12 August 2010

Everybody's an Engineer

I know a lot of engineers. My dad's an engineer. My brother was an auto mechanic, and is now an electrician, so is an engineer in a practical sense. I worked with more software developers than I can remember. Some of my best friends are engineers. (Scarecrow is not an engineer. Might this be significant?) If there is one personality trait that engineers share, it's that they're never happier than when they've got something to build. Whether it's a machine or a software program, tell them, "I need something that will do XYZ...", and they're off.

After my post the other day about trying to find a no-hands beverage holder, I wasn't surprised to find that a lot of people were surprised that there weren't very many off-the-shelf choices available. What surprised me was the number of people who suggested something that might work.

Scarecrow's brother (I'll call him TinMan), was on the phone that very afternoon. TinMan is an engineer, for real. He designs and manufactures large machines. He has a machine shop, and a son who is an engineering student, conveniently home from college for the summer. His son is, as yet, blissfully ignorant of the project his dad has in mind for him. TinMan asked Scarecrow to send photos of my chair, so he could decide how a cupholder might best be attached. They discussed at length the best way to hold a cup. He says he can come up with something better than what I've got.

For as long as I can remember, my mom found the solutions my dad designed and built for household problems to be a seriously mixed blessing. Missile guidance systems are one thing; an indoor clothesline is something entirely else. While they generally performed the task for which they were intended, the execution was frequently not at all what my mom had in mind. Whatever the problem, my dad was always pretty sure that his solution was the best way to solve it. He was not real receptive to what we would call "user input." I thought it was just my dad, but I've since come to believe it's an engineer thing.

When TinMan says he can design and build a better hands-free beverage holder that I've got now, I believe him. He's a talented guy, with a lot of resources at his disposal. And I appreciate the heck out of the fact that he's even interested in having a go at it. And he reads this blog so I can't say anything bad about him even if I wanted to, which I don't. I'll leave him to do his engineer thing, and I won't try to tell him how it should be done. He wouldn't listen anyway. He's an engineer.

He'll come up with something that works better than the yellow plastic baby bottle holder I've got now, for sure. It is, after all, a pretty low bar. As durable medical equipment goes, it wasn't very. It already broke.


  1. I so get the Engineer thing. My dad is an engineer. He thinks everything out it is amazing what he comes up with but then again user input is not something he really listens to.

  2. Excellent! Here's to Tin Man and Son. Hope the outcome is functional and durable.

    Hope it was a soak scene when the baby bottle holder broke.

  3. Oh, no. I hope my saying "well, that's not going to last very long" to myself didn't send bad joojoo your way. The Tinman will come up with something better, I feel certain. Anyway, hope springs eternal.

  4. Yikes - I meant "hope it was not a soak scene..."

  5. TinMan could be a millionaire making assisted devices for us. The need is great. I envy your close engineers. I only have artists around. :)

  6. Years ago our local MS chapter would have a yearly expo and among the most popular exhibits were household gadgets created by kids for their parents with MS. Your engineer posse would have stood there with their mouths open to the floor in amazement at what love and help can create.

    Caregivingly Yours, Patrick