The Power and the Glory

She bought the electric drill to get a tidier household. Then she found out about the secret sisterhood

When I told my friend Leslie about my new power drill, she thought I was trying to be funny. We were out walking, and I was thinking about Women's Power to Shape Our Environment and the primal satisfactions that came with attaching tiered baskets and a spice rack to my kitchen walls. "Really!" I said. "It's changed my life!"

Leslie detonated in laughter.

But why? Only a few weeks before, every square inch of floor and counter space in my house had been covered by the detritus of modern life (clothes, toys, books, foodstuffs, kitchen utensils). Acting on the basic human rage for order, I bought a Skil 3/8-inch variable-speed reversing power drill and set to work. I practiced with lower-order tasks, such as hanging the paper towel holder in the kitchen, and progressed to the tiered baskets and the spice rack. I found places to put things, and that made me feel serene. I discovered that I could make a hole in the wall without it falling down, and that made me feel...strong.

Still, Leslie's laughing bugged me. Would I be forever alone with these feelings?

Well, I am not alone. In fact, there is a whole tribe of us. We are strong. We are invincible. We are Women of the Drill.

My first intimation of this sisterhood came the next week, over coffee with my friend Linda. I had just hung an enormous wall mirror in the living room, making the space seem twice as big and myself feel, well, huge. I had to tell someone, but with Leslie in mind, I adopted a self-mocking tone when I told Linda, "Hey, I got this drill. It's changed my life."

"Yes!" Linda answered. "I know exactly what you mean!"

She knew exactly what I meant! Linda, it turned out, had been fearlessly installing light fixtures, closet rods, you name it, for decades. In no time I was sketching out ideas for projects and asking her advice.

A month or so later, I discovered that my sister-in-law Emily also had a drill—I saw it under her bathroom sink when I was looking for the toilet paper. I was so excited I carried it into the living room, heedless of the dinner party guests conversing over hors d’oeuvres. "Is this yours?" I asked—sure that it had to be, because my brother would never own such a thing. "I have one too," I said before she could answer. Our eyes locked.

"That pegboard..." I said.

"Over the stove!" she answered. "You noticed!" As everyone went back to the cheese and crackers, we raced to the kitchen, where she made me tug on the board and pull down pots and pans to feel their heft.

After that, I discovered compatriots everywhere. In the drugstore I spotted a tattooed, green-haired teenager wearing a cordless model in a low-slung holster. On the bus there was a middle-aged mother in a Merry Maids uniform excitedly telling her son about the shelves she was going to put up in his room. Then there was my therapist.

I told her about the postcard I'd just gotten from Leslie, who was vacationing in a tropical paradise. "I trust that you continue to reap deep pleasure from your drill (yuk yuk)," she had written. God, Leslie, get a life!, I thought as I read through my safety glasses. I was just then installing a bulletin board on my daughter's wall. The drill itself was inches from my hand. When temptation called, I did not resist: I bored a 9/64-inch hole through the offending sentence.

But over the next few days, I started to wonder whether Leslie might have a point. I decided to let my therapist referee and told her the story. And what did she do? Did she ask what the drill reminded me of? Did she invite me to imagine that the drill was seated next to me, ready to converse and, eventually, reveal its secrets?

No, she did not. And I share this knowing there are other souls who need to hear it. She simply picked the lint off her sweater, recrossed her legs and told me matter-of-factly that sometimes a drill is just a drill.

Then she smiled. "And a drill," she added, as her gaze drifted to the wall behind me—I turned to see a large, expertly hung mirror—"a drill can be a fine thing."

Get the latest Travel & Culture stories in your inbox.