Monday, May 4, 2015

The Tool-Caddy


When I worked as a picture framer I was very, VERY organized. Everything had it’s place, and I knew exactly where everything was. I was very anal about keeping my workbench clean and organized… and I hated it when other people would use my tools, take things from my shelves and organizers, or leave a mess at my workbench. It was all about the details and organization. Having OCD kind of does that to you.

My brother Peter, on the other hand, was sort of the opposite. His workbench was always an absolute mess. There’d be artwork, old frames, old mats and mat board or foam core scraps leaning up against the wall. There’d be nails and screws and wire hangers all over the place. There were work order sheets in piles. There were all sorts of notes scribbled everywhere. He had a habit of writing important info right on the large sheets of backing paper he’d use to cover his workbench. Tools were scattered in so many places that he’d often end up having multiples of the same tool, just so he’d be able to find one when he needed one. 

He’d often tease me about how freakin’ organized and neat I was. I’d give him hell about how unorganized and chaotic he was. That being said, he loved it when he had to - for one reason or another - work at my workbench. He tended to use it a lot when I wasn’t there. I, on the other hand, HATED it when I had to do anything at his workbench! Actually, I think that was true for all of the other framers there too. If it was a day that Peter wasn’t in, we could never find anything on his workbench… couldn’t make sense of any of his notes… and couldn’t figure out what the heck he was working on. That’s just the way it was.

One day I showed up at work with a new addition for my workbench: A black plastic spinning pencil/tool caddy that Holly bought for me from Staples, where she worked at the time. I set it up on my workbench and filled it with pencils and pens and markers and scissors and my glass cutter and all sorts of other odds-and-ends. Peter teased me about it… but it wasn’t long before he was eyeing up my caddy. He’d bring it up so often that finally I went and bought him one.

The caddy sort of helped clean up Peter’s workbench a bit. He started putting his main tools in it - so that kind of helped make things a little easier to find. The rest of the workbench was still a mess though!

Almost twenty years passed… and Peter finally opened his own picture framing business. The first time I went there to visit him I was amazed when I walked through the door. Not only was the place beautiful, it was immaculate. Everything in the gallery/customer portion of the business seemed neat and organized. When I got into the back room, however, things were… well… more “Peter-like”. The workbench was a mess… there was artwork and old frames and old mats and mat scraps everywhere. There were work orders all over the place. There were notes on just about every surface. There were nails and screws and razor blades here and there… and yes, there were multiples of each type of tool scattered around so he’d always be able to find one when he needed it…

… but there it was… the black plastic spinning caddy I had given him… sitting on a drafting table he had set up in the back room… absolutely filled with all sorts of “stuff”. I smiled when I saw it… and I gave him a hard time about how unorganized and chaotic he was - and about how some things never change.

Now we’re faced with the difficult task of wrapping up the business. There’s a lot of artwork to be returned to customers. There are refunds to be made. There are mysteries that need solving - such as artwork that has no names or work orders to go with it, leaving us clueless as to who the rightful owners are. 

Holly and I went to the shop one day just to pack up all of Peter’s personal items: The family photos and artwork from his daughters… the watches and jewelry he had there… the personal tools that he used most often, etc., etc.. There, tucked in the caddy, was a bundle that included some of the plastic photo holders that you find in wallets. I opened one up, and there I was staring back at myself. It was my school photo from my junior year of high school. It kind of surprised me to find that.

Now the plastic caddy has been emptied and sits on my desk, next to my computer. My desk is absolutely unorganized and chaotic. There are notebooks and journals. There are photos and business cards. There are stacks of mail and product manuals. There are cameras and lenses. There are gifts that people have sent me recently. There are pens and notes and all sorts of “stuff” all over the desk and the surrounding furniture. It’s a “Peter-style mess”. 

It makes me smile!


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