My favorite thing about streaming radio is the ability to time shift. On the east coast I can roll the clock back 3 hours by listening to my favorite NPR shows out on the west coast. Yesterday, after the NPR broadcasts were over in Atlanta, I clicked on KPCC in Pasadena – one of my favorites. It kept me company as started a new project – fitting a GPS mount to a motorcycle handle bar.
My project required finding a way to fit a bracket several millimeters too wide for the space available on the bar. After considering several options, I decided I needed to call upon the Rodney Dangerfield of the toolbox – the flat file.
I learned about flat files in my 8th grade shop class. My dad always had flat file or two in the garage – and it never seemed useful for much more than a substitute pry-bar when a big screwdriver wasn’t available. The few times I tried to shape something, the dusty and old flat file never seemed to make a dent in whatever I was filing. My shop teacher changed all that. By showing us proper technique using a good quality file, we learned we could do amazing things with a flat file and it’s cousin, the rat-tail file. We sharpened saws, shaped metal, and made parts fit. Before those lessons, everyone in our class thought a flat file was a worthless tool. We had never given it any respect. Few today probably do.
I selected a new flat file from my toolbox and started removing the excess width – about 4 millimeters according to the toolbox queen, the micrometer. Holding the bracket firmly in the shop vice, I slowly drew the file over the bracket – a little on each side – until the material began to vanish and a small heap of silvery powder began to appear on the workbench surface.
Meanwhile, the newscaster on NPR started a piece on the consumption of breakfast cereal. It seems we Americans are eating less. Cereal producers have tried to compensate by finding new and exciting ways for us to enjoy their products – like mixing them in yogurt and showcasing gluten free options like corn and rice Chex. But even these new options are losing out to the breakfast bar, the fast-food drive-through, and other options for eating on the go. Traditional breakfast is losing out to things that take less time.
Someone has measured the average time a typical American has available for breakfast – the newscast reported 12 minutes. Using sound effects of opening a box of crunchy cereal, pouring it into a ceramic bowl, applying the proper amount of cold milk and the clank of a spoon placed in the bowl of breakfast – the newscaster hinted at the irony of such a simple meal requiring too much time for many Americans.
Taking time for a craft project is a luxury I’m pleased to have. With a little planning, I’m usually able to avoid rushing to get things accomplished. Some things just take time – and those without it are missing out. Of course we can’t make more time, so we reallocate what we have by doing things like skipping corn flakes and having a bagel in the car instead. Perhaps we’ve become so accustomed to abbreviating our daily activities that we’ve forgotten the pleasure of taking time.
As my pile of silver powder grew larger under the shop vice, I wondered how much time this filing project would take. About an hour and a half was my best guess. It had taken me at least 12 minutes to have the pear, macadamia nuts and coffee I ate for my breakfast. But with 90 minutes available to use my flat file, I could have taken much longer.