Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tire Pressure Procedure

We all assume we know how to perform new, simple tasks, constructing a procedure in our minds before we start. And of course, we often have to revise that procedure once we start and discover what my friend Dan refers to as “the hidden bummer factor.”

My wife told me that a light on her dashboard indicated that a tire was low, and asked me to go out and fill it. I’ve completed this task a hundred times, but I remember the first time. I assumed that the procedure consisted of:
  1. Drive to filling station.

  2. Find out how much air to put in the tires.

  3. Put quarters in the air machine.

  4. Fill up tires.

  5. Drive home.
But after the first trip, I had to modify the procedure, adding a new Step 1: “Bring quarters.”

To determine the tire pressure, I assumed that the tire would be the best source of this information. I tried reading the cryptic embossed codes on the side of the tire, then gave up and looked it up in the owner’s manual. The owner’s manual instructed me to look for a placard inside the driver’s side door jamb – an easy solution.

Once I fed the quarters into the air machine, I discovered that I had to remove the valve stem caps, which consumed time, so the air machine shut off before I was finished. This meant that I had to modify the procedure again, inserting a new step before putting in the quarters: “Remove valve stem caps.” And of course, I had to insert another step before driving home: “Replace valve stem caps.”

I now had a procedure that has served me well for a quarter of a century. When my wife asked me to fill her tire the other day, I gathered a handful of quarters and drove to the filling station. After glancing at the tire pressure placard, I dutifully walked around the car, removing all of the valve stem caps. I set them on top of the tire, so that I don’t kick them away or step on them as I hustle to fill the tires before the time runs out on the air machine.

Ready to complete the task, I walked up to the air machine and discovered that after all this time, I had to add a new step to the procedure. Taped to the air machine was a hand-written note: “Out of order.”

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Under 200

One of the side benefits of my knee surgery is that I lost about 20 pounds. This is the result of a combination of factors, including unappetizing hospital food, narcotic pain medication and a lack of desire to stand up, walk to the kitchen and raid the refrigerator. I’ve since gained about 5 of those pounds back, but I still weigh less than 200 pounds for the first time in 20 years. I’m determined to keep it off.

However, I had to put new holes in my belts, because all of my pants have an embarrassing tendency to slide off my hips. Because I’m not completely confident in my ability to maintain this new figure, I’ve been unwilling to shop for new pants.

Last week, I received an e-mail from the Managing Director of my department, who is flying down from the New York office to visit the Florida office. It was an invitation, sent to about seven peon-level employees, to join her for dinner at a tony nearby restaurant. The invitation was marked, “Your attendance is required.”

Our office dress code is “business casual,” but I worried whether the normal dress code would be acceptable for this dinner. I conferred with other employees on the invitation list, to try and determine if it would be appropriate to wear a suit for the occasion. The majority opinion was that I would look like a “tool” or a “dork,” but one person who works with Managing Directors all the time said that it would be “expected.” So I’m torn (so to speak).

OK, let’s be clear about one thing: I never wear suits, except to funerals and certain formal events that I can’t avoid. Because I wear them so infrequently, I have one suit (black wool pinstripe) and one sports coat (brown corduroy). I used to have three suits, but the others were getting kind of threadbare, so we gave them to Goodwill.

I tried the suit on about an hour ago. I can pull the pants away from my stomach about 2 inches. They look ridiculously huge on me, like clown pants. The dinner is tomorrow night, so it’s too late to have them altered. The corduroy sports coat is too informal for a business dinner. So I guess I’ll just wear normal attire and pray that I won’t be underdressed.

I’ve since learned that one of the peons invited to the dinner won’t be attending, due to a prior “religious obligation.” Another individual is aggressively ambitious, and is expected to try and monopolize the conversation – something that the Managing Director is known to dislike intensely. So it now appears that I could show up in Bermuda shorts and a Bob Marley t-shirt, and still won’t attract attention.