Towering achievements need right tools

You can't tell it from my mug shot, but I'm a big guy.

I stand 6-foot-5 in my sock feet and my weight hovers around 250, depending on what time of day I brave the scales and how many tacos I consumed the night before.

Before you ask, the weather up here is just the same as it is down where you are. And no, I didn't play much basketball. Too many injuries, too little talent, a vertical leap of four inches.

Most people think it's cool to be tall. In this country, we like our heroes to be big strapping fellows. We think of our movie idols as being tall, even if Alan Ladd had to stand on a box to kiss the heroine. We worship the pituitary cases who star in the National Basketball Association, though recent events have shown them to be a bunch of big babies.

There are times when height has its advantages. Seeing over crowds comes to mind. Changing light bulbs. Hiding my candy stash on the top shelf so my kids won't find it.

But nobody thinks of the disadvantages.

America is full of well-dressed guys who stand at the national average of 5-foot-9. The 2 percent of American men who are 6-foot-3 or taller can't buy off the rack. We have to search out the "tall" sizes ironically hidden away on a bottom shelf. Or, we go to "Big and Tall" shops, which are stocked with crawly double-knit pants and shirts in patterns that can be seen from the space shuttle. Apparently, the clothing industry thinks we're so desperate, we'll wear anything to keep from going around large and naked.

I avoid the clothing problem by working at home, where I can throw on the same raggedy jeans and T-shirts for days on end and nobody cares. I've worn a necktie only once in the two years since I left the workaday world. That was for a wedding and there was no avoiding the noose. Even that necktie said "tall" on the label. Bet you never considered that neckties come in sizes, but tall guys know. We wear a regular tie and it comes up short. We get the ends to match up, then go around all day looking like Oliver Hardy.

Working at home means doing the housework and that has its own disadvantages for the oversized. Most center around back pain.

Just as they don't make decent clothes for guys my size, they also forget us when they're designing household tools. I thought of this again the other day when I was vacuuming the house, stooped over, sweat dripping off the end of my nose. Your standard vacuum cleaner is designed for someone who stands maybe 5-foot-2. People that size can vacuum an entire house and the only time they'll bend over is to unplug the thing. (And even that can be avoided if you perfect the method of yanking the plug out of the wall from across the room.) But a person my size has to work bent at a 90-degree angle. Otherwise, the sucking end of the vacuum doesn't touch the floor, which pretty much defeats the purpose.

Brooms and mops come with standard 4-foot-long handles. A tall man spends much time using them, he ends up stooped over like a question mark.

Sinks are at crotch height for us big guys, which makes splashovers even more embarrassing. Dishwashers are practically on the floor. A front-loading clothes dryer requires a touch-your-toes maneuver and the open door is at just the right level to bark our shins.

I know what you're thinking: These tools are designed for women. The manufacturers assume women do all the housework, so they build the various labor-saving gizmos with them in mind. But recent surveys show men are doing more and more of the housework, and only some of the respondents were lying.

Somewhere out there, an entrepeneur is designing king-sized cleaning implements. I predict he or she will make a fortune. But it'll probably come too late for me. I'll be old and stooped by then and the current cleaning instruments will finally be the right size.

In the meantime, if you need a light bulb changed, I'm your man.

(Editor's note: This column is from 1999. The weight numbers have been changed to reflect current, sad realities.)

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