I learned The Law of Doing Stuff That Makes You Do Other Stuff First from Pat McManus. I knew about it before I heard about it, I just didn't know it had a name.

I learned The Law of Doing Stuff That Makes You Do Other Stuff First from Pat McManus. I knew about it before I heard about it, I just didn't know it had a name.

That name I made up. I can't remember the name Pat made up. It was probably something like "Stinky Gumtree's Fine and Pleasant Frustration."

The way it works is like this: say you want to mow the grass. But the lawnmower's tank is empty. So you'll be visiting the gas station. But where's the gas can? Gone. Now you're looking at a trip to the store to buy a gas can. But the car's nearly out of gas. So you'll have to go to the gas station so you can go to the store to get a can to take back to the gas station. You have entered the TLODSTMYDOSF zone.

What brings this up is my sailboat. If there's an object in the world guaranteed to kick the laws of TLODSTMYDOSF into action, it is an old sailboat. Even a simple boat comprises several systems, requiring parts you won't find at Freddie's.

I took the tarp off recently and beheld the grim, gray grime of an Oregon winter. A pressure washer would be the answer, which meant cleaning out the back of the pickup before visiting the rental yard. Some of the junk in there required me to do things I'll not go into, since their completion was not essential to the pressure-washing, and thus they are part of a different TLODSTMYDOSF string.

The boat required me to get cleaners and waxes to bring some sailorly shine back to the old hull. Later I realized I needed buffing pads.

Back to the store we go.

Joe's — which I still can't stop calling G.I. Joe's — had none on the shelves, but a guy there found some in the back. When I ran through them and returned for more, I wound up training other Joe's guys in the vagaries of their automotive inventory, a strange link in this TLODSTMYDOSF string.

The boat next required me to go out and buy teak oil. And to go to a friend's where I'd left a sander. That led not only to stumbling through another garage and combing through a storage shed but to a discussion of how to best repair a particular screen, which activity will first require that guy to go out and get a length of spline, yet another TLODSTMYDOSF thread.

The boat demanded fresh bottom paint. That required me to learn the ways of 2-inch hook scrapers, 80-grit disks and copolymers. It wanted its stereo working, which sent me to Les Schwab's to have the battery checked and to Radio Shack for various little electronic gizmos.

The boat sent me to my friends, Pat and Dana. Dana sells sailing gear. I wanted to rig a topping lift for the boom. Dana is the kind of guy who will spend an hour analyzing your problem, then invent a part to fix it, then make it in his shop, then charge you five bucks.

You have to understand sailors. When you ask Dana for the bathroom in his home, he says, "Out there to port."

He assembled a block, a shackle and a piece of aluminum that he drilled to accept the same pin that holds my backstay. It works perfectly.

Some TLODSTMYDOSF threads never stop. Sailing leads to numerous truck TLODSTMYDOSFs, because the boat requires that I haul it up to the lake. Buying a new boat sometimes sets a sailor on a TLODSTMYDOSF that includes getting a bigger truck.

You could see the whole town — the nation, the world — as a big TLODSTMYDOSF system with everybody chasing different threads.

Maybe UFOs are just aliens off chasing interstellar TLODSTMYDOSF strings we can't imagine.

But enough idle speculation. Right now the goal of having a working light in the cabin is demanding that I acquire a countersunk, a crosshead screw of precise length, gauge and threading. It's a long story, and I have no idea where it will end.

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail bvarble@mailtribune.com