Saturday, May 25, 2019

Hanging by a thread

If you say that something is hanging by a thread you mean that it is in a very uncertain state and is unlikely to survive or succeed.  Its meaning is not however always metaphorical. This I recently discovered in an odd manner. The symbolism that flowed from the discovery is quite different from the aphorism, though equally pithy.

A thread is by definition minute and seemingly inconsequential. Normally it hasn't even the dignity of a stream leading to an ocean of thought; yet the least analysis reveals that from its repeated numbers evolves often a far greater composition. It is the latter statistic which is a reminder that care should be observed in the handling of something as diminutive as a thread. Unless for example you have the full picture it is dangerously unknown where it might lead. Which is why of course our mothers always told us not to pull a thread from a sweater.

In the context of this discourse I recollect the inclination of many I know - people whom one would regularly characterize as intelligent and perspicacious - to adopt mistakenly the view that they can do just about anything without the opinion or instruction of professionals.  Indeed it is not uncommon to observe this rash posture incrementally as the education and status of the individual heightens.  Thus you will find successful mandarins and physicians who readily imagine that they are equally positioned to manage their financial investments or to file their tax returns. My experience after the fact is not so generous.  In fact on more occasions than I care to repeat I have learned that these Know-it-Alls (pardon me, but there's really no nice way to say it) have effectively shot themselves in the foot and either lost an opportunity (and sometimes suffered defeat) or had to repeat the undertaking from the beginning to correct the outcome (occasioning perhaps little more disagreeable than delay for someone who can in any event afford the loss of time). If you prefer to make a more astute - and timely - decision from the start, it is often best to admit what is inarguable ignorance and avoid settling for what is really nothing but a guess. The confusion arises from the mistaken conclusion (and inductive leap) that "How hard can it be?" is the question, not the answer.

To be blunt, there are customarily two motives for self-direction: flattery and cost.  These are bad companions especially when applied - as they frequently are - to undertakings which beg emotionless exactitude and worthiness of expense. The inspiration thus competes head-on with the objective. By misguidedly enlarging one's capacity one succeeds to diminish one's performance. Be aware, even the most trifling conundrum can have deep roots.  In fact, that is precisely what transpired in my little episode.

Yesterday I discovered a thin coiled piece of black rubber extruding from beneath the weather stripping surrounding the lower interior of my new vehicle driver's door. As with any piece of loose thread, I was initially tempted to pull it (though admittedly for what further purpose I cannot offer any suggestion). Perhaps because I play the piano by ear, I have a sensitivity to touch. This at least is the theory to which I ascribe the ensuing reluctance to pull the rubber thread too strongly or too far. I terminated my amateur investigation of this broadly-described mechanical defect by attempting to secret the protruding rubber coil under the weather stripping. It was patently not the solution but it temporarily satisfied my ambition. I decided it would be better to consult my dealership's mechanics at Lincoln Heights Ford. When however I telephoned the dealership, the service-writer informed me that all technicians had left for the day (it was after 4:00 pm on a Friday afternoon), and could I come tomorrow morning instead? This I naturally agreed to do, not having any other choice under the circumstances.

In the meantime I toyed with the proposition that cutting a piece of vagabond rubber might easily prove to be but child's play. I argued that, given my reputed obsessiveness, it was within reason that I - as a highly particular person - might better perform the required surgery.

These conflicting idioms provoked me ceaselessly.  Nonetheless something weighed upon my conscience.  I resolved for whatever reason - perhaps nothing more than a balance of probabilities - to avoid risking error (not to mention contaminating the warranty).  I prepared my iPhone for an alarm this morning at 6:00 am.  I would overcome the endless debate by leaving the apartment early and get to the dealership before it even opened (on Saturday morning). My ambivalence lingered throughout the night, shamefully disturbing my sleep. What if the technician didn't handle the surgery as skilfully as I might do myself!  Then how would I feel about my torturous hesitation! My stomach churned just to contemplate the possibility of annoying evolution!

When early morning arrived - I withdrew from my lair before the alarm sounded at six o'clock.  After my mandatory ablutions, I didn't abuse my purpose by hesitation to have a cup of coffee.  Instead I washed a Granny Smith apple and took it to the car with me.  I would digest it on the way to the cathedral!

My first disappointment was immediately upon my arrival at the dealership (about 45 kms from home).  There were no less than seven vehicles already in line ahead of me!  They blatantly sat alongside the curb, engines turned off, obviously gloating in their assiduity! I pretended to confine my anxiety; but inwardly I was punishing myself for not having arisen at four o'clock instead and having set out at a reasonable time!  Too late to change.  I feigned my resolve and patience.

Eventually the dealership staff awakened the service garage doors and unlocked the entrance gate, permitting the line-up of vehicles to start their engines and move like lambs to the inner sanctum.  Once there, all engines were cut once again.  Most of the drivers withdrew from their vehicles and headed to the service counter to declare their admission.  I stayed at the helm, reasoning that it would be imperative to illustrate the Lilliputian contrivance to the staff.  This strategy was however trumped by the chap who had been seated in the vehicle ahead of me.  He returned from the desk and generously instructed me to follow his example.  I did so.

When I spoke with the service-writer his initial response was that of patent curiosity - and not in a good way.  Clearly I had expanded the scope of mechanical concern beyond that to which he was accustomed. After a prolonged silence, I then politely asked, "So, what would you like me to do?", to which he replied that I would have to wait for upwards of 40 minutes before someone was able to examine the defect.  By this time I had allowed the complexity of the issue to insinuate my entire being so it was no effort to withdraw and assume my comfortable seat in the car, where I regained my iPhone and examined the latest edition of Country Life.

Matters of this importance require time to resolve. The chap parked behind me approached with obvious inquisitiveness.  After asking whether it were necessary to direct his attention to the service desk, he asked how I liked my Continental.  We briefly shared our mutual intelligence regarding the brand and model, including a cursory comparison to Cadillac. He thanked me for having spoken to him - an odd compliment which I could only reciprocate by saying how much I too had enjoyed chatting with him.

To my unanticipated delight it was moments thereafter that a youngish mechanic of Asian extraction approached and clearly sought my advice about the pressing matter at hand. Like a doctor about to perform an acute interrogation he summarily instructed me to vacate the driver's seat and then meaningfully bent down to examine the offending protrusion.  He promptly withdrew it - about six inches of rubber - and pronounced that it was part of the installation process which should have been removed before the delivery processing. He couldn't have been less impressed by the magnanimity of the erstwhile problem. In a state of unparalleled exuberance I jokingly told him that he was embarrassing me to which he replied (munificently I thought) that it was their fault for not having perfected the dilemma in the first place. The good doctor rounded out his diagnosis by referencing the maternal adage about pulling threads - a pointed observation which nicely reacquainted me with would could have been the less desirable outcome if I had wantonly undertaken the duty and hadn't recognized the symptoms as professionally as my advisor!

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