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Another circle, another form of love

We spoke about an inner circle recently, and we didn't have much good to say about it. The other day I met a member of a different circle, a great circle whose members possess invaluable qualities. Most of the members of this great circle do not know each other, but they are easy to recognize, as I discovered.

I have been travelling. Finding myself in a house without a working toilet, a working oven, a working fire alarm, a working garage door or clothes dryer door and without the internet, I turned for help to a person in the great circle of mechanics. This circle is open to all who respect mechanical things and who like to fix them, and invent them, too.

His name was Ian

He arrived on time, without fuss, carrying tools. He didn't worry about the length of my list. He gave each repair his complete attention, thoughtfully considered what was wrong, noted what was impossible to fix - the mediocre materials employed in the garage door - then got to work. His first task was eliminating the garage door's unfortunate decapitation feature.

This required examining an unfamiliar part. Ian took it in his hands and began a quiet conversation with it and the garage door. He quickly identified its purpose and usefulness, made the repair, then checked repeatedly that the door opened and closed without its unnerving guillotine drop.

The next item, the oven, required a different analysis. He had never seen this make of stove before, but experience had taught him, and he swiftly discovered the part that needed replacement. Having reviewed the rest of the crippled components upstairs and down, he went out to obtain the necessary replacements.

Back within the hour, he discovered that the problem of a constantly buzzing oven timer remained.

Patiently - members of this circle are always patient! - he examined the wires, the clocks, the broken toothed wheels. I, of course, was becoming irritated by the constant buzzing. Ian ignored all distractions. In short order the timer became blessedly mute and the oven began to heat.

These were not complicated repairs, but the same patience carries members of this circle through more complicated endeavours. I call it patience, but it might actually be a form of love - respect and love for created things.

Next then the missing dryer door handle. Ian had supported the decision to be thrifty, rather than order and pay for a new handle, and he had returned with a recycled piece of metal he had cut to fit. He proceeded to measure and drill two new holes. Unfortunately, when he inserted the screws, they would not hold. It looked as if the replacement handle would be a bust, but by now I had the same inner confidence that Ian and all members of his far-flung circle possess. By moving the metal handle six inches over, Ian neatly inserted the screws and the handle into place.

And so it went until everything which had been broken worked. Unfortunately, connecting to the internet was in the hands of bureaucrats and corporations, which is why posting has been erratic. If it had been up to Ian, I would have been online days ago.

The qualities of the great circle

The members of Ian's great circle possess certain qualities. These include -

Thoughtfulness; respect for and understanding of materials and tools; delight in making things work and in creating new inventions; a preference for adaptation and recycling; hands-on involvement; neatness; a sense of humour; and patience. ('Stubborness', said Ian, and smiled).

There are places in the world where it is considered low to work with your hands. That there are people who think like this seems incredible to me, and clearly they are not the people who invented the electric oven, the toilet, the incandescent light, the phone, the car, the internet, and a thousand other things. It was members of the great circle, many of them now forgotten, who did.

Not all of the great circle are men, but many of them are, and to them and their forebears we owe everything that makes life comfortable and survivable today.

Comments (2)

Your fortunate encounter with Ian and his abilities reminds me of Michael Crawford's wonderful book, Shop Class as Soulcraft - An Inquiry into the Value of Work.

Taking a PhD from the Univ. of Chicago, he went to work for a think tank across the Potomac from DC. He chucked it in and began repairing motorcycles in a warehouse in Richmond, VA. His take on the "soft despotism" of Frederick Winslow Taylor's "scientific management" (read: standardization of work and making of drone workers) and the assembly line mentality is absolutely apropos.

Your Ian is the hero. Thanks for introducing him. Long may the Ians of the land prosper. Cheers


Being married to my own wonderful version of your "Ian", I can tell you that the creative hands of the members of this circle create masterpieces of everyday convenience. I know that on any given day, I will come home to a new treasure that my husband has lovingly crafted or fixed. Thank you, dear, for reflecting on this humble yet amazing circle.

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