Experience is Relative

I went over to help a relative with their garage door today.

It was an old wooden type, and the connection to the opener had splintered. After drilling new holes and adjusting the chain position to attach properly, I found that positions 1,2,5,6, and 8 out of 8 possible positions did not work, as the chain track would bend. I supposed it was necessary to move the car to get to adjusting the position of the box itself. So I detached the arm again, and lo and behold, the garage door itself would not move. One person should be enough, but two weren’t, and a third arrived with a crowbar and still it would barely move. A wooden door, a concrete floor, and a rubber flap of sorts on the door which never posed any problems before. But at that point it was noticed that one of the structures attaching the door to the door frame had splintered the frame, and the structure was sticking out somewhat.

I had replaced springs of that type before and advised against touching it. A single garage door spring took both me and my dad to replace when the garage door is open, trying to lose the tension on two of them while the door is closed spelled to me “suicide”. I am also by education an engineer, so perhaps that contributed to my basic understanding of what state the spring was in and the force potentials in the overall situation, rather than simply noticing “this thing is broken, it should be removed”.

But what do I know and what can I say to two people three times my age in Chinese culture? So they went ahead and did it, and the third guy got whacked with about 10 pounds of steel. Maybe a concussion, I wasn’t looking at the time, but he had to spend a minute to regain his bearings. Then he said no problem.

And then he went to work trying to figure out how to remove the other structure.

So I called my dad because I wasn’t about to be an accessory to manslaughter.

Thankfully that halted all movement. Rather than talk specifics about the situation he talked about how it sounded like the situation’s problems just kept getting larger and it was better to just call in professional help instead. Probably also helps that when he grew up it appeared he didn’t follow the Confucian way and was basically top dog without being the eldest, and maybe used some rhetorical tricks I didn’t catch. The relative attempted to get my dad to research contractors on replacing garage door openers for him, then attempted to get me to do it, at which point the third guy conveniently pulled out a really thick Chinese yellowpages and I took my leave. I had come intending to do ~1hr labor helping the elderly, but spent about 4, and wasn’t interested in doing 20~30 more where I wasn’t particularly needed. I had assumed that it was just squeezing me for more young-people help, and that they must have done these sorts of things before. Even if they don’t understand physics they should understand people and data comparison from other things. I haven’t replaced garage doors before, but I have built a computer, researched videogames, and read anime reviews to be more sure I’m getting quality beforehand. Surely at three times my age there’d be plenty of things to draw from?

In review my dad said the curious line that even though they definitely had language problems they’d still have difficulties even if they were in China, I asked him what he meant. He had talked about calling up different numbers, comparing prices, materials, services, and how they wouldn’t consider as much as we would, but not just because we were trained as engineers and they weren’t, and distilled it into one line:

If you can’t plan or make decisions, you will have trouble with everything you touch.

People can get this old without figuring out basic things? I mean, especially the third guy. Not understanding statics is one thing, but getting whacked then going for round two is another.

People can live their whole lives without learning anything.

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