Sunday, March 10, 2013
Clint Eastwood, Adam Smith and the folly of "Do-it-Yourself"
Spring is upon us and with that, millions of us men will be expected to work on our homes, repairing various things that have fallen into a state of disrepair.
I am writing today to warn my fellow sufferers that this may not be a good idea.
237 years ago, Adam Smith wrote his famous landmark book on economics that taught us about the concepts of specialization and the division of labor. Mr. Smith laid out a grand notion that it makes sense for human beings to essentially pick one thing we are good at, work hard to get really good at it and then offer that service to our fellow man for money.
Smith understood that trying to become skilled at multiple tasks carries with it a very high opportunity cost. We essentially give up perfecting what our gifts are in order to pursue some futile search for skill at things we should not even attempt.
Case in point:
Do you see the photo in today's blog entry? Do you know what you are looking at?
This is a photo of the wall above the bar in the kitchen in my house.
Notice that the wall has a giant hole in it. I will get to the bumper sticker later...
A while back I was outside on our deck when I noticed a squirrel peeking his head out of an opening under the overhang (I think it is called overhang) of our second story roof near my study. I then saw him disappear into the hole.
This is not good. I knew I had been hearing noises in the walls up there and now I knew why. Some tree rat had filed a squatter's claim on part of my house.
I proceeded to come up with the brilliant idea of buying some of that spray insulating foam - you know, the stuff that you use to fill up cracks in the Hoover Dam - to spray into this hole.
My thinking (if I can appropriately call it thinking) was that if I filled up the hole with this stuff the squirrel would not be able to go in and out and drive me crazy while I was in my office.
NOTE TO PETA PEOPLE - Yes, I am aware that this rodent may have died under the foam, but I am pretty sure squirrels not only are not on the Endangered Species List and also do not have clearly-defined rights in our Constitution.
So, I crawled up on the roof and began spraying. It was a bit odd, I recall thinking (there is that word again...) that I had to use a whole can of this stuff and never sealed up the hole.
No matter. I crawled back down, secure in the thought that this was better than nothing (many of my home improvement projects end with me saying "This is better than nothing.") and I went back inside.
That night at about 11PM my sons and I heard a loud BOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMM!!
My wife was visiting a friend in Tennessee at the time (thank God) so my sons and I were left wondering if the Space Shuttle had re-entered Earth's orbit over our backyard.
The next morning I walked into the kitchen and noticed a giant hole with spray foam insulation hanging out of it.
The foam had filled the narrow cavity above our bar then shockingly did it's job by, you know, expanding, and when it ran out of room to expand it decided to keep expanding by blowing a crater through our drywall.
Now to the bumper sticker.
We buy this really great organic cereal through the mail called "Crapola" (yes, that is the real name) from a little bakery in Ely, Minnesota. A shipment had arrived the day before with this free bumper sticker.
I knew my wife was coming home the same day I destroyed her kitchen so I thought if I put up this sticker over the hole she might see the ironic connection and, well, you know, see the humor in the situation as well...
Which brings me to Clint Eastwood and my advice for all of you men out there who are as stupid as I am in the area of home repairs....
Have a great spring and remember to keep the Yellow Pages handy if you have any repairs that need repairing...