Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Letters? Girl, I can Make Words.

Hey Ya’ll, it’s the ARM Dude here. A couple of weeks ago my two daughters were exchanging emails when they decided to include me in the loop. This is what the email I received said “Dad can make letters? Is this true Dad?” Well this definitely raised my curiosity but it was also confusing. I didn’t know if they were trying to get me to blindly admit to not being the sharpest tack or if I was being recruited for some type of special project. Surely it must be the latter because they read my blog. I have to write words to tell these stories. It would only make sense that I know how to make a letter. Scrolling down to read their previous exchange revealed that it was indeed the latter. My youngest had suggested to the oldest that she ask me to complete a small project for her.

The project involved making some large letters that spell the name of the baby daughter she is carrying. Apparently a common thing to do in nurseries is to place the baby’s name on the wall by hanging these letters with pretty little ribbons. They can be painted or stained to match the color or theme of the d├ęcor. I had a pretty good idea of what she was wanting because I have seen similar letters above my granddaughter’s bed when visiting my youngest. I felt confident enough in my understanding of what she desired to respond that I would be happy to do this for her.

Now I have been married to the momma of my babies my entire adult life. That is just long enough to know that it is not safe to assume that I know exactly what my wife wants when she asks me to pick up something at the store or to complete a project for her. Left to make the decision on my own will most likely mean that I will make the wrong choice. This is not a good thing because I have disappointed her. Not only that, but I get to live with her and experience this disappointment repeatedly until I can mediate a peaceful resolution. You got it, I am going back to the store or I will redo the project. Don’t get me wrong, she is a sweetheart and far better than I deserve. She just expects that I will get clarification from her if I am not sure what she is requesting. Based on these lessons learned I knew that I needed a lot more information from my daughter before I could start work.

I began the process by peppering her with questions. I covered all of the bases. Size, style, finish, placement, and material were addressed. Her response, “Wow, that is a lot to think about. Let me get back to you”, indicated she was a bit overwhelmed. A couple of days later she called and asked if I would stop by so she could show me some samples she found online and to show me the wall where they would hang. When I visited her she showed me the samples while explaining that she wasn’t fond of any one particular font. However, she preferred the less formal styles that look like they may have been printed by hand. I measured the area and then I placed various sized objects against the wall so that she could have a visual aid to use to help me determine the proper size or scale to use. Perfect, they need to be in a freehand style that is slightly smaller than the picture frame on the dresser.

I am ready to get started now because I am confident that I know what she wants and that I can do the work. First thing first, I head straight to Home Depot to buy that 16” scroll saw that I have had my eye on for the last year. I know, I know, I have some other tools that would have done just fine but I had a 10% off anything coupon that was about to expire. This was just the push I needed to execute the purchase. Besides that, the way that I figured it, as fast as my daughters are spitting out babies I am sure to use this tool a lot.

The actual making of the letters was quite easy. I printed out some templates, traced them out on the mdf board and then I used that new scroll saw to cut them out. Next, I rounded off the edges with my router before applying a coat of primer. I delivered them to her the next day. Her excited response let me know it was a job well done.

I left her house that day with the feeling of success. My daughter and I had communicated effectively in order to achieve a common goal. She had not taken offense to all of my questions. She even engaged me in a consultative manner. This helped her be equally as confident that I would be delivering a product that would meet or exceed her expectations. Together we had avoided disappointment. We had also negated the need for any costly problem mediation steps. I am digging the results so much that I believe I will follow this model with the next prospect that calls me wanting to buy software. Do ya’ll think it will work?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Honey, Just Drag Your Feet and It Will Stop!

Hey Ya’ll, it’s the ARM Dude here. Well it just happened again. My wife accused me of using something of hers in order to perform what she and my girls refer to as “one of my MacGyver repairs”. In this case, we were looking for an extension pole that she uses with her paint roller. She needed it so she could help my oldest daughter paint the bedroom for our newest granddaughter expected to arrive in late November. My bet is she threw it away while not paying attention. This is a game we have been playing for years because my wife is known to throw perfectly good items away while I am known for rescuing them from the trash in order to salvage any potentially useful items like nuts, bolts, switches, wheels or rollers, hinges, magnets, etc.

The MacGyver reference in the opening paragraph is one that has been with me ever since the original tv series aired. My family used to watch as MacGyver would take commonly found items to build some intricate contraption that would help him and others escape the situation that was being dealt with during that week’s episode. Immediately the comparisons started because over the years I have been challenged by family to fix items of all types. A common theme in these situations is one of them coming to me with a broken item and a sad look on their face. In most cases I will know immediately that replacement parts are not going to be available. Even so, I will study the item for a few moments before stating that I can fix it. Sometimes I will know how I am going to do the repair but most times I have no clue. The one thing I do know is that I committed to fixing it and this is when the fun begins.

I take the item down to my shop to begin the process of determining how I am going to fix it. The easiest repairs are those that can be accomplished using duct tape. I love this stuff while my wife loathes it because she thinks it looks ugly. I care more about the results it provides rather than how it looks. The more difficult repairs will result in me searching through all types of salvaged parts in order to find just the right items needed to accomplish my goal. Sometimes this also means heading to the local hardware store so that I can wander the aisles waiting for the perfect item or idea to jump out at me. I am not sure exactly what I am looking for but I will know it when I see it. Every now and then I will find the item I am searching for immediately. Other times it might take me hours to find the right combination of items to complete the repair. The reward for me is always the same. I get to see my wife or daughters smile when I return the repaired item to them. Granted it might have been cheaper to just buy a replacement when you look at the time invested in the repair but the return on this time invested makes it worthwhile to me.

Like most things in life there are exceptions. I firmly believe there is no room for a MacGyver mentality or approach when the item to be repaired involves something that provides safety or security for my family. For example, suppose my wife decides to take up biking because we have a lot of bicycle riders visit our area on the weekends. Now let’s imagine that I have an old bike that no longer has brakes because someone might have used the brake cable to fix the throttle lever on his lawnmower. It is not ok for me to clean the old bike up for her to use while solving the brake issue by duct taping some worn automotive brake pads to her shoes so that she can drag her feet until she stops. It would work and it would look really cool to watch the sparks fly when she is doing so. However the price I am sure to pay will be much greater than just purchasing a new bike along with the appropriate safety gear.

I know that I am not the only MacGyver wanna-be out there. I know more of you exist because I continue to see references to this character in current tv shows and commercials even though the last episode aired in 1992. I also know this because I have visited numerous businesses over the years where it was clear that a MacGyver type was either in charge or on staff. I say this because of the number of quick fixes, patches, and work arounds, including duct tape, that were implemented in order to keep the work flowing.

I would love to get your response to this article. Do you know any MacGyver types? Do you have examples to share? Did your company implement a MacGyver type solution? If so, please feel free to share with me and others by leaving a comment.