Many years ago, I stood on the naya of our home in Spain and watched the men installing the pool in our back yard. One workman spent the whole of two working days carrying soil in a bucket up from a lower terrace to fill in a hole to build up the foundation on a higher level. A bulldozer would have accomplished the task in ten minutes. But he didn’t have a bulldozer, he had a bucket.
What I learned from watching him – a piece of information that I have utilized frequently since then – is that if the only way a job can get done is in small steps, take the small steps. It will get the job done in the end. Fretting that I don’t have the equivalent of a bulldozer won’t.
I also watched the men lay down the pipes across the bottom of the pool, then cover them with cement which was then faced with decorative pool tiles. THEN they tested the pipes to see if there was a leak anywhere in the system. When the system failed, it required removing the tiles, drilling through the cement, fixing the leak, and then putting everything back again.
I watched them with a kind of self-recognition. They didn’t need to test what they were doing beforehand because they knew they had the right answer. They didn’t need evidence or testing. This wasn’t a suggestion. This was Right. It was a great deal more like the faith Roman Catholics are taught to have in relation to infallible dogma than it was like science. Or even like a set of directions. There was no room for doubt. No room for being wrong. Over the years I’ve tried to learn that lesson too – not to assume that my answers are right, not to assume that my answers don’t need testing or evidence.
You’d think I didn’t need to keep learning that.
But several days ago I noticed a small leak in our washing machine. I was pretty sure that the outlet hose had begun to work itself loose and that if it went on for too long, it would eventually lead to the entire load of dirty wash water being deposited on the utility room floor.
Unfortunately, the outlet hose is connected to the washing machine at the back and close to the floor. To get at it I had to pull what felt like a ten-ton machine out from the wall, and then lie on the floor to unscrew the ring that was securing the hose. In theory it was very simple. In practice, it was very difficult because the ring was located behind other parts of the works and difficult to unscrew. Finally, after several hours of various experimentations, I finally got the hose re-positioned and tightened. I pulled on the hose to make sure it was tight and put the edges of the machine on a piece of cardboard to make it easier to shove back into place.
Once I had it pushed back into place, I decided to test it.
Okay, I’m sure you’ve figured out already. It leaked.
It took me another two hours to pull the machine back out from the wall which was now astride a piece of soggy cardboard and fix it right this time. And test it.
Meanwhile, Peter came in and offered – in all sincerity – to buy us another washing machine.
We don’t need a new machine.
But I hope I don’t revert to what I think of as my Spanish pool-building mentality again. I would have thought that my learning the lesson once would have been enough.
Anyway, if the machine starts leaking again, I’m calling the repairman. Well, I think I will. On the other hand, it would be a shame to ruin all this renewed learning, wouldn’t it?