On Life and Love

Excuses for Not Learning My Car

There are times when I’m secretly tempted to argue that computer users should get off their asses and learn about computers, so as to spare specialists the need to explain the intricacies of first-tier Outlook 2007 settings and to be willing to break things to learn themselves.

…And then I need work done on my car.

I am absolutely, positively sure that if I took enough time and tried hard enough, I could understand all the inner workings of my car. I’d be able to diagnose a need to replace spark plugs from a need to replace a leaking lower intake manifold gasket to fix a rough idle.

Like that jargon? I’m a sponge like that. I even know where the damn thing is… now.

Now, I don’t really believe people should learn about the inner workings of their computers. I gave up that elitist viewpoint long ago while working with a wide variety of amazingly competent people who just happened to not be system administrators. People have better things to do with their time. I accept and appreciate a certain degree of specialization.

Here’s what I like to do with my car: drive it and put things in it (including people). That’s pretty much it. Now, I really like to drive my car. For a measly 135 horsepower 2002 Elantra, it’s a joy to drive most days.

But as for other things? I check my oil and wiper fluid when it’s not freezing outside. I get oil changes and mileage-based maintenance. I get funny smells and sounds checked out.

These things saved my bacon this weekend. I may have been a few engine starts and revs away from a real-deal engine fire. I didn’t much appreciate the cost–and, as always, had that heart-stopping reminder that just three years ago, I may have had to keep driving the thing while I found the money–but as a services-based worker myself, I understand that time has cost.

Especially since I was there for 6 hours waiting on my repairs, no coffee shop in walking range, no bus stops nearby. Let me tell you, that time cost me more of my peace of mind than I’d’ve liked.

But I am not going to break my car in order to learn how to fix it. Screw that. That’s my life in my hands, going 70 MPH on I-85 N.

Sure, personal computers aren’t going to get people killed, but I make promises that are based on the availability of my most powerful computer (rather than, say, my netbook). So when my hard drive starts to sound like a passenger train (click-clack, click-clack, click-clack…), I’m further reminded of the joys of (my own) specialization. A quick trip to my local big-box electronics store nets me a new hard drive, and a bit of interwibble research gets me freeware hard drive cloning software. Sure, it takes 15 hours to copy a 1 TB drive, but I caught it before the drive failed completely from whatever bearing is rattling around in there (thanks, Seagate).

I don’t expect my non-developer coworkers to be able to do this so easily. That’s unfair.

But is that just a cop-out for me not caring to take the time to learn the inner workings of my own car?

One Comment

  • Luke

    Humans specialize by nature. However, a user should get the basics. Not the exacts, but enough to understand or at least follow what a mechanic says needs fixed.

    I expect the same from a computer user – if I’m talking about software you put on your computer when I call it by it’s name you should have some idea wtf I’m talking about. If you got a “turbo boosted with sport track” Mini – I’d expect you to know what the hell some of that means and does and that when I talk suspension I mean your “spork track” package…hate it when people don’t get what a “browser” or a “word processor” is.

    I suppose the more annoying thing – people use the computer but do no research to figure out if what they’re using is actually the remotely useful thing for them. My Mini isn’t the most intelligent purchase, but I absolutely love driving it which fit my needs only because I learned somethign about it first. Internet Explorer versus Chrome versus Firefox – at least know the separate brands if not the specifics.

    From a hardware standpoint I have backup for my car (insurance and a dealer rental policy so I get a rental if it goes into the shop) but I expect to put the key in and it to work. My computer I have backups (on site external backups of everything) but for the most part I expect to hit power and for it to work. Just the mentality that computer hardware shouldn’t fail but we plan for it with other devices.

    I’m rambling now.