Why Wait?

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Keene Stoddard Hillsborough road sign

Spring clean-up season has gone by, which is the time when we confront the web of debris left behind from last fall, buried and compressed by winter. We feel there was an unusual amount of wind this winter resulting in many more downed trees and branches. In a first (for us) a large limb from one of the giant old maple trees next to the Inn broke off and hit the building! Miraculously, no windows were broken, no clapboards removed, no scratches resulted, except for one roof shingle way up high as reported by Swifty Corwin, who was there within 20 minutes with his bucket truck and chainsaws to clear the wreckage.

I have a chainsaw. I use it around our house at Hunts Pond to cut up the trees on the ground, hopefully turning them into usable firewood. It has a 16-inch bar, so it is a small chain saw and just fine for my purposes. It is a Stihl saw, which is a good brand. Husqvarna is another popular brand that we see around here.

This year, given the extent of the wreckage from the windy weather we had, I had the Stihl saw out early and along the way it became clear I needed a new chain. This was after sharpening the chain a couple of times, which I learned to do on YouTube. Sort of.

“I am going to get a new chain for the saw,” I reported to Marcia.

“Do you know what size?” she asked?

Of course. A chain for a 16-inch bar.

“Do you want to call first to make sure they have one?”

Marcia always suggests sensible refinements to my plans. Calling first is one of her usual refinements. The data from years of experience, however, indicates that calling first is a good idea in about half the cases, which means it is a toss-up and, therefore, it does not usually outweigh my preference for simply jumping in the truck and going in pursuit of my item, as I did here.

We will take a shortcut in this narrative by saying that not all 16″ chainsaw chains are the same. Not even 16″ inch Stihl saw chains. There is the whole question of gauge – the width of the bar – and other imperceptible gradations that I know much more about today.

In this instance calling first might have been a good idea. That said, the information a sales clerk would have needed from me to confirm the right item was in-stock would not have been easy to come by. We must acknowledge that calling first only works when both sides know what they are talking about and, as the day wore on, it was clear I did not.

But, anyway, I drove first to Hillsborough which is 17 miles away, roughly. I bought a chain, returned the 17 miles to Hancock, and discovered it did not fit my particular bar. I had purchased the only remaining 16″ chain from the store in Hillsborough, so now I diverted to Peterborough, 12 miles away. There was ample supply of 16″ chains at the store in Peterborough so I bought two and went back to Hancock…12 miles.

Neither chain fit. But the issue of gauge was suddenly washing over me. Awakened to that fact, and feeling slightly pressured for time, I pointed to Antrim, only seven miles away, where there is a store that specializes in small equipment like chainsaws.

Why had I not started with the store in Antrim? It is complicated. There are alternative shopping experiences out there to choose from, and we’ll leave it at that. But under the circumstances I had created for myself the 14-mile run back-and-forth to Antrim had become necessary and let the record show that the trip to Antrim got it done. I was in possession of the right chain – seventy-five miles later.

Along Route 20 in Sudbury, Massachusetts, where we lived for years, there were three, maybe four hardware stores within five miles of each other. You passed hardware stores like you passed grocery stores, like you passed drugstores. The area was thick with retail, the result of being thick with people to support it.

Making laps around the western part of the Monadnock Region in search of a chain for a chainsaw it was worth meditating on the relationship between space and time travel here versus suburban Boston. The entire chainsaw misadventure – out and back, out and back, out and back – took an hour and a half. How might that have compared to the old suburban days, I thought?

Well, across 75 miles that day there existed only two traffic lights, one of which was flashing yellow at the time, and the other was red compelling me to stop. In Sudbury, the misadventure would have forced me on to Route 20 where stoplights are as plentiful as intersecting roads, which occur about every few hundred feet. Thus, it is the comparison between stop and go, and go and go (and go). Only several days ago, we were in Boston metro for various reasons including the chance to see children and grandchildren and it was over an hour to go the 15 miles between Watertown and Malden.

There would be the issue of waiting times once in-store. I happen to be trolling around Monadnock on a Monday, which means particularly light store traffic in these parts. They were using the opportunity to wash floors in one of the places. No lines at the register; someone to help instantly source my item. Cash or credit? Receipt? Thank you. See ya!

Love that about here.

There are a lot of retirees in this part of the world. It may be the largest growth industry. Why? Because it is quiet? Because it is pretty? How about, because there is no waiting?

Okay, so I drove 75 miles over hill and dale, back and forth, in sloppy pursuit of a new chain for my saw. I would certainly have saved that time had I made Antrim my first stop with the result that, probably, by the end of that hour and a half, my tree surgery would have been completed, leaving time for other pursuits.

Oh, yes, I wasted, but nary did I wait. And what greater thief of time is there than waiting? Accordingly, if you happen to be a retiree, or an aspiring retiree, and if your thoughts of retirement are unavoidably influenced by the lengthening shadow of time…

Why wait?

Marcia arrived back at the Pond from the Inn as I was installing the proper new chain on bar.

“You got a chain?”

“Yes, I did,” I said. “Plenty of them.”

Tree fallen in the woods

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