Pat of All Trades
The tools of my father’s trade – pencils, adding machines, Redweld folders – earned him money as an accountant, but didn’t help much when the roof leaked or toilet clogged, which they did regularly. My mother recognized his limitations and decided that I, her lone male child, should acquire some of the blue collar skills that my father lacked, in part so that she didn’t have to fork out $120 for a guy to haul his half-exposed bottom to our house when the sink got stopped up (plus an additional $85 an hour and the inflated cost of parts). I therefore learned some plumbing, carpentry, electrical work, and, later, some light automobile maintenance, mostly via trial and a great deal of error.
I gave up virtually all car repair tasks at a certain point in my adulthood, realizing that the trade requires not just specialized skill, but also lots of tools that cost more money to buy than having someone else do the work for you. Who among us didn’t try to change his own oil and filter at least once “to save money,” only to find that he’d saved nothing, least of all time, after buying an oil pan, funnel, and filter-removal tool. Plus, there was all that oil sitting your garage for the next 3 years.
Which brings me to this point in my tradesman history, in which I find myself once again attempting to learn a new skill in order to “save money,” this time bicycle repair. Having undertaken the very benign task of replacing my bike chain, only to find that this has caused my bike to stop working because the new chain slips on the worn crank, I’ve bought myself some specialized tools to replace the crank and, as the bike mechanics suggested I do at the same time, the “bottom bracket,” an essential part that I now believe I may have stripped and, therefore, ruined. Oh, the part doesn’t cost much – maybe $30 – but if you can’t get it out of the bike, the only solution is to get a new frame, i.e. a new bicycle. At least I can assert, with genuine honestly, that I have learned something new yet again.