The Demise of my Big Johnson

I’ve had my Big Johnson for as long as I can remember. It was perfect to me and I’m not sure how I will get along without it. While age brings irreplaceable experience, it also can cause damage and wear. Moving parts are bound to produce friction and friction causes tiny chinks in the mechanism. Eventually, one of those chinks grows into a flaw and since everything in a machine must work together perfectly, too many flaws render it kaput.

Things break, expire, and just flat out stop working as we get older.

And so, my Big Johnson broke. It was a precise instrument of measurement and the best tape measure I’ve ever owned. You could ask me why I loved it and I couldn’t tell you. It fit perfectly in my hand. It just felt right – like a graduated extension of me and that is enough. Anyone who builds stuff understands.

We worked together for years. We built furniture, a playhouse, finished a basement, and numerous other projects. My Big Johnson went to Africa with me and it visited Haiti, too. In fact, I took my Big Johnson wherever I built things. If I had a friend in need, I never had a problem whipping out my Big Johnson to help with home repairs.

Saturday I pulled it out with my lovely wife to measure between pictures we were hanging and it wouldn’t go back in. A spring broke and now it is dead. I don’t think she offered the proper amount of concern for the demise of my Big Johnson.


I feel so utterly incomplete without it.

To add insult to injury, the Johnson Level & Tool Mfg. Company doesn’t make them anymore. Can you believe it? Their new line is called, The Big J… (Insert sigh of disappointment.)

Whoever was the marketing genius who originally named the product must have retired. Try to imagine the board meeting where bell curves showing plummeting sales of tape measures are plastered to the wall. A snickering young executive points out that there might be another connotation to the name causing customer reluctance. I have a mental image of a bunch of gray-haired old men sitting around a long table shocked while this young Johnson brings them up to speed.

I admit that I have the maturity of a 7 year-old. While most contractors and do-it-yourselfers may have giggled and shied away from purchase, the name is precisely why I carried it to the register. How could I know it was a finely crafted instrument that would soon become indispensable to me?

I miss it already. In fact, I will probably make a display case for it and save it for the day when researchers find a way to fix broken springs in tape measures. Kind of like I am cryogenically freezing it until it can be brought to life again.

Until that day, I’ve ordered The Big J. I am thoroughly disappointed yet hopeful that somehow we can work together. It just feels like nothing will be the same again.

14 thoughts on “The Demise of my Big Johnson

  1. Man do I even want to touch this post.Yes. Here goes. I am going to order me one. I am convinced every man desreves a Big Johnson or Big J as of now lol. I always enjoy your blog Mark, always.

    Much love to you buddy

  2. I just found this blog, lost among emails that need to be deleted. But I keep all of your blogs! You have the greatest gift of writing something so funny like this one. Which my husband would have absolutely laughed aloud. You have the extra gift of writing about Kylie, loss, grief and the depth of that forever heartbreak. I am never sure until I start reading the direction, you will go. However since I found your blog, I know I will feel lighter and more understood as a result. Thank you!!!! Are you coming to CUREFEST in DC in September.

  3. I am absolutely over the moon impressed that you only had ONE tape measure that you could find at all times. My husband has so many tape measures and can never find one when he needs it (or I need it). I finally started putting them in a draw when ever I would come across one, at one point I had 6 tape measures in that drawer…then I did the unthinkable…I told him about the drawer. Within 2 weeks there was only 1 lonely tape measure left.

Join the Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s