The House of Tatterdemalion


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Push My Buttons

December 2nd, 2008 by tatterdemalion

Why on earth did I decide to make myself jeans? Here I am, having just completed bodice and skirt sloper that could be used to make me any skirt, shirt or dress I can dream up, and all I wanted to do was make pants. What is wrong with me?

Well, nothing is wrong with me. At least with my reasoning skills. The problem is that there are no jeans to be had, for love or money, that properly fit me. The non-stretch jeans have such a long rise they go up to my armpits; this is because I am very short waisted. The stretch jeans—besides the afore mentioned unforgivable sin of being stretchy—will have a perfectly fine rise for me in the front, but in the back do not cover near as much of my backside as I would like. And none of them give me enough room to maneuver and all of them are at least six inches too long, and most of them more than that.

So, jeans. Yes, I drafted my own pattern for jeans. Yes, it was a headache, a nightmare, exceedingly tedious at parts, but I drafted them and sewed them. They actually came out pretty good, although I can’t possibly make another pair without tweaking the pattern (partly for greater ease of construction, partly for continuing to improve the fit). It was enough of an effort that I don’t really feel like talking about that part just now. Suffice it to say, I made a perfectly acceptable pair of jeans; all that remained was to install the metal button.

The metal button. You know, it’s on all of your jeans. It’s the kind you pound in with a hammer—it has a nail part and a button part, and whence the two are joined together they shall never, ever separate, and all that. They’re sometimes referred to as “bachelor’s buttons”, because you don’t have to sew to install them. I ordered a hundred of them in bulk (for Pete’s sake, you didn’t think this was the only pair of jeans I was ever planning on sewing, did you?), from a small family owned store in California.

I, by the by, am in a completely different universe, because I live on the East Coast. In the North.

Which is why I spent as much getting the silly things sent to me as I did on actually buying the buttons themselves.

But never mind all that. The button, the button.

I am sufficiently experienced with Murphy enough to know one must at least do a test run, both for the button, and the button hole. It went shockingly smoothly, both the button and the buttonhole. Okay, the button might have been a bit crooked, but that was just because I was sufficiently experienced with hammers to be a little more generous than was needed on a pound-in button. But still. That’s what trial runs are all about.

So I repeat the process on the actual-factual pair of pants, except being a bit more gentle on the pounding end. It comes out very nice. Life is good.

I wear the pants.

Life is still good.

I put the pants through the washer.

Life decides it can’t be good all the time.

The button comes apart.

How can this be? You pound it together, and whence joined, it never, ever separates. Remember? Remember? REMBEMBER?!

I push the button back over the nail. It goes on very easy, and comes off just as easy. Perhaps I didn’t pound hard enough. I look at the nail. It is blunted now, so I certainly pounded it hard enough to start trying to come through the button part. I take the nail out of the pants, and send them through the dryer. Maybe it was just an odd fluke. When they are dry, I’ll try again.

Or maybe Murphy is out to get me again. I try it on my sample again. Just in case, I get out my “anvil” from when I set snaps. It is hard. It is metal. It is just the right shape for cradling the button head.

Pound, pound, pound.

Ah, there we go. Nice and snug. Now I will button it through my test buttonhole. . .

. . .ker-plink, plankety. The button falls off of the nail.

What on earth? I look at the button. I look at the nail. There are no teeth on the nail to grip anything. The only mechanism inside the button to grip anything appear to be going the wrong direction. I look at another one of my 100 buttons. They all look the same. What gives? Am I supposed to pound so hard the tip of the nail flattens out so much that it can’t come back up the hollow stem?

Much vigorous pounding later, on a brand new button, I’m pretty convinced that is not the answer. Despite the “anvil” there is now a little out-dent on the front of the button. The stem of the button has been squashed down along with the nail. And the button and nail still merrily separate.

I am confused. There where no instructions with the buttons, but how hard can it possibly be? I know I did this once before; my first test button stayed in fine. I turn my sample to examine how my first and only success that ever happened.

Ker-plink, ker-plankity. My first and only success turns into yet on more failure. What. . .what. . .what? This just does not make any sense.

I search online to see if maybe there are tales of “what to do when your jeans buttons refuse to be happily married” or “what to do when you can’t even figure out how to install a bachelor’s button, for Pete’s sake”, or “how to keep your jeans buttons from falling apart at inopportune moments” or “please tell me you can get these things to stay together with out using a blow-torch or a sledge hammer” or “CAN ANYONE GET THESE STUPID THINGS TO WORK?!” The closest thing I can find is people recommending you “pound them gently but firmly several times”, that the button is installed when it “can no longer turn within the button”, and that if the button stem bends that your “nail is too long” (or your fabric isn’t thick enough), and you can cut it a little shorter (ha, yeah). No one reports their buttons spontaneously falling apart like poorly constructed bridges.

I send an email to the company out in California, because maybe I am just denser than a fire brick and I am just seriously not getting something.

The very nice company sends me back an email very promptly, telling me to please call this number and ask for Roberto. You will need to have the style number handy.

I don’t have time to call before Thanksgiving, because I am making blueberry pies. (You must please remember that California being 3 hours before us, there is some inflexibility as to when I call.) I did want to wear my jeans on Thanksgiving.

I gently tap in a button on Thanksgiving morning.

It comes out with in 20 minutes.

I get annoyed and give it a few very annoyed whacks.

It stays in all day.

I put it through the wash.

It stays in.

Now I am in the horns of a dilemma. I can pretend that the first 5 buttons were all flukes and that my remaining buttons will all be saintly and co-operative, or I can call Roberto.

I do not want to call Roberto.

Because the facts that he lives in California, didn’t email me himself, and is named “Roberto” all strongly suggest that he may not even be able write English, and almost certainly speaks with a heavy accent.

Now, please do not misunderstand me. I do not have anything against heavy accents. I do not have anything against people who can’t write English. I do not have any problems with people with people who can’t speak English or write in any language.

The person who has the problem is me.

Because, you see, I talk very, very, veeerrrryy fast. My family, who has to put up with me all the time—they only listen to every other word, at best, and make up the rest. My friends, who don’t have to be around me all the time either just smile and nod and pretend I make sense or ask me to repeat myself. Slowly. With space between the words, please.

And these are the people who not only speak my language, but know me personally! And they usually already know what I’m going to say before I say it!

So I do not want to talk to Roberto. Because I already know what he will say. He will say “What? What? I cannot unduhstand you. You haf no hammuh?” In a heavy accent.

I try to get help from my brother. He verifies it looks like it doesn’t work. He pushes one together with his bare hands. Well, I think he used his chin, some, too. His chin is like an anvil. Or something. He keeps stopping part of the way through to see if it’s stuck yet, but it never is. When he gets to the part where he blunts the nail and it still doesn’t stick together, he labels them all as cruddy pieces of junk.

I dread phone calls in the best of circumstances, and this isn’t even that. I am about 99.9% certain that I will have an awful, contorted, humiliating conversation with Roberto, wherein I try to explain to him what I am doing, and how it isn’t working, while he tries to understand and be helpful, but mostly tells me to do exactly what I’m already doing, and assuring me that if I follow his instructions it will work. And then I will have 100 buttons that don’t work and the instructions that don’t work to go along. A cute matching set.

To make matters worse, one button is still in place. I don’t know that it will still be in place, but it opens up the horrifying possibility that even if Roberto was 5 minutes down the street and I brought the buttons over in person, Roberto could still do the exact same thing I’ve been doing, and it would stay in. At least, for 5 minutes, until I got home. Or for five hours, until I was out in the middle of shopping, and suddenly ker-plinkety-ker-plankety loosing my pants button.

But because I am a good little girl, and I like to think that some how I can’t actually predict how these things will go, I called. Today. At four o’clock over here and one o’clock over there.

The first person who answers the phone is a very pleasant, perfectly normal, maybe-he-is-just-five-minutes-down-the-street-even-though-his-address-is-California type person. I ask to speak to Roberto, as my email instructed me. I am very pleasantly transfered. And then a pleasant voice says, “Dis is Roberto,” with an accent so thick it would put the Great Wall in China to shame.

At some point, you have to decide whether life is a tragedy or a comedy. Somewhere between verifying that no, I was not looking for jeans buttons, I had already bought them from him, and they were not staying in, despite being pounded into mauled bits of metal and his wondering confusion of how this could possibly be, I decided it was a comedy.

“Hm, dis is ve-ey odd. No udder customehs complain of dis. Do you pound it on somesing hard?”

Yes, I pound it on something hard. Very hard and very hardily, I have pounded this thing on something very hard. Don’t worry, I didn’t phrase it like that to him. But I did go over all the facts of the case.

“Dis ve-ey strange. It should be just the easiest ting,” he says, greatly confused.

“I thought they would be,” I say, “That’s why I bought them!” We both laugh. We are both greatly confused.

“Vat ziti are you?”

“Excuse me?”

“Vat ziti are you?”

“I. . .um,” All I can think of is the pasta “Ziti”, but I am not it, and it doesn’t relate to jeans buttons. “I, ah, I don’t understand your question.”

“Vat. Ziti. Are. You.” he says, very clearly.

Long pause.

“Vat ziti are you; you know, are you Lozzanglis?” Ah, Los Angeles!

“No, no. What city am I in? I’m on the East Coast!!”

“Ah, dat is what I thought. . .” he trails off.

We discuss that it is a hard surface. We discuss how thick my fabric is, but he says it is not too thick.

“Well, I not know what to do, because you are over there and I am over here!” We laugh. Yes. Life would be so much simpler if I could walk down the street, and he could show me how to do it in, and it would stay in for all of five minutes.

He suggests I use pliers. He suggests I have my very strong brother who puts them together with his bare hands to try the pliers. Yes, try that and see how it works.

I am about ready to tell him he is out of his mind, pliers won’t fix the problem, but the fact of the matter is very clear. He can’t help me. Because it should be working; no one has ever had this problem before, and he is over there and I am over here. So I say okay. And he says if I have any problems, ask for Roberto, and hangs up.

So now what do I do? I know perfectly well it doesn’t matter if I use a hammer, pliers or my brothers bare hands; I currently have about a 20% chance of any of these buttons working. I could email the person who first responded to me, and say “Roberto no can help me, because this never happen to his other customers. The buttons will cannot stay together; please ship me better ones or give me my refund.” But I don’t think they have any different buttons that don’t work like these ones, and if they give me a refund, it’s still only half my money back, on account of how much I paid in shipping (metal buttons are heavy when you ship them clear across the continent). And if I claimed all 80% of them were defective, I would have to ship them back to prove it. Then I would be out my shipping money and my buttons. (I should be clear here that I am predicting what will happen; they have no stated policy on jeans buttons that don’t work. But I would like to note that so fare my predictions have been eerily accurate.)

I feel bad for Roberto, because he wasn’t able to help me, and I feel bad for me, because he wasn’t able to help me. I have a button on my pants, but I don’t know how long they will stay there, or if I will ever be able to install any of the remaining buttons. Everyone at the company tried very hard to be helpful, but no one on the other side of the universe can figure out why my jeans buttons hate me. It’s of no use to me to get more jeans buttons if they all want to fall off without even a half-way reasonable excuse.

Did you ever hear of pilots landing their planes with “a wing and a prayer”? I would like to give you something to ponder. You know the age-old question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Well, now in your post-Thanksgiving jeans, how about you ponder how many angels are holding onto the button of your pants? Because apparently that what jeans buttons depend upon to stay put.

Posted in Contemplations, Not Working, Technical | 7 Comments »