An Underlying Order
Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:
AN UNDERLYING ORDER
“Lefty-loosey,” I thought to myself as I twisted a screw. Standing on a step-stool, I was removing the glass shades on a ceiling fan in order to clean them.
Each tulip shade was held in place by three tiny screws. Because of my position, several of them were out of my line of vision. One screw didn’t move easily either way, and with my hand curled around behind the shade I had to visualize which direction my hand was turning, clockwise or counterclockwise.
It was about ten years ago, while watching reruns of “The Drew Carey Show,” that I heard Carey utter the phrase “lefty-loosey, righty-tighty.” I don’t remember what he was attempting to loosen; maybe it was a light bulb, or perhaps a hose from a spigot.
Anyway, my first thought to his “lefty” phrase was “Wow, you mean there’s an order to this?” I had never before considered that there was a thought-out plan in the construction of threads, an organized conspiracy in the world of tightening and loosening.
My second thought was, “Good grief, I’m just finding this out?”
That there’s an order to threads makes sense, of course, but it just wasn’t something to which I had given any thought. For me, in practice, tightening screws and light bulbs was just trial and error. I had always simply turned light bulbs one way or the other until I obtained the desired results.
OK, I’m not mechanically inclined. And nobody had ever told me about this left-right thing. Some of the secrets of life you just happen to catch by chance.
And while that tiny bit of knowledge, “lefty loosey, righty tighty,” is incredibly helpful, it was just plain fun to learn that there is often a pattern, an underlying order to things. It’s comforting to realize that the world is not as random as it seems.
Another moment that gave my mind a happy dance was when I was in ninth grade at Pawnee Rock, taking driver’s ed. My classmates and I sat two-by-two at tables in the classroom, passing notes to one another while Mr. Bean taught. He mentioned the different kinds of highways, two-lanes, four-lanes, interstates, U.S. highways, state and county roads.
And then in that classroom came the moment where Mr. Bean brought my 14-year-old self to the realization that the world was less arbitrary than I had assumed.
He told us that east-west highways were given even numbers and that north-south roads had odd numbers.
That was a life-changing moment. Civilization, or at least some of it, had been carefully planned. Highway numbering was by design rather than chance.
Our own odd-numbered interstate, I-35, makes a pretty convincing argument around here that it’s an east-west road with its easterly track out of Emporia.
But the big picture shows that, as promised, I-35 travels north and south. Beginning in Laredo, Texas, the interstate chugs northbound until it makes an elbow turn at Emporia. In Kansas City, the road once again heads north to its end point in Duluth, Minn.
Even though there can be a method, a certainty, in the naming of roads, there are also exceptions. One day as a youngster I realized that in nearby Great Bend, many of its streets were named for U.S. Presidents, in order: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and so on.
Well, it made sense that they would not name a street for John Quincy Adams, because two Adams streets would be a problem. But the Great Bend street-namers were in such a hurry to get to Lincoln that Presidents Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan were simply omitted. On the way to Truman Street (with an Eisenhower Ave. thrown in on the side), several others were ignored as well. So, as a kid trying to memorize the order of presidents, I discovered that the streets of Great Bend were not the fabulous resource they had appeared to be.
Sometimes there is an order in the man-made world, patterns that you can believe in; sometimes we are misled. But I can’t tell you how much easier my life has been since I learned how to screw in a light bulb.
Copyright 2013 ~ Cheryl Unruh