By Tim Hayes
A point of pride for me remains that I don’t hate many things, and certainly not many people – if any. But one thing makes my blood boil, my mouth curse, and my hands suffer scrapes like nothing else.
The Allen Wrench. The most diabolical tool ever devised. The bane of every man’s existence, if he’s honest enough to admit it.
This little L-shaped SOB makes assembling a bookcase or a coffee table or an outdoor chaise lounge an adventure in frustration, rage, and a torrent of obscenities that would make an incarcerated felon blush.
After doing a little research, I found the genesis of this tiny metal torturer. It reads as follows:
“In 1910, William G. Allen patented a cold drawing process for making hex socket set screws. These safety screws avoided the typical square head protrusion that was common of fasteners at that time. With this new design, a worker’s clothing was much less likely to get caught on machinery and cause an accident. The revolutionary “ALLEN SAFETY SET SCREW” demanded a quality tool for turning the fastener. Hence, the Allen hex wrench was born in Hartford, Connecticut.”
Gosh, how homey. How admirable. Keeping workers’ clothing from getting caught on protruding screws. Way to go, Willie. Thanks a bunch. But why did this accursed little tool have to branch out like an indestructible virus for the past 104 years, ruining the weekend lives of men around the world? Why couldn’t those careless workers, who couldn’t keep their overalls away from protruding screws (and could this have been that big of an issue, really?), have kept this great invention to themselves?
The Allen Wrench and its legacy of pain and profanity became top-of-mind last week, as I worked to assemble a piece of outdoor furniture. One look at the assembly directions – magnanimously provided in three languages, none of which was even remotely decipherable – and I knew I was in for a long day. Diagrams showing where each size screw, washer, and nut would have to go, provided the fodder for an instant headache that blossomed into a full-blown cranium pounder within the first 30 minutes.
Each step required use of the Allen Wrench to tighten the screws. I started counting the times I lost my grip on the doggone thing, only to have it bounce, bling-bling, across the concrete floor of my garage outpost, but stopped somewhere after 20. The steady stream of swearing, shouting, and suffering overtook anything as innocuous as keeping score of how many times that stupid Allen Wrench caused a problem.
By what law of physics can a college-educated, reasonably coordinated, grown adult male be expected to use a tool – a tool that looks like it belongs in a jeweler’s hands while delicately working with diamonds, mind you – to piece together a steel frame that weighs 50 pounds when finished?
For God’s sake, can’t these manufacturers let us use real tools to put stuff together? Give me a screwdriver or a wrench or a hammer. Not that L-shaped demon.
What do you say, guys? Can we agree that if we never see another Allen Wrench in our lives, that would be just fine? Yeah, I thought so.
Copyright 2014 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting