I think I mentioned our dryer died. From the distant clanks coming from the basement, I suspect Alan’s trying to fix it right now. I did my part yesterday — driving to Roseville to pick up a switch that turned out not to be the problem. (Of course. It was simple and inexpensive. We’ll have a new dryer by week’s end, I predict.)
On the way, I started woolgathering about machines.
Alan’s a good partner to have in a household because he understands machines at a level I never did. He grew up in a working-class family, where a core value is you never pay someone to do what you can do yourself. As a teenager, he campaigned a motocross racer, needless to say at a level where you don’t have a pit crew. So when something breaks, he approaches the problem the way he would any other, by breaking down the components, the chain of connections that make the thing work, and tries to find the failure. What is a dryer? A drum that turns while hot air is blown through it. What are its essential parts? The motor, the fan, the heater. What’s the nature of the malfunction? It runs and blows, but the air isn’t warm. And so the problem is isolated — it’s something to do with the heater.
On the way out to Roseville, I thought about how few of us really understand how the machines we use work. I thought back to junior high and tried to remember the elements of the internal combustion engine, which we learned in physical science. I was one of only a few girls who got an A on that unit, and I still remember the feeling of wonder at the unlocking of the secret — the valve opens, the mixture sprays in the cylinder, the piston rises, the spark plug ignites, the piston is pushed down, another valve opens and the exhaust exits. My brother was a car guy, and I finally understood all that language he used. Manifold, camshaft, drive shaft, flywheel. I understood carburetion! And I was 14 years old. It was thrilling.
(My proudest moment: I wiggled under my friend Mark’s ’69 Camaro with a wrench and unjammed the shift linkage, based on having seen it done once before. It wasn’t a complicated repair — a good whack to unjam it — but I was the only one who could do it, and everyone cheered when I wiggled back out, because it meant we wouldn’t have to drive home from Sault Ste. Marie in second gear.)
Well, Henry Ford got old and died, and fuel injection replaced carburetion, and it’s safe to say most of my knowledge is obsolete now. I once interviewed a man who had been, at one time, the most sought-after Volvo/Mercedes mechanic in the region. He’d moved up in the world, and now owned a dealership. He said he’d be utterly lost under the hood these days, that it was more electronic than mechanical anymore, and while it made cars unquestionably better in a million ways, he could no longer fix them.
So this is what was on my mind when I got home, and found John and Sam had arrived in my absence. Their new Prius was in the driveway.
They’ve become Prius cult members, more effective salesmen than anyone paid by Toyota. We talked about the marvels of the car — the hybrid synergy drive, the seamless transition between the battery, the electric motor and the gas engine, the keyless entry and starting (you push a button). And then they insisted I drive when we went out to dinner. I tried to navigate the nasty Detroit freeways while maximizing my mileage, aided by the display of animated colored arrows. (Hybrid enthusiasts speak of the fender-benders they tend to have when their cars are brand-new, and they can’t tear their eyes away from the display.)
I stepped on the brake. “You’re think you’re braking, but you’re not,” John said, explaining that the car is smarter than I am, and knows braking is unnecessary, so it’s transferring energy from the brake to the battery, or something like that.
“Look, you have one and a half green cars,” said Sam, switching to the how’m-I-doing mileage display. Apparently it’s good to have green cars, and you try to get more. Driving this car is like being stuck in a video game. And I haven’t even told you about the cable John bought, so he can hook his car up to his laptop, and watch numbers fly by; it’s for the diagnostics when it breaks down, whenever that might be. “Yes, I know, we might have a kernel panic on the freeway. We may have to reboot,” John said with real glee. All his life he’s been waiting for Apple to make everything in his life, and it seems Toyota has come close enough, at least with the car.
This morning they got up before dawn and slipped away in their silent car, and I didn’t even hear them go. I guess I shouldn’t, but I sort of miss carburetion. At least I understood that.
No bloggage today; my fatigue is at the walking-into-walls level, and I have to go buy groceries and dryer parts. How about an entertaining comment caught in the spam net?
hello , my name is Richard and I know you get a lot of spammy comments ,
I can help you with this problem . I know a lot of spammers and I will ask them not to post on your site. It will reduce the volume of spam by 30-50% .In return Id like to ask you to put a link to my site on the index page of your site. The link will be small and your visitors will hardly notice it , its just done for higher rankings in search engines. Contact me icq 454528835 or write me tedirectory(at)yahoo.com , i will give you my site url and you will give me yours if you are interested. thank you
This might be the best one ever.
Enjoy the day. It’s hot here, so if it’s hot there, keep your radiator cool.