Tools Of The Trade

Over the years, there have been many questions about the flathead Stanley screwdriver stuffed into my coffee mug/pen holder on my work desk. It sits neatly among the pens, pencils, scissors and highlighters as a 17-year-old photo of my family stares out from the side of the mug.

I became owner of the screwdriver when an apparent wannabe thief discarded it on the ground near my old van. It was after working the 3-11 Saturday night shift some 15 years ago. The thief did not make entry into my van, which he could have taken without me shedding many tears. It had seen better days.

Ever since then, that screwdriver has served me well at the office. I have used it to pry open my desk drawer when it gets stuck. Once it helped repair some machinery in the building, and it does a much better job at opening the mail than any letter opener I’ve ever used. It’s not a .38 Special, but I feel safe with it at my disposal.

Sometimes the obvious is not always best. Take, for example, the flexible, stainless steel, 12-inch ruler that has been with me in my desk for all of the 34 years I have been at this business. It was my best friend since day one and remains so today in the newsroom.

At the start of my job, I had to clip local stories out of the daily papers and file them away in the newspaper morgue for future use. The metal ruler was far faster and more efficient than any pair of scissors for the task. I can still cut stories and coupons from the newspaper cleanly and neatly in no time with that well-worn metal tool. I don’t recall ever measuring anything with it but I would be lost without it.

And where would we be without duct tape? It has held car bumpers, briefcases, desk drawers and even shoes together around here for as long as I can remember. I’m sure those aren’t the original uses designed by its creators during World War II but we make duct tape work for us.

Life is full of screwdrivers, metal rulers and duct tape but there are many other tools that can be used when the obvious fails.

I believe that prayer is a better way to ease pain than heroin or narcotics. Getting others to see it that way isn’t always easy.

A smile, a kind word or a hug can bring about a response from a frightened child or anguished adult when tragedy strikes, more so than a camera flash in their faces or questions hurled their way.

Sometimes the simplest words “I’m sorry” speak volumes. A slice of pizza and a cold beer with a friend may serve to erase a bad day more than a sleeping pill at the end of the night.

The best tools in life aren’t necessarily found in the tool box or garage. Rather, we carry them with us in our life experiences and share them with others. Just leave my ruler alone, OK?

Heather Ziegler can be reached at