Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"It Comes in a Tube"

I'm sure my sister will know exactly what this is about merely by the title. 

My father emigrated to the United States from Greece in the 1950s.  His first job was working for his uncle, also an immigrant, who owned a diner/coffee shop on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan.  Over time, my father learned the diner business and went on to own at least seven diners of his own (I may have missed one or two in my count.) 

Being a blue collar worker, you'd think my dad was pretty handy with tools. 

He wasn't.  Not in the least.

He was, however, very talented at running a diner.  He had all the requisite skills.  He picked good locations for his diners.  He knew shrewd strategies for negotiating with suppliers, hiring and retaining help and hiding income from the IRS.  In short, he had a special aptitude for the diner business.  He could also cook up a storm.  But, for all of his blue collar-ness, my father wasn't handy.  Whenever he assembled something pursuant to a set of directions, vital parts would, without fail, be left over. 

Who really needs handlebars and a second wheel on a bike anyway?  It's now a unicycle, enjoy!     

My father's lack of handyman skills must've been especially vexing to him in light of the fact that his younger brother, my Uncle Leo, became a highly-skilled carpenter after arriving in America.  Uncle Leo owned a successful contracting business for about 40 years.

Here are some everyday products that come in tubes:

Whenever my father came to an impasse during a repair or assembly project around the house, usually caused by his lack of expertise, his fallback remedy was to send me to the hardware store for some magical, yet-to-be-invented item that "comes in a tube." 

If you saw the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," you know that Nia Vardalos's dad used Windex as a panacea for all the world's ills.  I wish it were that simple with my father.  Keeping an ample supply of Windex on hand would've been easy.  But, no, that's not how it was in our house.

Here are some examples of how my father would invoke the Miracle of the Magic Tube.  The heavy Greek accent is hard to replicate in writing, so you'll have to use your imagination:

"Boy! Boy! [He usually called me "Boy!" reserving my real name for times of anger.]  Boy! Gee Gee Christ, this window won't open.  Go to de hardware store, they have a new thing to loosen windows, it comes in a tube." 

So, off I'd go, in search of the Magic Tube.  

Believe it or not, the hardware store never specifically had "window loosener" in a tube, but they did have some type of oil.  But that was an easy one, I'm just warming up.  Moving to the next level....

"Boy! Boy! The boat won't start.  Go to de hardware store, they have boat starter.  It comes in a tube."

That's not actually a picture of one of my father's boats, but it's not too far off.  His last boat was bigger than this, but, of course, that only meant it caused bigger headaches.  And, if you're wondering, there is no such thing as "boat starter" in a tube.  I could write an entire book on my father and boating, but that'll have to wait.  Not only until I get the time, but also until the trauma wears off.

It was, of course, embarrassing to ask for these tubes of crazy products that I knew didn't exist, but I had little choice. My father had sent me on a mission.  I eventually developed a method of asking the clerk for these item that furtively included a denial in the question.

"You don't carry a tube of anything that will repair a broken lawn mower engine, do you?  No?  I didn't think so, I was just checking, thanks..."      

My father's cure-all tube mania seemed to grow stronger as time went on.  He was never discouraged by the fact that there was never a product "in a tube" to fix his latest repair problem.  He persevered because he always knew that there was "a new thing in a tube" to handle the latest task at hand.  What perplexed me most, in that pre-internet era, was where my father was reading about these supposedly new miracle products in a tube.  I was pretty sure that advances in technology weren't discussed in the Daily Racing Form.     

Eventually, my father was sending me to pick up Miracle Tubes that could repair home appliances, fix transistor radios, fill driveway potholes, replace leaky plumbing and, even, regenerate limbs.

This mechanical arm, I believe, came from a tube. Or, rather, it would have if my father had his way.  In a perfect world, my father would've worked for G.E. or NASA in the Innovation Department.

Whenever I'd return from the hardware store empty handed  -- my father never went himself, as you've probably gathered -- the failure would be attributed to my poor search skills.  It never occurred to my father that this product didn't actually exist.  And, of course, the lazy American stock clerk's own incompetence was a contributing factor. 

That's the abbreviated story of my father and the Magic Tubes. All of this bending over the keyboard has stiffened my back quite a bit.  I'm going out to buy some Ben Gay for my muscles. 

I think it comes in a tube.


  1. Very funny. Your most enjoyable post yet.

  2. As anonymous said, well done.

    Thank you for not mentioning "tube tops" anywhere in this blog. That would have cheapened the quality of this submission.

  3. KALO!!!!
    If nothing else your father gave you the motivational factor to become a lawyer; since he didn't have a chance to do that; so you can speak
    "proper american-english" and
    explain/invent/interpret the
    "magic tube" in your own way! ;)

  4. Pretty funny. That reminds me of when we got our very first computer back in 1994 . I sent my 15 year old son into the store to get some "blank" c.d.s ,they did not yet exsist.

    maybe they were still at the tube stage :)

  5. That's just hysterical! I guess duct tape wasn't popular back then!

  6. This is hysterical! Funny you mentioned the Windex in MBFGW....since seeing that I tend to try Windex on many things. Surprisingly, it often works!

    Great memories for you.

  7. What a wonderful, whimsical post! We all have different, warm memories of our Dads. Love yours!

  8. This is very funny. I get the same feeling when anyone asks me to fetch something I'm not familiar with... get me the windjammer from my toolbox... bring me the medium fry pan... run to the hardware store for an unwrost (okay, that's actually the word verification thing). But "it comes in a tube" resonates... somewhere in my life was a person who thought that same way.

  9. That's hilarious! And nicely written, too.

  10. He was full of character wasn't he. Looking forward to more stories about him. Imagine...a new country and magical tubes. Thanks for sharing.


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