On Shims

A shim, Shims, Let me discourse on shims. I have one in the pocket of my corduroy coat as I write this. It has a beautiful knot. It’s rough. Pine? Fir? Spruce?

I found the shim on the part-time construction job I started a couple of weeks ago. Shims are everywhere on the work site. I hear the word shim in the air all the time.

What a great word! It’s one of those rare words that sounds like what it is. Like whisper. Or glue. Donnybrook.

I’ve had shims in my life for years, but exclusively for leveling a table or chair to write in a coffee shop or dive bar. I used shims in my classrooms, too, to level speaker stands, books shelves, desks, amps, computer monitors, students.

The shim on a construction site does a lot more than level. It neatly and discreetly fills in gaps caused by human mis-measurement or machine errors. Humans and machines making mistakes! And slender, sloped slices of wood fill the gap. Shims solidify, tighten. They wedge.

This recent shim fired up my imagination. I now realize I could have taught a one-period writing workshop around shims, just hand them out to students, slivers be damned! and have them respond to the following prompts:

Where do you need a shim in you life?

Take this shim with you….where will you use it to help something?

What is your shim made of?

Describe a time you acted as a shim for something or someone.

Where do we need a shim in American life? What would it be made of?

Write the first sentence of a mystery where a shim was the murder weapon.

Complete this sentence, A shim a day keeps the _______