Sunday, January 6, 2013

Facing Challenges and Learning Stuff

"Opposition is a natural part of life.  Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition--such as lifting weights--we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity." - Stephen Covey

So, yesterday a friend on Facebook complained of a fairly common symptom of sensitivity to a chemical after having a gas tech visit her house and work on a leak in the line to the water heater/furnace.  I'll not bore you with too many details, but the end result of the post was a discussion between a couple of us on the finer points of gas line installation.

What the hell is a college dean/author doing, knowing how gas lines are constructed?

It's a pretty simple answer, really.  Once upon a time I needed a gas line run and couldn't afford to pay someone else to do it for me.  Now I'd done other construction-related things before; once upon a time I had a summer job working in a construction project, and later I helped my parents build their house in Texas.  I've run more miles of networking cable than I'd care to specify.  But a gas line is special.  One leak, and the whole project can go up in flames--literally.  So I made a point of learning how to do it first, both by discussing it with experts at every hardware store in town and by reading everything I could find on the topic.

Then I did it.  You'd think it wouldn't be too bad, but unlike networking cable or electrical wires, a gas line won't just bend up and around the pipes and ducts that are already there.  I don't remember the exact number, but by the time I had the gas line run from the edge of the house to where the dryer was I had somewhere around 8 or 10 ninety-degree angles, each one having been cut, threaded, gooped, and installed.  It's hard work in and of itself, but add to the challenge that it's in a crawl space under the house, with the key word being crawl.  I think I lost several pounds of sweat and blood that night, but I got it run.  The gas guy came out in the morning to verify my leak-free installation, and the new dryer was off and running.

And, in a narrow, focused kind of way, I was a little bit smarter.

It's the same reason I can talk intelligently about most car problems.  I have never, ever considered becoming a mechanic.  In fact, I, or more specifically my knuckles, hate, hate, hate mechanical work.  Haaaaaaaate it.  But there was a time when I couldn't afford to have someone else do it, so when the engine needed rebuilding or the steering knuckle needed replacing on my VW Bug, or the radiator, water pump, brake pads, or any of several other parts needed replacing on my Dakota, I broke out my tools and did it.

It sucked.

But I always learned something.

It's funny how life is like that, isn't it?  The things that tend to make us smarter are also often the things we would really rather not do if we had another choice.



  1. I spent a week learning about clutches for a 2007 Mustang. In the process I learned about performance clutches and that MY car specifically uses a newer version of the clutch not the older version being that it was a June model. I also learned that I have a good mechanic willing to put up with not just one person calling about the car but two of us as we researched and then found parts ourselves for them to install....I say good mechanic because not all of them will let the customer research and have parts drop shipped to them....the local supplier was $300 more expensive than the performance part I found!
    Then there was the #$&$@#@#!! bathroom project in which I learned which local home improvement shop to trust! A year of learning on that one and I *still* have more to do on that room!
    Learning curves are everywhere! It took me a month to iron out the bugs and quirks of the latest version of Office and I'm *good* with software!
    BTW I remember you cursing that gas project soundly! LOL

    1. Heh--I did curse out that project! Glad you learned from yours, though.