beth (bikelovejones) wrote,

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electronics, and other useful tools

A few months ago, Sweetie gave me her old Nano, because she had gotten an iPod (the full-size, bigger memory version). She showed me how to use it, including sync-ing with my computer so music I'd put into my computer could easily be transferred to the Nano. And it's been fairly straightforward. I load music into my computer, and when working on the computer I often listen to the music on the computer with a pair of headphones. Periodically, I'll remember to sync with the Nano to make sure new music from the computer would also be on the Nano.

There's just one problem. After five months, I haven't gotten into the habit of actually using the Nano. I've used it perhaps four or five times since I got it.

Examining this more closely, I realized that I just don't live the sort of life that encourages -- or really makes room for -- personal stereo use. When I take the bus, I'm too wary of potential thieves taking my bike from the front bus rack, so I don't feel comfortable using the Nano on the bus. While riding, having headphones is a no-no (and stupid, to boot). At work, I'm listening to the shop radio or to nothing at all (I actually like working with a quiet background when I'm trying to put together lengthy parts orders, with all their SKU numbers and pricing and everything). At home, there's no point; I'm spending time with Sweetie or working on stuff in the shed and reading, and using the Nano at those times doesn't make sense to me.

So a couple of days ago, after thinking it all over, I gave the Nano back to Sweetie. I don't really use this, I told her, and it doesn't make sense for me to keep it. She sighed, gave me a little hug, and noted that I didn't seem terribly crushed about it. I don't.

Which leads me to question, again, the need for a more wired life.

I have a computer which allows me to use e-mail, post to a blog, and communicate with friends, family and co-workers when the need arises. It's very handy and I use it pretty much every day. But that's not the same as needing to take the computing along with me, to be able to access it on the go whenever and wherever I happen to be. For me, computers are things I use while sitting at a desk. The take-along technology is cute, but in truth I have no real use for it. Should the time come when I return to turning a wrench full-time (and that time IS coming at Citybikes, hopefully in less than a year's time), I can't see the need for keeping a mini-computer at my bench. I'll be too busy working on bikes and interacting with the public to fuss with a tiny computer.

Does living a less-wired life make me look less hip? Less intelligent? Less savvy? Less marketable?
Maybe all of the above, but I don't normally hang out a lot with people that I need to impress like that, and I guess in my own determined, rebellious sort of way, I don't much care. I will live a less-wired life and be just fine. I have my hands, my tools and my skills.

Today is my father's yahrtzeit, the anniversary of his death. And today I am reminded of a time when my mother chased me out of the kitchen for burning a pot on the stove (I'd left boiling water and forgotten about it, distracted by a magazine. The pot burned black until the copper bottom seared off, and Mom was livid because it was not the first time). My mother yelled and shooed me out of the kitchen, telling me I was not allowed back in unless she was there to supervise. I was twelve, and felt humiliated; I would be useless if I couldn't learn how to cook, and I would starve when I grew up and moved out.

My father, straightening up between voice lessons in the music studio in our basement, came up to see what the noise was about. I was in my room, crying into my pillow. My father came in, sat down on the bed, and calmed me down. When I told him what had happened and that I feared I'd never be self-sufficient, he reached for a pad and pen on my desk. "Let's make a list," he said, "of the things you DO know how to do." And so we did. I would tell him something I knew how to do, like fix a flat tire on my bike, or pick a lock with a bobby pin when I forgot my house key, or level my desk by shaving a little off the bottom of the too-long leg, or haggle for the best prices at yard sales; and he'd write it down on the pad. When fifteen or twenty minutes had gone by, he stopped me, and showed me the pad. In his tiny scrawl, he'd filled two sheets of lined paper front and back and was halfway through a third. I looked at the list, blinked hard, and looked at him. And I remember he had the sweetest smile on his face, a look of admiration mixed with bemusement. "Honey, " he said, "I think that you know how to do so many things, you're well on your way to growing into a self-sufficient adult. And the cooking? Well, you know what? Lots of people can't cook, and they can't do half the other things on this list, either. You know how to do plenty. Let the world cook for you, my love. You won't starve. Not even close."

My father never learned how to use tools very well; a truly gifted musician, he knew his way around a piano keyboard with ease, but barely knew how to properly handle a saw or a screwdriver. And yet, when I open my toolbox and reach for a spoke wrench or a file today, I think of my father and I smile, and I know I'll be alright. I won't starve.

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