The overlooked human value of fixing shit

20150104_160257What do you do when something you just got for Christmas breaks right away? One of my daughter’s gifts did… This thing right here ->

I was prompted to write a small bit on this when my daughter brought me one of her Christmas gifts complaining it had broken, it was a Girl Tech Password Journal. It’s a little diary of sorts that has a notepad in it, as well as a small compartment and some invisible ink; the cool thing about it is it’s ability to open only on voice recognition. To her, having a place to record her thoughts and keep important items is special; she uses it to keep secrets on the notepad and put money in its secret compartment right here:

Password Journal Secret Compartment

The only problem here, is that it wouldn’t open. All the thing did was buzz a little bit and then say “goodbye”. No open, no password prompt, ACCESS DENIED. It seemed as if the device was buzzing when you pressed the voice prompt button to open it up, it even sounded like the buzz may have come from the speaker but for some reason it just didn’t sound like a speaker buzzing. So what does any good dad do who’s too lazy/preoccupied/busy/not feeling like doing a return at the store? That’s right, we invoke the patron saint of fixing shit:

The patron saint of fixing shit (Note: if you don’t know who this is, you belong here)

So here’s me, no stranger to taking shit apart – got the screws off and I get the thing pried open to find what I suspected (but haven’t told you yet). Yep, there’s a motor in there and for some reason it’s not activating properly. Turns out the screws that hold the thing together weren’t 100% tight and the motor & latch that’s in there which opens the door wasn’t able to catch properly… the source of the buzzing. I reassembled the unit, put the screws back in place and a button press later I have successfully hacked my way into my daughter’s world of secrets.

… Unfortunately, there was nothing new in there I didn’t already know :/ bummer. Also unfortunate, is that we just don’t see the utility of our items as outweighing their actual cost – shit’s cheap, and it’s abundant. Normally in the interest of maximizing efficiency as we so often do in our lives, this is awesome and works well. However, there’s always a human component, So let’s examine for a moment the alternatives to fixing this problem that I was faced with:

  1. Take back to the store: This would involve finding the receipt, scheduling time out of a busy workweek to physically visit the store and then make a return, with no guarantee the store would let us do so. This has the added downside of my daughter being without her password journal, and the loss of $5 inside of it since we cannot break it open lest we wouldn’t be able to return it broken. The cost of time in this scenario for me is easily 2 hours, whatever it costs in gas to go to the store, and then an additional $5 to replace the $5 bill she had locked up in this thing.
  2. Buy another one: same story as going to the store, except we’d be able to destroy the current unit to retrieve her $5, at the same cost of going to the store stated above plus another $50 to buy a new password journal. No big deal right, $50… whatever, that’s pocket change to a lot of us.
  3. Fix the damn thing: unscrew it, check it out, screw it back together. NO MATTER WHAT THIS SHIT WILL BE FIXED. Total time = 10 minutes (in this case) and now I know how it works, so I can fix it again later OR hack into it on down the line if I ever need to (I am the Dad here right?). The most important benefit however is that within the span of 10 minutes, my daughter got to help tear it apart, see how it works, and get it back…  fixed by her Dad. I spent no additional money, became a hero to my daughter, and taught her something new; these things cannot be purchased, repurchased, or gained with an in-store exchange. One problem does exist in this situation, is that you need to be willing to take the risk that option 2 is your ONLY fallback, as you will likely destroy whatever thing you’re trying to fix if you do in fact, fail. Such is life and the risk of parenting by example.

20150104_160305 Today though, we won. I got the damn thing to open.

I imagine option 1 however is the route most people would take. They’d show empathy to their child, then proceed to schedule time on a lunch break this coming week to take the unit to the store, forgoing their lunch in a perceived “sacrifice” for the sake of their child’s happiness.

Actual effort + actually caring and simple empathy are two totally different things: While empathy calls recognition to the sad state of another person and implies that you “feel” for them, the other requires one to take action in a real attempt to assist the other person in their current quandary. As parents, we must always try to make situations into learning experiences for our kids. This one right here, was all about the fact that just because something doesn’t work doesn’t mean it can’t easily be fixed, and that the solution is usually something pretty damn simple.

We shouldn’t lose sight of the things that make us human. Curiosity, learning new things, the pride of making old new again, and the bond created by something as simple as a little girl helping Daddy fix her toy; these are things which far outweigh the efficiency of our throwaway society.

My message here: Build a bond with your kid. Fix their shit when it breaks 🙂