Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Aug 12, 2006

Raising the Roof

I spent this morning at work, however my housemate invited his buddies over and spent the day crawling all over the roof, ripping off shingles and plywood and applying more shingles and plywood. The roof turned out to be a mess: mis-applied shingles, rotting wood, poorly-attached joists. It's about typical for this house, which appears to have been the abode of do-it-yourselfers whose aggressiveness in the face of home projects was matched only by their incompetence in the face of the selfsame projects. (Don't ask me about wiring.)

I share the incompetence trait, but my response in the face of a lack of knowledge is: get someone else to do it. I mean, that's the whole point of dividing up labor, right? I get on with the writing and cutting up bodies, and other people shingle roofs, wire houses, and fix my car, right? Well, assuming I can pay them for it, that is.

So, why is it that you find so many jobs that were done by people that clearly didn't know what the heck they were doing? You don't save money or time in the long run by doing a crappy job on your own. I know how it happens--I work, after all--but I still don't understand why, and I never have. Why, when I know my professor is spouting absolute B.S., do I have to sit through the inane lecture, biting my tongue? Why, when I know my supervisor has no plan and is just randomly firing off things in the hope that one of them will work, do I have to be patient?

It's the elitist's credo: why do I have to live with the mistakes of people that are stupider than I am? I don't even have patience with my own stupid mistakes, so where do they get off expecting me to have patience with theirs?! Sometimes I think that if I'd spent more time telling people where to get off and less apologizing to them for their own mistakes, my life would have been better. So why don't I? I've always been afraid of what might happen, which is probably the worst stupid mistake I've ever made. I was afraid of having to stand alone.

Well, I have to do that, anyway. At least, if you stand up, you can be proud of being brave. It's not worth it to be "nice", especially since you never get anything out of it.


Mike said...

Incompetence: If you're persistent enough, there's no end to what you can't do.

It must be in the water lately. Last night at dinner, our server couldn't even take care of a fairly simple order and table - all we ask is our food in a timely manner and periodic refills of our Diet Pepsi. Not exactly rocket science, that.

Jennifer Snow said...

I run into that occasionally, and I'm one of those people that tries to make allowances because I've worked food service and yes, it sucks. I think my patience ends at about the point when I have to throw something at my server to get his or her attention.

Render said...

There was a (I hesitate to call it "study" ... let's say, "report") quite awhile back that described the fact that most people vastly over-estimate their knowledge and abilities. Other articles have identified this as the primary reason most people underestimate tasks so egregiously.

If they don't realize that they have some deficiency, they won't act to resolve it ... so go right ahead and tell them "where to get off". Just think of it as an uncomfortable, but necessary, effort to improve the world.

Besides, if you're in the position of considering yourself apart from the "people that are stupider than [yourself]", you're already standing alone.

Jennifer Snow said...

I have days more frequently than I'd like when I am stupider than I actually am, it's really annoying.

I'm the reverse: I usually UNDER-estimate my knowledge and abilities, especially my ability to figure things out when I hit a road bump. Then I'll try to ask someone that I believe is more knowledgeable than I am, only to wind up solving my own problem after they are NO HELP WHATSOEVER.

However, I have essentially no sense of time, so I never correctly estimate how long it will take me to do something (this is why I'm frequently late for things). Only after I've done the same thing several times can I usually manage to figure out how much time I need to plan.

Nancy said...

Au contraire -- the people who did a poor job on the roof DID save time and money. They sold the house, probably for about the same amount of money and effort as if they'd done the job right. So they did it on the cheap without suffering any long-term consequences. Your housemate faces the consequences, which are of no concern to the former owner. It's a successful strategy as long as you don't plan to be around when the consequences arrive (the mindset that is pervasive in an elected government such as ours, unfortunately).

Jennifer Snow said...

You wouldn't say that if you'd seen the wiring job they did, using like 3 miles of wire where 50 feet would have been more than sufficient. I don't care who you are, you're not saving money by using THAT method.

Nancy said...

Maybe it was cheaper than buying wire cutters. : )