Thursday, November 7, 2013


As I've mentioned before here, I sometimes have an odd way of getting around to posting about things. Often something will come to my attention, but will disappear from thought again, only to re-emerge in some other way within the next few days or so. Sometimes they just peter out, or must--I usually don't remember.

image from
The other night, I was watching some late night television--the kind where they often have ads advertising sensational new inventions that if you hurry up and act now, you can get two of for the price of one. I am often very intrigued by these things, wondering how their reality holds up to their advertising, though for better or worse, I would never actually bother to pick up the phone. This night, they were showing a fabulous wallet that folded up to about 1/5th the width of a regular wallet and still could contain the same amount of stuff. They even demonstrated this, along with ringing endorsements of chiropractors and surgeons. How? I wondered. How can it possibly do this? It was like a magic trick that you'd never get tired of watching. And then the announcer gave it away. "Thanks to the wonder of Tyvek," he said. "Tyvek!?!" I exclaimed. Yes, really, I did exclaim. And I knew I had to do this post.

You see, in the spring, I was talking about my then housing woes to a friend. At the time, my house had some big issues with dampness, and I was complaining about how I couldn't even put my bookcase against the walls, as the books would mildew. Had, in fact.

"Why don't you get some Tyvek to put between your bookcases and the wall to absorb moisture?" he asked.

"What is Tyvek?" I asked. Although I knew  that he would probably be surprised at my ignorance, I wasn't particularly embarrassed. After all, he is a resourceful jack of all trades and I, well, I am definitely not. He explained that it was a kind of insulation boarding that kept moisture from seeping in. Well, it sounded like a good idea, and I remembered the name, and thought  might try it, but in the end the moisture issues were resolved in a different, more comprehensive way.

At that point, I wasn't too embarrassed about Tyvek. After all, there are a good many things that people who are of the DYI ilk know that us lesser mortals don't. Show me a box of tools and I could probably pick out the hammer. I could probably differentiate a wrench from a screwdriver. But don't expect too much more from me than that. Seriously--don't.

So I wasn't bothered a lot about my ignorance in this case, until one day, some time later, when I was walking down a street and I came across a  building that looked a lot like this:

And I am pretty sure that this wasn't the first Tyvek® (we'll put in their trademark at this point in the story, now that I know that it is a brand from Dupont) wrapped house I'd seen in my days on this earth. In fact, I've probably seen a thousand of them. It's one thing not to know the names of things when you see them. It's a bit of a different category when their name is printed right on them.

Tyvek®, it turns out, is used in a lot of things. Besides wallets, it shows up in USPS priority mail envelopes, in one time painters coveralls, wristbands for when you want to buy a drink at some outdoor festival where they have to monitor the alcohol intake (easy to put on, a little hard to take off, in my experience, but perhaps I overimbibe.) And a ton of other stuff. In 1955, a Dupont researcher named Jim White noticed some polyethylene fluff coming out of a pipe and of course Dupont then began figuring what they could do with this stuff. Apart from the water resistant properties it has for such things as house wrapping, the main thing to know is that it results in a non-woven material, created by heat and compression instead.

Tyvek®contains a little parable about life for me. Or at least, a parable about my life. Since Tyvek® and I have been around for something like the same amount of time, it's safe to say that I have been walking around not noticing Tyvek® for pretty much my whole life. As a metaphor, that can stand in for a lot of unnoticed things. I now kind of assume that as I lie on my death bed, I will open my eyes briefly and say, "Oh! I never noticed that."



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Tyvek will not be one of those things about which I will say: "I never noticed that!" as I prepare to join the choir invisible. That's because the last two cities where I've lived have undergone construction booms while I was living or visiting there. So have seen much Tyvek, its name writ large.

    Come to think of it, though, I never knew precisely what the stuff was for until your post, so thank you for giving me one less thing to think about on my death bed.

  3. I won't be thinking about it, but with my luck, some hospital will come in wearing a onetimeTyvek coverall, and my last words will actually be: "Tyvek!" Curtain.

  4. You are ready if Alex Trebek asks you about Tyvek.

  5. Yes, but I can well imagine I will only say "Tyvek!", rather than "What is Tyvek?". It would be like me.

  6. Attain some eminence, utter "Tyvek!" as your last word, and you may make yourself the answer to a trivia question.