There it went, slipping from betwixt thumb and forefinger, glinting briefly in the basement’s halogen light, and then disappearing into a realm beyond the physical, a place where critical pieces of everything – jigsaw puzzles, broken hearts, cantilever brakes – line the ground like apples in a late autumn orchard.
Where is that screw?
Well, it might be right beneath my feet, in the visible space, yet still somehow invisible to me. Another human person, walking into this room, might look down and see it sitting there quite obviously. In this scenario a comic pantomime ensues, them saying, “It’s right there,” and pointing, and me saying, “Where?” and not seeing it at all, this exact exchange repeating ad absurdem until my visitor strides over, bends at the waist and picks up the screw. If only someone with working eyeballs would show up. My wife has grown not a little testy with me as I fail to find the milk, on the top shelf of the refrigerator, dead center, gleamingly white. The problem is often me. I’d best not call up the stairs for help.
The screw, by some acceleration of the laws of physics, some improbable coincidence of ricochet and deflection, has skittered under a piece of furniture, there to rest in eternal, dusty darkness. I’m a worst-case-scenario thinker, so this is actually the first place I look, raking my hand blindly back-and-forth in the space beneath the bookcase. That effort yields one guitar pick, some bits of tortilla chip, a paper clip, and a need to wash my hand. (Mental note: vacuum here).
Now some math.
Take M, which is the mass of the small screw, multiply it by A, the acceleration. Open parens, A = H (height of drop) x C (the speed of light or 32ft/s/s), divided by G, which is the hardness of the floor measured in gravities. This should give me the maximum radial distance from my body the screw could have travelled, assuming A above wasn’t corrupted by hitting my leg or shoe before striking the floor. I don’t want to get into the math of rotational acceleration, and or chaotic variations on acceleration based on the screw’s uneven weight disbursement.
A BA in Philosophy and a TI calculator so old the function labels are worn off will only take you so far. Also, the time it took me to construct the equation was more than enough time to mark out the search zone like an archeological dig and go over with a magnifying glass and tweezers. If I was of sound mind, I’d already be twisting that screw into its threads to some precise torsional measurement.
Instead I’m swearing, sweeping my addled gaze back and forth, just hoping to catch some bit of light refracted by the screws metallic surface. This is a hopeless endeavor. You and I both know that screw no longer exists on the physical plane we both inhabit. It has gone. Matter has become anti-matter. My $60 cantis have become useless garbage, because a $0.06 screw has gone rogue, AWOL, and metaphysical.
I have been know to throw things. I’m not proud of it, but I feel like honesty and trust are crucial to a quality review.
Let’s take a time out. I have been referring to an object throughout this piece as a screw. Some would argue it’s actually a bolt. A screw is a fastener with a tapered end which holds itself in place via tension against a set of threads. A bolt is a faster with a non-tapered end which holds itself in place by mating with a nut (washer optional). The object I have been describing does not have a tapered end, but neither does it have a nut. Perhaps this is the crux of the issue. The object does not know what it is, screw or nut, and so blinks in and out of existence.
What we have here is the intersection of non-dextrous actor (me) with an ontologically indeterminate object, leading to a schism in space-time, through which the aforementioned object vanished. As Nietzsche once said, “Language makes common, that which is uncommon.” Ergo, what has happened, linguistically shaky from the start, is an extraordinary example of the failure to pin down reality with simple words.
A smarter person would get the vacuum from upstairs (that space under the bookcase needs attention anyway) and hoover the drop zone, waiting to hear the tick-tick-tick of the screw as it slithers up the suction hose, then retrieve it from the canister and finish adjusting his/her stupid brakes. And in truth, I did consider this course of action, but look, it’s not that often you break space-time, rend a hole in the fabric of reality, and aren’t in a movie that fares poorly on Rotten Tomatoes.
No one should still be using cantilever brakes. Perhaps that’s the takeaway from this little boondoggle, this little mechanical imbroglio. I can feel about a dozen of you clenching up on me out there. You’re not ready to let go. It’s alright, the government isn’t coming to take your Avid Shortys in the night.
How to review a missing screw…it’s difficult. It is at once the most important screw in the (my) universe, and at the same time nothing to you, except as a totem of obstacles and disappointments, of the ability of very small things to derail your best intentions.