vendredi, octobre 16, 2009

Go D.I.Y. Yourself.

Carl Sagan chilled my marrow when he observed that humanity is increasingly dependent on technology it doesn't understand. He didn't need to add that this is a "recipe for disaster." I felt that. He meant for Society at large. But that was because he didn't know me personally.

With apologies to Mr. Sagan, my friends and I cling somewhat desperately to a certain "Do It Yourself" ethic. To which end I own and maintain my own sewing machine, installed my own kitchen appliances (dishwasher, garbage disposal, sink and faucet, etc.). I purchased a kit (NOT the patented Phlobe!) and cut my own hair. I make every attempt to understand and maintain my own property and the technology thereupon. Sometimes with disastrous results.

Which brings us to my vehicles.
For years I have done what I can to maintain them myself. I could change/replace brake pads, air filters, batteries and oil--even plugs, ignition wires and distributor cap for a standard tune up. I know where to put the chemicals to charge the air conditioning. That said, (though the day I successfully replaced the electronic trunk release mechanism in the Jetta despite the pleading from the dealer to "bring it in" remains one of my proudest moments) it's all rather simplistic: If anything serious happens I run straight to the Last Honest Mechanic, a great man, and friend to our family, who knows darn well I have essentially no idea what I'm doing. [editor's note: my diesel Jetta from Volkswagen gets 50 miles per gallon on the highway, and is fueled with biodiesel. Take that, poseur environmentalists in your petroleum powered, acid battery packed hybrids!]

When the brakes wore out on the above-mentioned Jetta, I jacked it up, removed the back tires and, with the help of a D.I.Y. friend, got to work replacing the pads. I'll not bore the reader with the minutia, but suffice it to say that a special, $100 dollar tool is required to perform an important step in the process. A step that was formerly accomplished with a $5 C-clamp. We efforted with all due force, and ended by giving up the ship with bitterness and bile. Defeated, I ground metal on metal all the way to a nearby brake swindler, and, swallowing my pride, cursing the engineers who complicated the process, dispersed the commensurate compensation.

Strangely, that experience was far from my mind when the engine of my little 6 cylinder Ford truck began misfiring. The last honest mechanic said it needed a "tune up." I responded by assuring him that I, having replaced plugs and wires and filters and fluid on several vehicles, possessed the requisite skillz. I purchased the parts on the way home, got out the tools upon arrival, and to work on what used to be routine maintenance. Turns out, no human hand and no Do-It-Yourselfer's tool can penetrate the compact, tightly engineered inner workings of the modern pick-up. Goading myself on with an inner scourge of bitter curses and desperate prayer, I was barely able to complete half the job. After admitting defeat, with fists (and various orifices) clenched, I sheepishly delivered the truck to the Last Honest Mechanic. He assured me he would finish the job, and offered to change the fuel filter, which is "damn difficult" even with the expensive, specialized tool.

As I waited for my wife to pick me up, I knew the real tool would soon be in the passenger seat of the Jetta whose brakes had been installed by a paid professional.

Even if you don't accept these experiences as emblematic of a larger picture and problem, you are bound to admit the chips are sacked against us. Technology is being taken out of the hands of the common people. We cannot be expected to keep up with it.


You can interpret that as you wish.

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