Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I have always acknowledged my husband’s engineering acumen and praised those traits that go along with it – exactness, tidiness, abilities in math and sciences, logic, and concentration. Moreover, the top of this man’s desk is a work of perfection: a place for everything and everything in its place. I have tried to take lessons from him, but I cannot live that way. I must have a little chaos around me.

To understand how it is we have been able to stay married for so many years, I have always maintained that I need him for his order, and he needs me for my creativity. The balance seems to have worked, though I suspect my creativity was the cause of his ulcer many years ago.

However, just this week I have had a glimpse into Jerry’s dark – or better to call it his “other” side. He has a desk drawer that I open whenever I need a postage stamp. I never paid much attention to what else was in it but I knew that there was at least a tiny screwdriver, a pair of old beat-up scissors, and a magnifying glass. I don’t go into his desk drawer much, but this week I needed a flashlight and while he was standing close at hand, I delved into the drawer and brought one out. “Oh, that’s not a good one,” he said. “There’s a better one in here.” He rummaged around and came out with a flashlight I’d never seen before.

I remarked on his need for two flashlights, and while pulling the drawer fully out I laughingly asked him what else he was hiding in there. I was astounded. I won’t say his drawer was as full as mine is, but considering his tidy engineering traits I was shocked.

It was the multiples that amazed me. I know he owns three magnifying glasses because I took one for use in my office. But who needs five measuring tapes? “Ah,” he explained, “one is metric.” The last time he measured anything in metric was in early 1993 when we returned from living in Istanbul. Maybe he is emotionally attached to it, although engineers aren’t noted for their emotionality over things.

His earliest ruler, showing a business name and address, says “Los Angeles 1” for a zip code and Lucas 0189 for a phone number. We decided it pre-dates 1955. He keeps it for sentimental reasons, he says. But he has 5 rulers in his desk drawer – just in case.

How many screwdrivers does one need in a desk drawer? 6? That number must be added to the number in the tool chest he keeps beside his desk. What about 3 flashlights, 3 tubes of pencil lead (for the pencil he no longer has.) He keeps a tiny bottle of ink for his long-gone ink pad. He has an old bi-color school eraser and half of an art-gum eraser. He doesn’t use those, either. And just in case you are wondering about the item that goes across the bottom of the picture: it is a telescoping back scratcher. It’s cute, but not as cute as the person who gives him a back scratch every time he asks.

Finally, he also has the world’s longest eye-brow pluckers, which he advises me are really for stamp collectors. He stopped collecting stamps a long, long time ago. Apparently he thinks he might take on that hobby again and wants to be prepared. What isn’t shown in this picture are the postage stamps that are most often my reason for getting into the drawer – those and the old beat-up scissors, which I declined to put in the photo, since I didn’t want anyone to think that we used such decrepit things!

Now just remember that this is his DESK drawer. I find it full of amazing, yet very undesk-like implements. It has made me revise my thinking about the secret life of engineers. I think my own engineer has unneeded multiples of odd things in his desk drawer. The contents of mine are much more mundane.

But before I show you mine, I have to explain that my desk does not have drawers. It has shelves on one end and a file cabinet tucked under the other end. There is a space between the top of the file cabinet and the underside of the desk, so that is where I keep my makeshift “desk drawer,” which actually is an old metal baking pan that my mother used, but which has long been repurposed into a desk drawer! And before you take a good look at it, I want to explain that it is also a multi-use drawer, a “Fibber McGee’s drawer par excellence.”

My secretarial treasures are in there, all willy-nilly for sure, but close at hand when I need them. So please don’t laugh. Just remember, I don’t have 5 rulers, 3 flashlights, 6 tape measures, etc. etc. etc. I have creative things!

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