Tuesday, January 5, 2016

First-world hangups

Coat hangers, am I right?

At least once in your life, you wanted to be an inventor, to improve the world and/or become rich and/or famous. Maybe you had to invent something for a school assignment.
[Flashback: Once in school I had to invent a toy, but I had no clue and no time but plenty of tears and tantrums. My dad took over. He cut a short length of broomstick, drilled a hole through its length, stuck it onto the end of a scrap-metal rod, and bent the end of the rod into a kind of hook so the little length of broom handle would stay in place but also spin freely. Then he made a handle out of broomstick for the other end of the rod. Finally, he fished out a one of the back wheels of a long-unused tricycle (no telling why he still had it): A toy.

[You rolled the tire on the ground, and kept the tire spinning with the hook end of the rod, the little piece of broomstick spinning as it touched the tire tread.

[Not once did I hear the conversations that should have/probably did take place, pivoting on:
  • Why is your dad inventing your toy? Isn't this supposed to be your assignment?
  • Why should we call that an invention, when it's really more of an update (a clever one, mind) of the old hoop-and-stick that boys played in the Good Old Days?
[Ah, parents: Will we ever learn?

[Ah, children: Likewise.

[I still have it, in the garage with the scant remains of sporting goods; it's really quite something.

[Flashback over.]
You probably outgrew this notion, this flair for inventing. A few of you didn't. A few of you grew up to invent really useful, fascinating, earth-changing things, like artificial hearts and variable-speed wipers. Others of you invented things we didn't need but couldn't live without, like twitter®™. Either way, you are not reading this, busy as you are inventing more things, and becoming richer and more famous.

Don't despair. I have a brilliant opportunity for someone among the rest of you, to become rich and famous and, in so doing, disregard this blog forever.

After this post, that is.

You ready? Here it is: Coat hangers.

I am officially done thinking of a way to eradicate them. They are infernal devices of frustration. Tools — dare I say? — of the devil.

Though I have found this burning need to make them better, I can't fill it. Now it's yours to carry the torch.

It won't be easy, take it from me. Coat hangers haunt and taunt me every time I use them. Every mother-loving moment.

They are a big part of the reason my clothes heap on the floor until laundry day. Not a defensible reason, but still.

Why do I hate them? They:
  • Hook onto everything you don't want them to. Every single time.
  • Come off the hanger rod in twos or threes when you only want one. Always.
  • Jam into other hangers when you try to put them away, so they make themselves ready to come off in twos or threes the next time.
  • Knock at least one hanger off the rod and between the dresser and the far corner of the closet, unexplored since the Ford Administration. Vast deposits of coat hanger wire back there, I'm sure.
  • Wrinkle pants, no matter how neat you I try to drape them.
  • Especially the plastic hangers with the little struts that strengthen the hangers but make the pants-draping part too narrow.
  • Plus, the plastic ones with the strengthening struts still break — just when you could really use it.
  • Break under use, especially the wire hangers with the cardboard tube base. Why do they exist? They are those hangers you get from the dry cleaners, I suspect, and they're not designed for long-term use, but who doesn't try to keep using them? You'd think we go to the dry cleaners twice a week, like people on TV, for all the dry-cleaner hangers we have.
  • Remind you you're getting old, especially the coat hangers with their tattered paper lining, advertising some dry cleaner from long ago and far away. We don't tear off the paper — too much work, the paper just bunching at one end of the drapy part when you I try — but let it tatter and yellow on the wire frame.
  • Drop your shirt to the floor of your closet anyway, even after you have taken pains to secure it to the hanger. Hanger makers have colluded to make their devices about an inch-and-a-half too narrow to suspend your average shirt. Hanger makers are having a good laugh right now. They always do.
  • Make your life harder, especially the ones designed to hang just pants, upside down by the cuff. They're supposed to clamp the cuff and the pants hang straight, no bending. But the clamps don't clamp, and the steps needed to arrange the pants and install them in these devices — bother, I just heap them on the floor.
  • Confuse and confound — my half of the closet includes a token number of sturdy wooden hangers, sculptural in their beauty, with a hook that swivels in its base so it can hang clothes facing left or right. I reserve them for fancy slacks and clothes that I don't have, so they remain empty. Sour grapes, anyway: The hooks don't swivel very well; you I still have to turn the hook yourmyself with your my free hand.
  • Threaten relationships: My wife and I are left-handed, but she hangs clothes with her right hand, so that the clothes face left. Who in her right mind does that? Clothes hung by left handers must face right! Relationship saved by my washing and hanging my own clothes.
You feel my pain, I know you do. My only hope now is that I've stated my case with passion sufficient to spur you to creating a bold new world, one in which clothes may be draped in a sensible, harmonious fashion, off the floor.

Necessity is the mother of invention, of course, and this necessity is a mother!

When you solve this urgent need, save a few. I must admit two good uses for these terrible contraptions:
  • They hang T-shirts really well! T-shirts are 85 percent of my wardrobe, and you I don't have to worry about wrinkling them. For some reason, they hang rather well on these devices, and that saves a lot of dresser drawer space for sweaters I never wear.
  • They make great puppets for art class, which I did in fourth grade, by folding my puppet in half when no one else did, and winning a Snickers™® bar.
Aside from that, hangers can go hang.

Good luck to you, Mr./Ms. Inventor. The world awaits amid piles of dress slacks and skirts (how do you hang skirts? Never mind).

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