When I was 13, I set my room on fire for the first time. I had found an electric fan that I assumed had been wired together by my uncle (and electronics guru). When I plugged it in, there was a loud pop, some sparks and a flaming piece of the switch flew to the floor and started burning the carpet.
I took off running downstairs for the fire extinguisher in the kitchen. My mom (who happened to be in the room) calmly walked over and put the fire out by stepping on it. It turns out that the fan had been wired together by my 11 year old brother, who had hooked a 12 volt automotive fan into a regular household wiring cord with an automotive switch, shorting the connection between the two wires.
Anyway, the point is that, while my mom’s shoe was definitely not the perfect fire fighting tool, it was the best thing for the job. By the time I had gotten the fire extinguishers and then figured out how to turn it on, the fire would have spread on the carpet and done quite a bit more damage.
There are times where the best tool to use is the one that lets you accomplish the task immediately–even if it is slightly awkward to use.
Originally published March 15, 2007.