When you see the word, what pops into your head? Ok, bash out the stereotypical images of dorkbait in flood pants with a “kick me hard” sign taped to the middle of the back. Oh, and lose the buck teeth and “birth control” nerd glasses. Most don’t have buck teeth.
For me, the word always held power. “Problem solver”, “Clever”, “Creative”, “Useful” are just a few of the descriptors that come to mind.
i used to be one. Trained, through about 10 years of university to engineer materials to solve problems for my corporate masters. Along the way? i learned skills. Lab work is not for pussies. Plumbing was essential. Vacuum lines and leak detection was an early specialty of mine – working with ultra-high vacuum systems that resembled parts for the space station, i was a whiz at finding leaks with a squirt bottle of soapy water.
Creating and building my own experimental apparatus, i was also pretty damn good with the electrons. Never afraid of voltage – it’s the current that kills you – i was confident that the test rig i’d slapped together would not result in a shower of sparks and screams when i plugged it into the wall. Mojo. Check.
The transition to management started fairly early. By the time i was in my 30’s, i was spending more time on the phone than in the lab. “Program Manager” never conjured the same series of words as “Engineer”, but i was good at it. Skills required? Communication. Ability to translate between science and customer requirements. Seeing the world past the tips of your shoes. Definitely not sexy. But i could wear high heels and miniskirts to work…
So i lost my Mojo. Became intimidated by the trades. This was mostly manifested in how i took care of things at home. My husband and i both had the skills, but we started “contracting out” household repair work as our income grew and our time became more precious. The thought of doing plumbing? Blechhh…
Plumbing is messy, but it won’t kill you. Electrical work simply scared the shit out of me. When it hit the cars? i couldn’t even replace the battery on my jeep. It was a low point.
But not as low as i hit this summer. My over-the-stove microwave oven took an electromagnetic shit in June while i was out of the country on holiday. My solution? Replace it with our old ‘counter-top version’ from the storage room. i figured i’d eventually buy a new stove/microwave combination and have it installed.
Slow-forward to September. Finding a nice sale, i was able to purchase a new set for a reasonable price. i discussed installation of the microwave with the knowledgable salesman – who told me in no uncertain terms that i could easily do it myself. It was a simple operation, only requiring a new frame, resetting the blower motors, and hanging the damn thing up…
When i took the old one down, however, i discovered something frightening. It hadn’t been installed properly. Rather than put an outlet in the wall above inside the cabinet, the installers had HARD-WIRED the damn thing in… To replace it? i had two choices. Install an outlet and do it right, or clip the cord and splice the new one in – violating local building code.
That was September. i had a clutch of wires sticking out of my kitchen wall – one cleverly labeled “Hot”. Trying to decide if i had the skills and balls to tackle it, or if i should just bite the bullet and contract it out. It wasn’t an obvious solution, though. Not as simple as just fishing the wires into the wall and putting in a box, some sort of re-route was required. In my mind, i finally came up with a kluge of a plan that would work… It was now late October.
But i still stared at it some more. Until i got sick, and booted a planned hiking weekend, giving me tons of free time to take it on. And took away the “i don’t have time” excuse. My son looked at it with fresh eyes, and came up with a better “kluge”. So, with the encouragement and on-site support of a close friend, and about five separate trips to the hardware store it was on…
Did the wiring project in about an hour. Took a break. Did the microwave install in 90 minutes.
Fuck. Just like that. Mojo: Found.
Now, to tackle some of those more difficult “Lost Mojo” projects… the ones that can’t be fixed with a schematic and a few trips to the hardware store.