slide down over the windshield again, especially on Excelsior Boulevard, and even more especially with my kid in the car.

I pulled in to the very next parking lot with half the panel still on top of the car, and half of it resting on the median a few dozen yards behind us. M. Edium really wanted to join me on my expedition across two lanes of traffic to retrieve it, but there are times as a parent when you kind of have to say no.

When I got to it, I saw that the twine had sawed a gash into the front end of the panel a foot deep. When I got back to the car with it, I saw that the twine itself had been reduced to a vague collection of fibers where the panel had been sawing through it. So I guess there's something to be said for the unintentionally remarkable engineering feat of having both of them fail at the same time.

Now all I had to do was remove the remaining half from the roof, then hold up the two halves at an angle and stomp on them until they were broken into jagged pieces small enough to fit into the cargo area with the back seat up. As if the results of the bathroom project weren't sufficient evidence, never let it be said that I don't have skills with wood paneling.

I agree, it looks better in the bathroom.

The run wasn't a total failure, though. The leftover pieces of trim made it safely back to the store intact, and I got a full refund for them, as well as the other items from other stores I'd set out to cash in that morning.

And you know what else? The back half of that panel was on there rock-solid. I kind of wish I were still driving it around now, just to show what a half-bad-ass I am.

posted by M. Giant 8:52 PM 0 comments


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