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The Incredible Shrinking Man

Princeton, NJ, January 26, 2010 – Click Image for Larger View

This morning, before work, I was in our basement crawl space on leg three of replacing the battery backup sump pump. An odyssey which began two days earlier and required no less than three trips to Lowe’s.

It should have been simple. I already had a battery backup sump pump in place. Swap it out with a new one and move on.

Leg #1 to Lowe’s – get a new sump pump kit to replace the one that was at least ten years old. I already had a relatively new battery to use with it. Leg #2 to Lowe’s – get a new battery because the new kit is not working. Leg #3 – return the new kit because it’s still not working with the new battery and swap it out with another new kit.

This morning’s work went quickly and was a relief on two fronts. The second new kit was working and nothing blew up. Not that anything should blow up but working with a lead-acid battery and all its warnings of dire consequences is not fun. In the midst of this it dawned on me to open the small window in the crawl space. Let in some air as to avoid working with the battery in an unventilated space. I stood up as best I could, hunched over in the 4 foot high space, and opened the window. It pulled in and down, revealing all the grime that a ground level, rarely opened window, can hold. Quite pretty in its own way but instead my attention was drawn to the screen and out the window. The past two days of rain had cleared, a spike of morning sun was raking across the lawn, and a couple of birds flitted about here and there.

Instantly, I was thinking of the movie, The Incredible Shrinking Man. I had seen it on TV as a kid. The great b&w, the oddity of his marriage as he grew smaller, living in the doll house, the fight with the cat, trying to find food, killing the spider, and finally the twist at the end – the imprisonment caused by his size inverting itself to enable his freedom. He became small enough to fit through an opening in the basement window screen and walk out to freedom.

Still from The Incredible Shrinking Man

Maybe it was the window screen and ground-level point of view, the morning light, or the birds outside that sent me flashing back to the movie. Maybe it was sharing one of the movie’s themes, the frustration of feeling out of control. In my case through another hardware store project where I was at the mercy of incredibly bad quality control. Last summer I tried to buy a power washer only to give up after two of them were defective. The summer before it took four trips to two different hardware stores to find a hose which didn’t leak on its first use. Regardless of the reason, it was refreshing to pause and think about something completely different for a moment, to be drawn back to another time, and to see the world anew from the perspective of this forgotten window.

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