G.I. Joe’s, Fire Trucks & Hardware Stores

I have always been a tomboy.

I have never really been very excited about girly stuff, like having pretty nails, pink things, lace and dresses. When I was a kid, I tended to play more with the boys than with the girls. They just did more interesting things, and had neater stuff. I always preferred playing with matchbox cars and toy trains, pedal cars and tractors, and the boy across the street had G.I. Joe figures and army trucks.

While the girls in the neighborhood were playing house and having tea parties, I was across the street at Patrick’s house playing war and fighting Nazis, and getting captured by the enemies and shot up with truth serum. Patrick was a very cool dude, and his mom was even cooler for allowing me to play with him. When I was a kid, cross-gender play was fairly unheard of and definitely not encouraged, and Patrick was much younger than I was, and sick with leukemia to boot.

My mom always told me to play gently with him, and I did, but one day Patrick got very sick, went away to a big hospital in a big city and never returned, and I have missed him and his G.I. Joe’s ever since.

Ah, Patrick’s G.I. Joe’s. They were so much cooler than Barbies, and one reason was they had fully articulated arms and legs. While Barbie’s arms and tip-toed legs were always perfectly straight and unbendable, G.I. Joe could grab all sorts of items and hold them in different positions. They also had “real” beards and some even had scars! I loved the realism.

barbieMalibu Barbie     GI Joe  GI Joe

I also loved all the neat gear they came with, and the realistic vehicles and trucks they could drive. The scuba gear G.I. Joe was the best. They were so much more interesting to me than Barbie, who seemed totally dumbed down and “plastic,” even though I did play with Barbies too. G.I. Joe did everything before Barbie did, even talk.

I guess that’s why I am enamored with fire trucks. Every year the fire department comes to The Gazette to do a fire inspection, and they bring the fire truck to do it. I always ask if I can go for a ride, but haven’t gotten one, yet. They probably think I’m kidding. The fact is, I find fire trucks fascinating. And although my friends have all kinds of funny things to say about that, I truly think it’s because of the way they are equipped, and the fact that they can do so many things.

firetruck dials

When you look at a fire truck, they are so darn shiny and pretty. They have all sorts of dials, wheels, knobs, hoses and ladders. They have secret compartments that hold all sorts of other tools. I love the fact that a vehicle can be so highly functional and yet so attractive. And yes, I know that’s strange. Remember, this column is about having an askewed view. It’s kind of like my car is a Barbie, and a fire truck is a G.I. Joe… with scuba gear.

So that brings me to hardware stores. I have always loved them for the same reason I love fire trucks. It seems like any problem you could ever have can be solved with what is sold in a hardware store. I actually get a kick out of seeing endless bins of nuts and bolts. I like the heavy, matter-of-factness of holding a tool in my hand. I like how it feels to be able to solve a problem by getting the right stuff, even when you don’t know what that stuff is yet, or what it is called.

I wanted to mount a flag holder on my new porch for Labor Day, but my porch being made mostly of brick, mortar and metal railing, I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. On a walk with my grandson past the school one night, I noticed how a metal sign had been mounted on the fencing and realized how it could be done. I went to the hardware store and tried to explain it to the help. I told them I had no idea what I needed, but could draw it pretty well if that would help.

After explaining it, we got it figured out and I went home with my stuff and up went the flag holder. I was very happy to have found a solution and enjoyed flying my flag that whole weekend.

This past weekend I tackled another project that involved my closet. The closet is quite large, and the main rod for the clothes hangs so high, it would be out of reach unless I had a small ladder. Not wanting to climb a ladder every day to get dressed, I studied the existing set-up until I figured a way to lower the rod to my reach without having to do a lot of carpentry.


I went to the hardware store and explained the idea to a gentleman who asked just a few questions before taking me to the area with eye hooks and chains. Ten minutes and $14 later I was on my way out of the store, very excited to get home and start changing things. The guys at the store were pretty amused at this, but solving this problem for 14 bucks was an amazingly inexpensive fix for me, not to mention the wonderful sense of satisfaction derived from doing it myself.

It took about a half hour and a few tweaks, but it worked like a charm and I am in love with my closet now. Strange, but true. I keep finding excuses to walk over and admire it throughout the day. I know, I know… for me, it’s the little things. The efficiency of things. How useful is it, how useful can I make it, in how small of a space? That’s a challenge I enjoy time after time.

Wow… who knew G.I. Joe’s, fire trucks and hardware stores had so much in common?



Originally published October 5, 2012.

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