In 1979 my dad bought a brand-new hedge trimmer. It was a Black and Decker and it had 3 speeds, was bright orange and made a cool sound as it ate up unsuspecting extensions of the bushes around our yard. I would stand there and watch him as he mowed down these unsightly branches and think how cool it was that there was a machine that was made specifically for that purpose. Basically . . . it was my introduction to power tools.
A couple years later, when I turned 12 my dad informed me that I was old enough to use it myself. At the time, I thought he was welcoming me into a rite of passage as a young man. . my first power tool experience. Little did I know that this was the beginning of yard work delegation that would last into my mid 20’s! But on that June afternoon in ’82, I was stoked to be trimming hedges for my dad.
After I finished my topiary Picasso, I began to drag the trimmer into the garage, extension cord in tow. “Whoaaa . . .hold on there” my dad barked as he came over and grabbed the tool. He told me how tool maintenance is as important as the job itself and proceeded to teach me how to roll up an extension cord. Elbow to thumb hook, elbow to thumb hook and so on until you have roughly 6 ft of cord left. You then use that remaining cord to circle around and wrap the cord you’ve rolled up in a neat little package. When done correctly, it delivered a neat little bright orange bundle of love.
So all throughout my formative years, through college and as marriage and children came into play, THAT is how I wrapped an extension cord. And you can bet that when I bought my first house, and had to buy my own extension cords . . . I wrapped those suckers with the same care I swathed my children with. I was a happy go lucky, home-owning, extension cord wrapping guru.
And then I got on my first production set. . . . . .
My first mistake was asking a grip if we had any extension cords. “excuse me?” he shot back. Extension cords . . . where are they in the truck? You would have thought I asked to skin him alive and dip him in a vat of gin. “Dude, you mean stingers?” he chirped. Stinger? I’m not looking for a carpenter bee am I? I’m allergic to bees?!? It was then I learned that, on set, extension cords are called stingers. Were early production folks too lazy to pronounce extension cords? Those 4 syllables just too much to throw out there? I learned pretty quickly that you do not question these nonsensical monikers . . .that you just use the vernacular and get on with it. Got it, done.
And then, after we were done with the exten . . .uhh Stinger, I began to roll it up just like dear old dad taught me. Do you remember the scene from War of the Worlds (Tom Cruise version) when all of Brooklyn is running from the atrocity that would end the world?
Well that was the scene when I did the whole elbow, thumb-hook, elbow, thumb-hook roll. Men jumping over lights, make-up artists screaming form the top of their lungs . . .utter mayhem. A grip grabbed the exte . . .dammit . . the stinger did a drop and roll and then popped up and started to do the twist and feed. Twist the stinger until it loosens and gives itself up and then bring it up and gently lay it in the palm of your hand. It takes a certain feel . . . the cord whisperer, I call it. And to this day, I cannot do it. I may get 85% of the way there or it may happen on my first “twist” but eventually it zigs when I want it to zag and that’s when I throw it down in disgust and beg a grip or a PA or craft services or ANYONE to help who knows how to wrap these damn things.
Not only do I not touch stingers on set anymore, I won’t even lift the milk carton they all come in. Those stingers are dead to me. Dead, you hear?!?
Now I’m going to go break down a c-stand . . . goodbye.