Field Guide to Garages

It’s the poor cousin of your house.  You never sleep in it.  Family never gathers in it.  It rarely gets a makeover, air conditioning or carpeting.  It has the most unwieldy doors in your home, smells funny (like a salad with motor oil dressing), and seems to collect odd-looking insects better than an entomologist.  Real estate agents don’t even count it.

It’s your garage, that magical place where the rules of the rest of the house do not apply.

There are five types of garage.

The Car Garage is the kind you want your neighbours to have because it takes their cars off the road and makes your street all the better for ball hockey and snowplows.

The Storage Garage is packed tight with boxes, tools, old furniture, sporting goods from various decades, a trailer, a canoe and at least one of the following items in a completely nonfunctioning condition: barbeque, bicycle, snowmobile, motorized watercraft, component stereo system, or treadmill.

The Working Garage contains tools in large quantities.  They may hang precisely on walls, repose in perfectly-sized drawers or spill randomly from overwhelmed boxes and bins, but tools dominate this garage.  The purpose of the tools may be varied – from building furniture to stripping a Chevy – but the centrality of the tools is definitive.

The Activity Garage is famous as the home of the garage band.  Instruments, amps, empty beer bottles, and a snake pit of electrical cords make the Activity Garage the ideal home for musical wanna-be’s.  The advent of digital music and noise by-laws, however, has forced garage bands into the basement, leaving the Activity Garage increasingly to the kick-boxers, winter golfers, sculptors and performance artists.

The final and most common species of garage is the Hybrid.  Combining the Car Garage and the Storage Garage, the Hybrid is the template for identifying quintessential garageness.

To rate highly on the Garageness Scale, your garage must contain two buckets of unused decorative rocks; four brooms; a garbage can; a recycling bin; two hoses (one connected to a spout, one kinked and flaccid in a corner); at least three sprinklers; and no fewer than seven shovels including a spade, one of the round edge-making things, and three snow shovels, at least one of which must have either a handle or a shovelly piece that twists or comes off during use.  There must also be lumber, usually randomly sorted and cobweb covered, and an assortment of containers – jars, boxes, cans and old margarine tubs – containing fasteners of all kinds.  These containers must be labeled diligently, but the labels must not, under any circumstances, relate directly to the contents they describe.  A jar of “Finishing Nails,” for example, should contain approximately fifty percent finishing nails, along with a few wood screws, a number of bolts, rubber washers, some paper clips and the replacement cleats for your baseball shoes.

There must be at least three colours of extension cord, most commonly yellow, orange and brown.  At least half of these cords must be frayed and irrevocably twisted.  A couple should be two-pronged, even though the only two-pronged appliance or tool you own is your father’s old drill (stored in your Coleman camping cooler).

Whether you own a pool or not, you should have at least a patch of solar blanket.

There should be paint cans, possibly even with paint in them.  You should have at least three containers of windshield washer fluid, each stored in a different location because whenever your car runs low, you never remember to check the garage for an already-open jug.

Two unused bicycles, at least one ladder, a tiki torch, some bamboo stakes, a set of cross country skis, a folding aluminum lawn chair and a hockey stick must also hang on the walls, along with at least one plug-in appliance like a Dustbuster or a rechargeable flashlight.

It’s also not a true garage unless something heavy and unwieldy has been rigged up to hang precariously from the ceiling … which, now that I think about it, isn’t happening in my garage.

I have to go now.  I need to tie an exercise bike to my garage ceiling.