Ever since I enrolled in construction school last summer, I haven’t been wearing jewelry — not even my wedding rings — for fear of getting snagged by power tools. But there’s one accessory I now can’t live without: a tape measure. I carry one in my tool belt, one in my pocket, and one in the backseat of my car. Occasionally, they all gravitate to one place, so I find myself lugging about 75 feet and five pounds of coiled metal in my tool-satchel-slash-handbag.
There’s something about a tape measure that reassures me in this vocation where I so markedly lack fluency. For one thing, it shares some basic math with my erstwhile and short-lived career in financial markets. Before I went to construction school, even before I became a food writer, I briefly worked on an equities trading desk or two and followed the stock market beat as a cub newspaper reporter. That was back when traders still rounded stock prices to the nearest 1/16th of a dollar, or $0.0625, which my trader dad always called a “teeny.” As a result, I am unexpectedly deft at adding fractions of an inch. It is a great source of pride to me when the guys in construction class, who usually bark at me, “FOX! What the #^@% are you doing?” instead bark at me, “FOX! What’s six and three-eighths plus three and a sixteenth?”
Or maybe tape measures comfort me because, in a world where standards of integrity and accuracy seem to shift with every news cycle, the width of an inch remains staunchly inelastic.
In any case, I bring all this up because I just learned that today, July 14, is National Tape Measure Day, which is not so much a celebration of the unwavering moral rectitude of weights and measures as it is a commemoration of the day Alvin J. Fellows of New Haven, Connecticut, received a patent for the retractable tape measure, forever simplifying the lives of carpenters, seamstresses and other tradespeople.
In honor of #NationalTapeMeasure Day, I share this dazzling trick we learned in construction class:
- Pull out the tape measure to 100 inches plus the current year, i.e. 117 inches.
- Fold tape in half so the tip or “dumb end” of the measure touches 117.
- Find the year you were born (e.g. If you were born in 1971, find 71).
- The number on the back tells your age (46)!
Happy National Tape Measure Day!