Friday, June 10, 2016

My Leatherman

7 Years

I had my Leatherman tool, on my belt, for seven years. My soon-to-be-PhD-advisor-at-the-time, Dr. Steven Siciliano, gave me a Leatherman Charge TTi - a top-of-the-line multitool - before my first field season with him and his research group in 2009. He gave it to me around March or April of that year, and I've worn it on my belt nearly every day since then.

That's around 2500 days of that lump of complex, hinged, bladed metal on my left hip. I've gone through three sheaths and I don't know how many subconscious hand-passes over my belt to make sure its still there.

Early this year I accidentally tried to take it through security at Pearson International Airport, on my way to visit Charlie in February. The security personnel were quite nice and polite about it, and let me mail it back to myself in Waterloo; it was waiting in my mailbox when I returned a week later. 

At the end of my 6-week-long bookended-by-conferences early-summer-2016 fieldwork I sent it in to Leatherman's facilities in Burlington, Ontario, for warranty repairs. Before I flew from Calgary to Fredericton, I went to Canada Post and sent it to Ontario. Tonight, it has been returned to me.

Or rather, an updated substitute has been returned to me, and my Leatherman is no more. Because the Charge TTi has been replaced in the Leatherman Inc. lineup by the Charge Titanium, that is what I now have. This new Charge Titanium is a thing of beauty, a tool of vast utility that fits perfectly with the accessories (sheath, screwdriver bits) I was instructed not to send in. But it's not my Leatherman (yet).

The knife blade is flawless, not the chipped, scratched, and haphazardously-sharpened blade I used to cut ludicrously-fresh tomatoes and pears on the top of an Arctic mountain.

The saw blade is perfect, not the scratched, difficult-to-open tooth I used to cut branches and an uncountable number of zipties (using the sharp hook on its tip) on seven years of Arctic expeditions and Prairie Rivers canoe trips.

The file - both sides! - is clean to the point of optical illusion along its cross-hatched surface, and bears no trace of the steel soil-gas probes I filed and filed and polished and cursed before fitting their machinist-perfect but field-work-distorted hammer-cap on to drive into the rocky soil of the Arctic polar deserts.

The pliers are smooth and shiny, not the sticking, misaligned grip I pulled endless nails from endless boards with.

Even the scissors, tiny and sharp, are quite excellent, and not the cutters I pushed and squeezed through paper, string, cardboard, and plastic over the majority of a decade.

I'm going to enjoy and appreciate this tool over the next seven years - or more! - but I do feel like an old friend has been lost, and a concrete symbol of my PhD has disappeared.

Thank you, Leatherman, for making such fine tools. I hope my use of this new multitool lives up to the legacy of the previous one. And thank you, Dr. Siciliano, for sending me down this pathway seven years ago.

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