Mr. Fixit, I'm Not
by The Finn
I’m going to let you in on a little secret… I have no mechanical aptitude. And by none, I mean, I can’t turn a screw without needing stitches. This comes as no surprise to anyone who lives with me, as they’ve all had first hand experience with “my little problem”. I can’t begin to count the number of times that my wife has had to bail me out when it came to something mechanical. And hopefully, if I have any luck at all, I haven’t passed my little genetic defect off to the baby.
I really never noticed until I started hanging out with Jonny D. While he wasn’t exactly a genius, he was capable of simple feats, like following directions. He and I started building models right around the same time. Scale stuff of tanks and jeeps. Mostly so we could blow them up later. While he would always fly through them, I always struggled. It just seemed like the directions never made sense, no matter how many times I read them. I’d sit there and look at the pieces for a half hour and always end up with something that looked nothing like what I was trying build. I’d do a lot better if I didn’t look at the directions at all, but most times I’d feel lucky that my fingers weren’t stuck together.
You see, I was always much better at abstract thought. I could work a concept nine ways from Sunday, commit it to paper and work a group of people through it. If the concept I’m working on has no physical presence, no moving parts, and is completely unreal, it’ll work like gangbusters. I guess that’s why I gravitated to IT work. Sure, a good piece of software works vaguely like something mechanical, but when it comes right down to it, it has no real world physical application. And if that’s the case, I'm fine with it.
I figured that if I really set my mind to it, I could overcome my issues. In ninth grade, I signed up to take an auto shop class, with the express purpose of disassembling and reassembling everything I could get my hands on. My first day, I inadvertently drained the brake lines on our practice car. The second day, I pulled the carburetor and managed to get it apart, but it was a week before I could get it back together. And I still had parts left over. I eventually just said “Fuck it !” and started doing some body work on one of the rust buckets in the back. I got pretty good with the Bondo, but that’s because there’s no moving parts.
My problems continue to follow me into my daily life. It takes me 45 minutes to change a tire and that's with several years of practice. I can’t put a door on a cabinet unless it’s an all day experience. After I bought my first house, I decided that I would arm myself accordingly. I purchased every Do It Yourself book I could get my hands on and forced myself to read and reread them. I purchased tools and spent time in the local home improvement place, trying to figure out if I could justify the cost of a 5000 piece ratchet set on the off chance that I might actually need and use four or five of them. The first and only project I undertook for the house was to replace the garbage disposal. It took me all day, the kitchen sink was completely unusable and I still had to call a plumber to finish the job and make my sink useable again. After that, I started to gather phone numbers of reliable repairmen.
It took me a long time, but I have come to accept that I will always have my mechanical limitations. One day this week, I put together two shelves, and replaced the battery in my wife’s car. And yes, it took me all day. And I had to ask for help. And, once again, my lovely wife came to my rescue and explained that I had the battery in backwards and that in both cases, the shelves had one side up and one side upside down. I can’t tell you why I can’t follow directions. I can’t tell you why actual physical things make less sense in my head than random abstract concepts. And I can’t tell you why every time I use a screwdriver I end up with it stuck in my arm, on my way to the emergency room.
I can, however, tell you that the reason your client server application is running slowly and dropping connections is because the server’s connection to the middleware boxes is not running at a locked 100MB/sec but is instead auto negotiating and flip flopping between 10 and 100 MIPS. In about ten minutes.