Light is Right Joe Campbell

Light is Right Joe Campbell

My plumber impressed me when he drove up in a box truck full of tools and spare parts. Although I had let my fixtures deteriorate significantly, resulting in leaky faucets, faulty flushing devices, clogged drains, and the like, he was ready for anything. Or so it seemed.

After several hours of inspecting, repairing, and replacing, he took on a bathroom sink that emptied sluggishly. I couldn’t resist watching him work. I wanted to see the high tech tools plumbers use nowadays to clear drains.

“Do you have a wire coat hanger?” he asked, after inspecting and testing the pipes. I was taken aback. I couldn’t imagine why he wanted a coat hanger when he didn’t have a coat to hang.

“I need it for the sink,” he said, as I stood speechless. When I had recovered enough to fetch it, he turned the hanger into a long handled hook and relieved the drain of hair and other detritus. With that he was done, so I paid him, we shook hands, and he departed, leaving me to enjoy the improvements. He had repaired everything that needed it, except the coat hanger.

As I watched him drive off, I wondered why his mobile plumbing shop lacked such a vital tool. What, I asked myself, would he have done had I been unable to provide it.

Some months later, my wife noticed water on the floor of our refrigerator. When daily wiping failed to keep it dry, we suspected a leak. Fortunately, a mechanically inclined son-in-law offered to check out the fridge and arrived with an impressive tool kit. After a thorough examination, he diagnosed a clogged tube in the defrost system, and asked for a coat hanger.

Of course, I thought, he wants to re-purpose it to clear the tube, and that’s what he did. Like the plumber’s mobile shop, his stationary kit was ample, but not complete. It, too, lacked a coat hanger. How, I wondered, did they both know that I had a surplus of these essential instruments in my closet. More puzzling, why had I accumulated enough to repair every appliance in the house without inconveniencing my clothes? I guess some questions are unanswerable.

Anyhow, after taking inventory, I found that not only did I have enough spare coat hangers to accommodate visiting technicians. I had more than enough to build a high definition TV antenna. I didn’t actually build one, mind you. I’m not mechanically inclined. However, I read about others who did and who report better reception than store-bought models provide.

Further research revealed that wire coat hangers are near universal implements. You can use them for almost anything, from roasting marshmallows to breaking into locked cars. You can even turn them into musical instruments and acclaimed sculptures.

When my acoustic piano went flat in the upper register, I knew what it needed. Before he could ask, I offered the technician who came to tune it a coat hanger. Surprisingly, he preferred the tuning forks, electronic tuner, lever and wedge mutes in his kit. I guess he hadn’t kept up with the latest technology. Oh, well, at least he made house calls.

Nevertheless, the technology he rejected is widely recognized. Why, even supporters of legal abortion attest to how versatile coat hangers can be. When marching to and fro, some supporters carry signs and display badges depicting coat hangers. Others wear necklaces with coat hanger pendants.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw them march. They were so vehement, I thought they were promoting coat hangers as superior technology. I was wrong. They were denigrating them as old technology, which they say abortionists used when killing unborn children was against the law.

But in the 1950s, years before our political and judicial mentors legalized abortions, physicians in good standing performed 90 per cent of them. Not in back alleys, as legend has it, but in their offices. Although in defiance of the law, not to mention their Hippocratic Oath, these rogue doctors didn’t use coat hangers. Even today they don’t.

With their signs, badges and pendants, the marchers were giving coat hangers a bad name. No doubt, some deserved it, but they were a small minority. Besides, abortions were far fewer when recognized as a crime than when promoted as a choice.

It’s unfortunate that coat hangers don’t have legal standing. Sadly, these marvelously adaptable devices aren’t allowed to defend themselves against libel, hate speech, and unjust discrimination. Nor am I allowed to mount a legal defense on their behalf. Maybe it’s time for a coat hanger bill of rights.