I think I earned some sort of badge today.

…like maybe my first dyke stripes.

I’m an academic. And an academic of the worst sort, actually—über bookish. I’m not super good with crafty things (I electrocuted, then sewed myself to my project, when trying to make something in eighth grade home ec), and I haven’t ever been one to be terribly impressed with things that have loud roary engines.

I read.

Oh, and I write. And when I was little—-I read. Oh, and I wrote. I daydreamed a lot. The only thing that made me fit any sort of non-antisocial role was my love of soccer and music. So I was on my high school soccer team, though I quit that after a year because it interfered with marching band practice and orchestra. Oh, and my literature class. Bookish, I say.

When my car makes an odd noise, or something wiggles that shouldn’t, I call the dealership. When I need to move, I call for help. I even carefully read (and reread) directions before I try to put anything together, and I’m a bit anal when it comes to laying out all the parts before I start, just to make sure I’ve got everything I need. I’ve put together my I’m-really-poor-on-this-grad-school-income cheapo bookcases this way. And I even put together (with some “help” from a friend who didn’t follow instructions, so we had to take it apart and do it again) an exercise bike from tiny little metal pieces. All by carefully following the written instructions. Bookish.

But today!

My colleague Ashley has this Land Rover, which ist kaputt. And he’s as bookish as I (he’s a logician and philosopher of mathematics). But in the last week, he’s replaced the alternator and the starter (the things one does to save money—and procrastinate on the dissertation). Today, he needed to pick up Jessica from the airport, 60 miles away, but there was still something wrong with the car. The dealership (he broke down for a diagnostic) said the fuel regulator. So off to Pep Boys we went. And then to the dealer, where his dead car sat in the lot.

And the two of us, with socket set, wrench, and screwdrivers handy, took apart the engine sufficiently to replace that baby. Yeah, these academic fingers have a lot of oil underneath those fingernails I manicured merely a half an hour earlier, while carefully procrastinating from writing on that dissertation. And, I surprise myself to say, this was a lot of fun.

We had no real instructions, and, actually, we figured out what to do by looking at the part we bought, and then finding it from sight and careful philosophical analysis. The thinking was this: heck, if we can get Ph.Ds in analytical philosophy for crying out loud, we can work on basic engine repair. We’re supposed to be professional trouble shooters. To quote Ash, “philosophy isn’t for the faint of heart.”

And they’re saying to replace it, it’s going to cost $170, plus the $170 they were going to charge for the part. Forget that. Ash got the part for $75, and we took it from there. What, in the heck, underneath all this oil and grit, looks like that shiny new thing? Once we found it, without any detailed instructions whatsoever, we carefully took apart what we had to to get to it, replaced the part, and then put everything back.

Works great.

Yeah, so I’ve got grit on my fingers, grime in my pores, and a lot of road dirt on my arms and face. I think I must have earned some sort of merit badge today.

Now, I think I’d better get back to that dissertation I keep putting off.


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