Worse than Illiteracy?

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Blog entry by miles125 posted 09-07-2008 04:55 PM 1531 reads 0 times favorited 42 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I run into people all the time that i swear i don’t know how they make it. I’m referring to those i’ll call the “functionally illiterate at fixing things”.

I know i would be one broke sucker if i had to call a plumber every time a sink trap sprung a leak. Or call an electrician when i wanted to put in flood lights or move a receptacle. I just don’t get how some people allow what i’d consider the basic skills of life to go unlearned. Anyone with enough sense to balance a checkbook or drive a car surely has what it takes to do most of the basic “fixit” skills, but for some reason don’t.

Are they intimidated? Do they think such task require a mysterious gene they are sure they lack?

I believe we all are knowledgable about things that interest us. But paying the Sears repairman $60 to come tell you your washing machine wouldn’t drain because the hose had a kink in it (true story of a couple i know).....should be a wake up call to all those disinterested!

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

42 comments so far

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3740 days

#1 posted 09-07-2008 05:02 PM

Miles, I call it “mechanically retarded”. And I think that it is intimidation or lack of ever being around someone that worked with their hands.

View lew's profile


12056 posts in 3751 days

#2 posted 09-07-2008 05:03 PM

Know where you are coming from!!

Some of the folks I have met are tremendously book smart but common sense alludes them. Others are really just too busy and have the financial resources to pay someone else to do it.

As for myself, growing up poor sure was a blessing- we had to learn to be resourceful- couldn’t afford to pay someone to fix things!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4157 days

#3 posted 09-07-2008 05:04 PM

my guess is that it is from lack of experience (for most of them).. never had someone around who was able to do the “fix” jobs and so they never learned how.
and then there are those who, even though they have the desire, just do not have that “fix it” gene.. tools and their hands just do not work well together.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 3881 days

#4 posted 09-07-2008 05:08 PM

I think some people and/or are to lazy or don’t like to get their hands dirty. And what tenontim said above I’ve run into a lot of those in my time.

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View lazyfiremaninTN's profile


528 posts in 3949 days

#5 posted 09-07-2008 05:28 PM

Don’t get me started. I see it all the time and not just about “fix it” stuff.

-- Adrian ..... The 11th Commandment...."Thou Shalt Not Buy A Wobble Dado"

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3644 days

#6 posted 09-07-2008 05:31 PM

we should be thankful that we are all different! otherwise this world would be boring and redundant. being different also means that some people can do things that others can’t. and it means that what’s simple for one, may not be the same for another.

whether it was the way people were brought up, or no interest in doing things- some people just don’t do certain things – no need for name calling though…

Open your mind – there world is bigger than you may think – yes – even bigger than that.


-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4001 days

#7 posted 09-07-2008 05:47 PM

Not long ago i was installing a Baldwin entry lockset on a door for a orthopedic surgeon. He noticed the tools i had with me and said he used the exact same chisel set i had in knee replacement surgery. He also remarked he had the same cordless drill that i had in his repetroire.

When i commented “Hey, you could have installed this lock yourself”. He said “Nahhhh, its too complicated for me”..I just kinda scratched my head and kept on working. LOL

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View frank's profile


1492 posts in 4202 days

#8 posted 09-07-2008 05:53 PM

Hello Miles;
Yes I understand some of what you are putting forth here, like with the kink in the hose….but lets remember to not talk so loud since this issue of ‘understanding how to fix’ is what puts the bread and butter on the table for many service-minded men//women. And then there’s also the issue of hey, this is job security for many….LOL. Up here in NH I used to do a lot of seasonal work on lakeside cabins and homes and folks just don’t want to cut those trees down that grow all around their places of habitat. So next thing you have is fungus and mold and rotted wood, I’ve even mentioned to these folks about what will happen, but the point hardly ever is taken. Painters and carpenters love this kind of thinking as it’s great job security….

Next I might also mention that up where I live, one can do their own electrical and plumbing on their own permanent dwelling//house, but if one owns more then one, then you’re stuck in a catch 22 time-warp, since technically speaking, one can only live in one permanent house. Next comes the issue of the other house being used for rental property and all the various codes that go along with this, till one has to in the end, call an electrician to put in those flood lights.

Energy protection codes, city codes, building inspectors and inspections, insurance company’s, the difference between an upgrade and new and all those committees of zoning and what else, only add to the increase of what can one do and not do.

I’ve also had clients who could fix the workings of their own houses, but after working all week to make those three digit incomes….they just don’t care about the details, and they can afford to call and have some-one else do the work….which means more job security….LOL.

Great story and more great thinking you’ve produced and once again….;

Thank you.

-- --frank, NH,

View kolwdwrkr's profile


2821 posts in 3586 days

#9 posted 09-07-2008 05:53 PM

This topic can be looked at in many directions. You can’t blame how you grow up. Rich or poor you can still go to the depot and buy a “how to” book on plumbing. Most poor people end up in the construction industry. It’s the industry that doesn’t require an education. In fact, there’s several vocational schools that take educationally impaired people and teach them how to put sticks together. This industry is very simple, but it’s the lazyness that drives people to make the call. These people keep a lot of other people employed too. You can’t forget that. If everyone went to the depot to buy material so they can make or fix there own stuff the industry would take a huge plunge, and other avenues of making money would need to be formed. I’m glad someone has to call out to fix the drain or fix a drawer. It’s extra money in our pockets as workers that pays our bills. Let’s just say that the lights would be off in a lot of offices if people were DIYers.

-- ~ Inspiring those who inspire me ~

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4001 days

#10 posted 09-07-2008 06:00 PM

Frank good to see you again. I’ve always thought automatic sprinklers pointed at millwork were the woodworkers best friend…In fact we should probably be subsidizing their installation…Wink

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View FlWoodRat's profile


732 posts in 3905 days

#11 posted 09-07-2008 06:05 PM

I think we have all experienced, “damn, I can’t figure out how to do this” and then proceded to get help, only to find out, “geesh, that was easy”. My favorite story involves my neighbor ( a chemical engineer) who came to me to help diagnose his plumbing problem. His toilets would not flush. After an extended 20 second investigation, we determined that his well pump wasnt running. He asked, ‘how can I flush the toilet without the well water? I said, when mine has gone out, I just fill a bucket with water from my pool, then pour it down the toilet to flush it. He said thanks and I left. 10 minutes later he showed up at my house with an empty bucket asking for some of my pool water. I ask. Dean, why dont you just use the water from YOUR pool, it’s a lot closer. Some people just don’t understand.

-- I love the smell of sawdust in the morning....

View frank's profile


1492 posts in 4202 days

#12 posted 09-07-2008 06:06 PM

Hello Miles;
—-kind of like a dentist owning stock in a candy company….LOL.


-- --frank, NH,

View lew's profile


12056 posts in 3751 days

#13 posted 09-07-2008 06:11 PM

OK, I must respond to the association of educationally impaired people and vocational schools.

I am a retired vocational school instructor (computers, networking and electronics). I took the vocational construction course in high school. I have a BS degree in Workforce Development.

While it is true that there are learning disabled students in our vocational schools, the percentage of those students compared to an academic school, is about the same. The vocational schools have a majority of “normal” kids and even gifted students.

The implication that the construction industry is very simple is, in my opinion, misstated. “Putting sticks together” is not what the Building Construction courses teach.

Stepping down, picking up soapbox- for now.


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View jcees's profile


1058 posts in 3795 days

#14 posted 09-07-2008 06:11 PM

I believe it’s due to the increased urbanization of the country which has lead to segregation of duties and specialty careerism mated to a throw-away mindset. Geez, did that sound scholarly or what?

I was raised by an urbanized pair of expat farmers. They were proficient and well practiced at “getting by.” My father was the middle child of a family of sharecroppers in south Georgia. My mother the middle daughter of a successful Florida farm family. During the day, Dad drove a truck while Mom tended to retail customers. At night and otherwise, they had mad-skills for most everything. Mom could grow anything AND can it for later. Dad could tear down a carburetor, put it right and put it back without any extra parts. And he could with a pencil, scratch pad and carpenter’s rule, design then fabricate about anything he needed out of any material be it wood, metal or mineral. And he also wasn’t afraid of a mop, or a clothesline, or an iron and yes, he could cook too! Me and my siblings wanted for nothing. All three of my brothers are motor-heads. Mine is made out of wood. I can hang a door from scratch and even make the darn door if need be.

The thirst for knowledge has to be a lifelong endeavor, a matter of intent, of perceived need, a recognition of lack, that there’s a hole in the soul for the collection of useful experiences. One that must be freshened with new insight and endeavor daily. Otherwise, why bother?


-- When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world. -- John Muir

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3724 days

#15 posted 09-07-2008 07:17 PM

I think a lot of these opinions might be overly critical. Many of these people may not care to learn how to fix these simple things. Maybe they worked hard all week at something they enjoy and in their time off, don’t want to spend time getting dirty trying to do something they find boring.

Just because I sit in a chair, benefit from indoor plumbing, and use the services of a bank; doesn’t mean I need to be able to build a chair, fix a leak, or understand all the nuances of micro/macro economics. There are other qualified people doing the work. Sometimes all I need to know is I care less about the money I’d save than the time I will save.

People on this website are CONSTANTLY talking about how much your time is worth and how spending a bit extra for better quality materials is worth saving a little time. This is no different.

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