Irritating Oversight

*bding* The screw ricochets off the underside of the metal desk, causing it to vibrate faintly. I hear the screw land on the cement floor and roll a bit before it settles 10 feet away.

Damn it. This is not going as smoothly as I hoped.

I pull another drywall screw out of my container and press it firmly against the metal underside of the desk. I insert my drill bit and line it up carefully before slowly pulling the trigger. The drill hums low as the screw starts to spin. I push harder, trying to open up a small hole into the thick metal, trying to make this screw do something it is not designed to do. A moment later the precarious balance of force and alignment shifts and I listen as another screw ricochets off the metal desk a few times, rolls along the cement floor, and then come to rest somewhere out of my view.

I sigh, a combination of frustration and a girding of my loins. It is too soon to give up, too soon to allow the frustration clawing from my center to overwhelm me. This has to get done. Instead of screaming in frustration and throwing my drill across the office, I take a deep breath and proceed.

I set down the drill and grab one of the small finishing nails I brought with me just-in-case. I strive to find the indention, any indention the screw or the one before it left on the metal. I think I feel something, and settle the tip of the nail into it. Once seated, I grab the hammer and try to give it a few solid taps without hitting my hand.

Ow! That’s not the nail. I squint. The head of a finishing nail is quite small, and I’m holding it almost an arm’s length away as I lay on the floor facing the bottom of the desk. Mary had turned off the overhead lights because I said I didn’t need them, but now the shadows and my over 40 eyes are having trouble seeing the head of the nail. I tap tentatively, hoping I’ll hit it. About every third tap shifts a bit and hits the side of one of my fingers holding the nail.

I sigh again in frustration, and roll to my side. I just need to get closer. I shift a little up as I push my elbow under me. *Thonk* Dammit! That’s the top of my head hitting against the metal leg of the desk. Really?!? Just, really?

I lay on my side for a few moments, gathering myself. Am I okay? My shoulders ache, my head aches, but that’s from all this bull I’m doing. Am I off? Is anything wrong from the head bump? I pause to allow the opportunity for my body to give me feedback. I’m tired. I want to stop. But do I want to stop because this is frustrating, exhausting and tedious, or because something is wrong? I don’t know.

Well, I started this task of moving Mary’s keyboard tray from one desk to another. It’s almost done. Only one screw left to put in! I’m going to finish it. I shift up enough, finally, so I can actually see the head of the damn finishing nail. I hit it more firmly, trying to breach the metal of the desk. After a few more blows I stop. The nail is bent. Again, using it in a way it is not intended to be used. I lay back down and toss it onto my collection of dulled screws and bent nails that I’ve created over the last half hour? Hour? As I’ve been getting starter holes created for the five metal screws required for the pull-out keyboard tray to be stable.


Mary catches me mid-project

I grab a new screw, line it up, and gun the trigger hard. It spins, and then I feel it shift inward a bit. And then the whole screw is embedded into a new hole in the metal. Excellent. I remove the dryway screw and get the actual thick screw with a bolt head and metal cutting tip – whatever the heck that is called – in the starter hole. A bit of pressure, a shower of metal dust bits falling on my shirt and into my eyes as the screw widens the hole, and it’s done. Finally.

I am exhausted, headachy, and done with this whole thing. I roll out from under the desk carefully – no more head bumps. Before I get up, I take a moment to crawl around and gather the destroyed screws scattered around the floor. The job isn’t over until the cleanup is done.

As I rise, I feel wobbly. I find myself weaving from side to side as I walk. I’m probably more tired than I realize. But it’s done. Done.

It isn’t until an hour or more later that I realize… I had a set of metal drill bits not 20 feet away. How much more quickly the task would have gone – 5 minutes, 15 minutes max – if I had popped one into my drill to make those holes. Using the proper tool, in the proper way, instead of jury-rigging a solution.

The success I feel at accomplishing a difficult task turns to embarrassment. Shame. Frustration at myself. Why didn’t I use the drill bits? I forgot. I forgot they existed. Not three days ago, I was looking at my bit set and noticed I had barely-used bits specifically for drilling through metal. So it wasn’t that I didn’t know it. As I think back over it, I started the process out – using the nails, the screws to make the holes – because I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t want to bother to roll out from under the desk to get that drill bit. I thought my improvisation might be a simpler way to get the job done. By the time I got into it, though, into the trenches of the task, the fact that those drill bits existed – the exact thing I needed to make what I wanted happen – that information was gone.

I feel so stupid. Not dumb, just stupid. I made an easy task hard by getting stuck in a mental rut. By not pausing, stepping back when something wasn’t working, and reevaluating. Instead, I did what I use to do all the time right after my injury. Or before my injury for that matter. Double down. Triple down. Push through.

That’s one of my weaknesses, one of my behavior patterns that doesn’t serve me well anymore. I know that. I learned that years ago. But still, faced with a task – especially now that I have more energy – I just want to jump on it, not step back and reconsider when my first idea doesn’t work. The thing is, these days, I probably have the mental acuity to remember, at some point, about those drill bits. If I had made mental space. If I had paced around a bit, and rubbed my chin, and thought about it. There’s a good chance I would have managed to remember their existence, and then been able to use them.

But I didn’t. And although I succeeded, I also failed. Success of a task done. Failure of tiring myself out needlessly and doing something frustrating for an hour, when 5 minutes of thinking could have made it happen so much more easily.

About csequoia

I am the writer of The Foggy Shore blog, with a professional background in Environmental Science. Right now, I'm working on a book about living and healing from post concussion syndrome.
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2 Responses to Irritating Oversight

  1. Ruth Wittorff says:

    You’re not the only one who does this….maybe that might be a bit comforting?


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