Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Experience is the teacher of all things
"Experience is the teacher of all things," Julius Caesar wrote, in his Commentary on the Civil Wars.
That's obvious, of course. But sometimes, particularly amongst us brainy folk, it can come as a rude little surprise. We expect to learn things from books, to pick up new facts in conversation, but there's something a little head-slapping about life taking you by the hand and showing you the best way to do a thing through the process of you doing it wrong first. You feel a little thick, like you should have known.
We were on vacation, traveling through the South a few weeks back, accompanied by Kitty, our adorable little dog. Every morning she gets a packetful of this gloppy dog food. At home, I peel back the foil, grab a spoon from the cutlery drawer, scoop the food into her bowl with the spoon, then deposit the spoon in the sink for cleaning.
But in a dim morning motel room, there was no spoon handy, so I improvised and used the foil lid as a scoop. Necessity is the mother of invention, to trot out another old saying.
Worked perfectly. I was congratulating myself on this device, avoiding the necessity of dirtying a spoon, when I noticed, the next day, that I could do it even more easily --just overturn the container over the bowl, and it fell out neatly. Ah....take one dirty spoon off the list of daily tasks.
I told this little story to a houseguest Monday morning, to pass the time while feeding Kitty in the new, more efficient fashion, marveling at how this being-alive-in-the-world thing holds lessons, even for sharp cookie such as myself.
Later that morning, doing the dishes, the little squirt pump for dishwashing soap went dry, as if to drive the point home, though I didn't realize it, at first.
I lifted the pump out, expecting a narrow cylindrical reservoir to come with it. But up came only the thin plastic tube that went into the reservoir.
Did I mention my wife is still in California, and I'm having to manage at tasks that don't necessarily fall into my realm of responsibility?
"Under the sink!" I thought, briskly, opening a cabinet, reaching down, finding it, unscrewing the plastic soap cylinder, removing it, then filling it quite easily with blue dishwashing soap.
Only now I had to put it back.
Finding a hole under the sink to screw the top of a filled soap container was not as easy as finding the in-place cylinder had been. In fact, I had to balance a flashlight atop the hole, where the pump went, in order to find it and the bottle up under it, trying first through the reaching in and pushing stuff aside method, then removing the various bins and soap containers under the sink, crawling halfway in, and eventually line the reservoir up with the hole—it glowed an eerie blue— to screw it back in place.
Did I mention spillage was involved, during the general flailing? It was.
Also during this sweaty, awkward, messy process, which took maybe five minutes, on my back, my upper body and one arm jammed under the sink, I had this thought: "Remove the push pump. Pour the soap directly into the container, through the hole where the pump goes, leaving the cylinder in place."
Ahhh... Of course. A whole lot easier that way.
"Experience is the teacher of all things."