N+1

“Just how many [thing] do you need, anyway?”

“One more.”

I see heads nodding and a few wry, and possibly rueful grins. My father does woodwork and cabinet making. He has more planes than Boeing. He has more saws than Carter makes liver pills.*

Found in fine apothacarys (and medical museums).

Found in fine apothecaries (and medical museums).

Between Dad’s woodworking tools and my sheet metal and engine stuff, we are in decent shape if we need to rebuild something smaller than a house. And a friend of the family who lives pretty close has a drill press and other heavy-duty stuff. With all the requisite bits and pieces, and is probably in the market for one more. Because you always need one more. Dad even has a plane that’s 18″ long that he got from someone who had bought a lot of tools at an estate auction and didn’t know what to do with this behemoth. You use it for doors and long planks and some framing, or so one of the catalogues says. Truing it was a bit of a trick, but it now has its own slot in the shelf and an extra-large protective sock to keep out moisture.

I can’t really wag a finger. I have my own N+1. Petticoats and jackets. How many petticoats does one woman need, even if she does wear quasi-Victorian clothes twice or three times a week? One more, that’s all. You can’t wear white with cream. Some are fuller, some are fancier, there’s a flannel version that is wonderfully warm and acts as a crinoline almost. And they wear out at the waist. You can mend and patch them to an extent, but only so far, and then you need another. So I’ve got one for several purposes, and spares. But I just need one more. Really, I can stop after one more.

For some reason jackets and sweaters also tend to fall under this rule, probably because my winter clothing style is European Country House, sort of, which means moleskin and some tweeds. And tweeds come in different colors, and cuts, and oh, this new one is a nice brown that I don’t have yet and it has the standing collar I like and the black means it could go with . . . Yeah. No. Maybe if I were a tenured chair of a department north of Nebraska. But not here and now.

And all of us need N+1 books. With the advent of the e-reader and e-books, the old stopping point has disappeared. Shelf space? We don’ need no steenking shelf space! Well, OK, some of us do. I have and do teach out of e-books, but flipping “pages” is still a pain in the patoot. Some things just really have to be in print for maximum utility. [glances at tome on Thirty Years War, on top of tome about climate in 1600s by Parker]

But I’ll stop after I get one more.

*Ask your grandparents if you don’t know this phrase.

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