I sit at a desk most of the day cranking out the brilliant essays otherwise known as columns. It’s not exactly demanding from a physical perspective, although it still leaves one tired at the end of the day. Sometimes even stressed.
Really, writing is hard work. It just doesn’t get your fingernails very dirty, although broken nails are a hazard.
Still, despite a certain lack of both coordination and patience, I do like to do stuff. Before electronic ignitions and computers ran cars, I could enjoy a Saturday morning fiddling around with my car, changing out the points every couple of months (worn distributor shaft), checking the timing, fiddling with belts and hoses and so on. It was fun and made the car happier. Changing my own oil also saved me a bundle.
Bicycle maintenance does the same thing for me now. Bicycles are simple, not horribly demanding, less frustrating than plumbing, and you get to take a ride on the result. The improvement from even a minor repair is usually immediately apparent, providing instant positive feedback.
Recently I read a good article in the NYTimes, which you can see here (click!) going into the idea on a much deeper basis. The author has a master’s degree but ended up doing pretty brain-dead and frustrating work. Lacking satisfaction, and challenge, he lucked into motorcycle repair and sounds much happier.
His essay is on why this is not a bad thing, but also asking why society doesn’t consider manual labor to be equal to mental labor. It’s a good question.
How do you feel about that? When you have to pay the shop $60 an hour to change the belts on your car, do you consider it money well spent or do you feel ripped off because sure as heck don’t make that kind of hourly rate? Do you wish you could make money repacking bearings and adjusting gear ratios?
Open for thoughts. Americans used to have a reputation as inveterate tinkerers, but now far too many wouldn’t know the first thing about how to kill a chicken, make a chair or even turn a wrench on a bolt to get it loose.
What happened to us, and what do you do to keep your hands happy? I’d like to do a column in the paper on the result.