Within the last week I have done the following things, none of them important to society in general.
1 . Cleared out our kitchen sink drain – a long and dirty job in our 100 year old house, equipped with iron pipe and many right angle bends that do not like snakes. The coagulated grease, garbage disposal residue, and other miscellaneous material clogged about 12 feet of this. (plumber)
2. Solved a tricky problem in my wife’s car – would not start even though battery would turn the engine over (mechanic).
3. Repainted a number of yard chairs- even though they could have been cheaply replaced (painter)
4. Re-potted some plants – I am in charge of all cactus in our garden (gardener).
5. Re-wired the lighting in my shop (electrician)
6. Worked on another tractor I am restoring – (lots of skills needed)
The media has been making much of the DIY (do it yourself movement), and I am a living example of a long-time member. I have enough money to hire people to do all of the above-mentioned work and more. And in fact, for most of my life people (including my wife) have suggested to me that I should do so, because that would give me more time to do what in their mind they think I should be doing. But I won’t, until I become too old to do it (my wife some time ago revoked my roofing license after I slipped with no safety line and almost came off of the three-story part of our house— I couldn’t argue with that one.)
I won’t (can’t?) because I was brought up to do such things and I get great pleasure from doing and having done them. I grew up in an area of small farmers, who although not considering themselves poor, did not have much cash. It was routine to make and fix most things themselves, including houses, yards, equipment, and so on. I learned much about doing so as a kid, and added to that with my education and career as an engineer and engineering teacher. I have good hands, know how to use them, and somehow find rewards in doing so —even unplugging the sink, and in fact, perhaps the more difficult the job, the greater pleasure I get from doing it. My wife has somewhat the same instincts. She is the sole proprietor of a large and complex garden and has no interest in hiring help to take care of it—perhaps because the gardeners retained by all of our neighbors, seem to have been overcome by machinery, with the result that surrounding gardens seem to all look freshly blown and mowed, and very similar to each other. Ours seems to be the only house that has leaves under the trees —a natural and attractive phenomenon.
So it is not the money. It is the satisfaction of doing the job well and having it done. My very influential grandmother said it very well: people who have homes, (gardens, automobiles, etc.) who don’t take care of them themselves do not deserve them. Unlike my grandmother, I don’t judge other people, but it certainly applies to me, even though Marian points out the seemingly long time (to her) it takes me to get such work done. But she is not very familiar with the hassle and delay of hiring other people, and can’t quite appreciate the importance to me of doing such seemingly mundane things myself, especially when I want her to steady the ladder.