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The natural law of twists and tangles

December 5, 2013
By Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

The front of my desk, where my computer lives, is also home to such vital items as the copier and printer, my small personal fan and my trusty pencil sharpener. Although the space is generally a bit cluttered... well, often more than a bit... it still works well for me.

But that's only the front of the desk.

Behind all these electronic and electrical necessities lies a no-man's-land of chaos and confusion. It's a territory of tangles.

In order to understand what's happening back there, we need to consider the laws and theories that relate to how the world functions.

The realm of physics has the law of gravity. The field of economics stresses the concept of supply and demand. Science tells us that nature abhors a vacuum. Magnetically, we're assured opposites attract.

Over time, I've become convinced that just as there are laws that apply to the earth around us, there is also an immutable law governing cords.

We've all learned from experience that when it comes to linear lengths of anything... from shoestrings to garden hoses, from boat lines to phone cords, from balls of twine to extension cords... there is some hidden force at work, determined to tangle, twist, interweave, knot and otherwise jumble any collection of two or more such items.

Two balls of yarn, resting quietly in a drawer, will somehow begin to join themselves into a mass that can defy undoing.

Two necklaces in a jewelry box tend to gather themselves together for company, resulting in a scramble of chains that scoff at the frustrated owner's efforts to separate the mess.

Our kitchen telephone is another example of this phenomenon. It has a long, coiled cord, which allows us to talk on the phone from anywhere within the confines of the room. Unnoticed, the rebellious line constantly interweaves its loops with wild abandon. The resulting cord is so short that our phone activities are tethered to within inches of the base unit until untangle therapy can be completed.

But it's not just the cord itself.

In the name of convenience, I keep my kitchen work stool under the wall-mounted phone. With irritating frequency, I find the legs of the stool have become the focus of the long, coiled cord. Answering a call while trying to unwrap the tenacious line from the stool's legs is a challenging exercise in multi-tasking.

Another area where cords tend to do their own thing is on my kitchen counter. Thanks to their usefulness, our blender, crock pot and toaster share a place of honor along one wall. Since I use only one of the appliances at a time, I try to keep the various electrical cords neatly tucked behind each, ready to connect to the nearby outlet.

Invariably, when I reach for one cord, I get at least two, and often all three. I suspect while the lights are out and the family is sleeping peacefully, the cords gather together in some weird appliance-style celebration. The result is that next time I'm ready to use one of my team of helpers, the cords are napping together. They lie there, fast asleep, wrapped in each other's arms. And, once again, I have to start the unsnarling process.

That well-written man of letters, Sir Walter Scott, lived in a simpler era, long before phone cords and computer connections. But the familiar phrase he penned in that different age seemed to predict the problems I have with the cords, strings and ropes in my life today.

As he said so well, "Oh, what a tangled web we weave..."



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