Copyright 2001 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved

Crank's Corner: Commentary by Linda Marcas

                                                 Who Knows the Perfect Hose?

    My grandmother had bunions, so she wore slippers in the house.  She preferred the practical, thick
felt kind that men wore back then, dark blue or brown, with a pompom on top.  But her feet still hurt, and
she'd modify the slippers with cuts and holes in strategic places, attempting to make them fit better.  My
grandfather, in efforts to please her and make her less grumpy, brought home endless pairs of slippers for
her, but none of them were ever just right.  She never found the perfect pair of slippers, her feet always hurt,
and she stayed grumpy until the day she died.

    My mother didn't inherit my grandmother's grumpy disposition, but she did inherit an aspect of her
search for the perfection of a particular object.  In my mother's case, this is the search for the perfect hose.
She has spent years on this quest, and hundreds of dollars, all in vain.  I don't think that I've ever purchased
a hose for myself, because I always become the custodian of my mother's rejects.  Luckily, I treat hoses
rather harshly and tend to trash them after a year or two; if I didn't, I have enough hose to reach from
Toledo to Pittsburgh.

    Mom has lived in a condo for the past quarter-century; she has a concrete porch and sidewalk, a
postage-stamp sized brick patio, and a driveway long enough to park one car on.  There's a big oak tree in
her front yard.  She likes to feed the birds, too, and keeps a birdbath filled for them.  Instead of sweeping
away the leaves, seed husks, and bird droppings, which raises dust that aggravates her asthma and makes
her hands hurt from holding the broom handle, she prefers to use a hose to squirt the dirt away from her
doorstep, fill the birdbath, and water her posies, too.  No problem, right?

    Wrong.  She doesn't want to struggle and fight with the hose to get it to various spots, so she wants
a hose that doesn't kink.  She wants a forceful jet of water that will shove the leaves to the end of the
sidewalk, so she doesn't want a skinny hose, because she figures that a wider hose delivers more water (the
laws of hydraulic physics hold no sway in Mom's cosmology).  She doesn't want to leave the hose stretched
out where someone (probably she) might trip on it, so she wants a flexible hose that she can coil up neatly
when she's done with it.  She wants to store the hose in the garage during the winter, so she doesn't want it
to be too heavy.  She wants a hose that's long enough to reach the driveway and wash the car, but she
doesn't want it to be so long that it gets in her way when she waters the plants.

    Mom knows exactly what she wants and doesn't want as far as hoses go; unfortunately, there is no
such thing as a non-kinking, large diameter, flexible, easy-coiling, lightweight, long-short hose anywhere in
the known universe.  You know that.  I know that.  My mother knows that, too; the trouble is, she doesn't
believe it.  She believes that the Perfect Hose, that Holy Grail of the sprinkling set, is out there, somewhere,
and she is determined to find it before she dies.

    Hence, her Quest: the Search for the Perfect Hose, a quest in which I have been a reluctant
participant for many years.  I remember the Flat White Hose, a pricey mail-order marvel that was
guaranteed to remain flexible in all temperatures, deliver a large volume of water, drain itself while
returning to its flat cross-section profile, and practically coil itself back into a tight, tidy circle when you
were done with it.  It actually was a pretty good hose, but it wasn't perfect, and after a year or two, Mom
sent it to live with me.

    That was something like sending Shirley Temple to live at the orphanage; I was cruel to it, leaving
it out, uncoiled, year-round.  Despite my harsh treatment, it lived up to its advertising by surviving the
winter freezes.  Unfortunately, ultra-violet resistance was not one of its many good qualities; two summers
of full sun turned it into a bunch of brittle little pieces of white plastic, some of which continue to surface in
my yard to this day.

    After the flat white hose, Mom had a series of green hoses, during which she began her
experiments with Hose Management Systems.  Operating on the theory that perhaps the fault was not with
the hose itself but with the way she tried to store the hose between uses, she tried a hose hanger (too flimsy
to support the weight of the hose, besides having sharp metal edges) and then a hose bowl (she bought a
plastic one instead of the original terra-cotta type, and the plastic was too lightweight to dominate the hose,
so the bowl just flipped over and tagged along to wherever she dragged the hose, snagging on whatever it
could along the way).

    Changing her tactics, Mom tried a hose-and-reel combination next, an all-in-one contraption with a
skinny orange hose that promised easy storage.  Despite its slimness, this hose also refused to coil up nicely
once it had been unwound from the reel the first time; I think this particular hose holds the record for
quickest banishment to my house.  It will just have to hang around there, waiting its turn to be used; there
are several hoses in line ahead of it that I haven't broken yet.

    Sometime around this point, Mom developed a case of Hose Envy.  Her neighbor has a Big Black
Hose that she bought at Sears; from a distance, it seems to have all the qualities that Mom desires.  Of
course, they don't make that model anymore, so Mom bought a Big Black Hose With A Yellow Stripe,
hoping that it would be nearly the same.  She had to buy a long one, because it didn't come in a shorter
length.  But the Big Black Hose and the Big Black Hose With A Yellow Stripe are definitely not nearly the
same; trying to twist "Stripey" into a tidy coil is like wrestling with a reluctant python.  And guess who gets
to do most of the wrestling?

    That's right; yours truly is periodically recruited to tame the beast to Mother's satisfaction, usually
after she has spent a couple weeks tying said beast into Gordian knots.  My most recent wrestling bout
involved another Hose Management System, this time a $40 reel-and-storage-box combination sturdily
constructed of tasteful khaki plastic.  First, I had to coil the hose so that its rear end was on top, ready to
connect to the reel.  Then, I had to wind the hose onto the reel, forcing it to coil into smaller circles than its
natural inclination would easily allow, without which it would never have fit into the box.

    Meanwhile, the reel kept trying to unwind because the section of hose that was already on it
wanted to straighten out, and the section of hose that was still outside the box kept kinking on itself because
each turn of the reel added a twist that wasn't part of the hose's original curve.  Mom was "helping" by
trying to untwist the not-yet-reeled hose, but I suspect that she was turning it the wrong way, because it got
easier after I sent her inside.  Many "magic words" later, I achieved victory, vanquishing the python and
confining it to its box.  I hope it behaves itself from now on, for my sake if not for my mother's.

    I've never had trouble coiling a hose up, but usually I just don't bother to do it.  My hoses sprawl
all over the patio, dropped wherever they happen to be when I'm done using them.  Mom's problem, as I see
it, is that she doesn't have enough strength in her hands to give the hose the half-twist for each loop that
makes it settle down into a nice, circular coil.  The same weakness of grip fuels her related search for the
perfect, ergonomically designed, infinitely adjustable spray nozzle for the end of her perfect hose; she
doesn't want to twist the nozzle on and off, because it's too hard to tighten and loosen.  She wants a nozzle
that's easy to hold, easy to squeeze, adjusts from gentle mist to fire-hose force, and effortlessly remains at
whatever setting she chooses.  I have a vast collection of her rejected nozzles to go along with the less-than-
perfect hoses that I've inherited.  I'm resigned to the fact that, at her age, it's probably too late for my mom
to "get a grip," so to speak, but I'm still hoping that somehow, someday, she'll succeed in her quest for the
Perfect Hose.

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