Don't return that duct tape just yet

It is my monument of shame.

Sitting in my study is an unopened box, roughly 18 inches on a side. Inside is a generous supply of plastic sheeting and duct tape, the fulfillment of a recent online order to Home Depot. Sometime between the placement of the order and its arrival, sanity crept in.

As we all now know, duct tape and plastic don't have much to do with surviving a terrorist attack. And yet, in lemming-like fashion, Washingtonians and New Yorkers have managed to accumulate a gargantuan supply of the stuff. Putting aside the obviously important question of how we should really prepare for attacks, we now confront an even bigger question. While our leaders struggle with the elusive aim of beating our swords into plowshares, we face the more immediate challenge of beating our personal mountains of silver tape into - what? has a list of suggested reading. In "Ductigami: The Art of Tape," author Joe Wilson offers 14 projects for making cool and useful stuff out of you-know-what. Online reviewers seem to have a special fondness for the waterproof duct-tape wallet. I am more intrigued with the "flak-proof" barbecue apron. Those hankering for a gun-metal gray baseball cap or TV chair caddy will find their desires met as well.

A team of writers compiled "The Jumbo Duct Tape Book," whose lone reviewer commends the book's "fatness" and calls it the product of a "lifetime obsession." The book proceeds from this core maxim: "If it ain't stuck, and it's supposed to be, duct tape it." Less practical and more zany than Ductigami, this attempt at a duct-tape coffee-table book could be the must-have Father's Day gift for 2003.

These same authors have another tome: "Duct Shui: A New Tape on an Ancient Philosophy," bringing a much-needed Eastern sensibility to the art of the tape. Here one learns how to attract wealth, achieve order and control in the workplace and at home, and generally keep your yin and yang nicely bound together.

An aspiring Martha Stewart for sure, teenager Ellie Schiedermayer's "Got Tape?: Roll Out the Fun with Duct Tape," showcases 25 projects to bring a certain domesticity to a party, complete with plans for belts, picture frames, bracelets, and purses.

So no excuses. If you can't return it, make something. Or do what I've done: Leave your cache unopened and in plain sight, a reminder of madness, or, like the monolith in "2001: A Space Odyssey," an exhortation to some higher evolutionary state. As far as the plastic sheeting goes, you're on your own.

Mark Rovner is a communications consultant to nonprofits and charities in Washington, D.C.

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