Clean It Up

Growing up my dad had this philosophy that 90% of fixing broken stuff, can be done by taking it apart, cleaning it up and putting it back together.  Magically it would work again.  This has held for pretty much my entire life, and I would bet that the percentage is accurate.  When I opened the pool a few months ago, the filter was not priming itself, so I took it apart.  Given that the motor is 11 years old, I figured that I would take it to the shop to see what a new one would cost.  Better to replace it at the beginning of the season while I had it apart (took about an hour to get it removed).

Free plug and recommendation to The Swimming Pool Center in Hampstead for what happened next.  I showed the guys the pump and asked about replacement.  $350…wow.  But I wondered if I just replaced the seals, is that worth it, given the age of the motor?  According to these guys, unless the motor is whining (bearings) they last forever.  So $8 later and another hour of cleaning the gaskets tracks, inserting new seals and lining with special grease; the motor is back in and roars to life with more pressure than I have seen in years, and it is self-priming again too.

Pool Motor

As a kid, I took everything apart.  Owning a landscaping business, I pretty much had to clean the tractor all the time.  Who didn’t take apart their Atari 2600 almost daily to try to get the games to stop freezing?  Cleaning the chain on your bicycle, oiling the derailer.  Cleaning the plugs and then the throttle plate of a carburator.  Everyone changed their own oil and brakes.  That’s what you did.

No one does that stuff anymore and kids can’t even fathom the analytical skills necessary to start a project.  An iPhone is intentionally made not to be taken apart.  Electronic fuel-injection?  No way is Gumout going to help there.  The sad part is that tools are so much better now.  There is a YouTube video to fix ANYTHING.  When I used to take apart cars, I would take Polaroids and use a sharpie to number the pictures so I could remember the steps to put it back.  A roll of 10 pictures cost like $20 and the quality was shit.  That pic above was from my phone and I can zoom to see more than I can in real life (without glasses).

Can we quantify in the macro sense what is happening to the world now that no one ever tries to fix anything?  Why bother, when replacing the item with something Made in China is probably cheaper than your time spent fixing it?  I know I have become the old fogey I used to rail against as a kid, but I think the principle is bigger than people comprehend.  Kids have no ability to break down physical tasks step-by-step and devise better systems for accomplishing a goal.  My personal triumph is when I had the epiphany to tape screws to the cement floor and number the masking tape.  First out, closest to object.

Life is not an X-box game.  When you take down the enemy bunker, you just try different strategies until one works; the game determines success.  That is not analytical.  I know that within the next 25 years we will have self-driving cars.  And then my mantra that everyone should know how to drive a standard transmission becomes even more moot.  But I just can’t believe we aren’t setting ourselves back as a civilization by not learning the skills necessary to observe something broken, devise an approach and try to fix it.

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes…

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

Try it today, just take something apart, clean it up and put it back together, the world will be a better place.

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About Josh Rutstein

I am an aspiring entrepreneur and hopeful political candidate. Father of 2 very special girls and passionate American. I snowboard whenever possible and follow a 20x mentality for exercise. I also play golf and ultimate frisbee and am a die hard New England Patriots fan and season ticket holder. Everyday I wake up wanting to make this country a better place, someday I hope to actually succeed.
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