Tag Archives: Improvised engineering

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​With clarity and conciseness, my older son coined a slogan that epitomizes the don’t-give-a-crap attitude that makes guys great.

I am convinced his insight belongs on coffee mugs, T-shirts and the business cards of men everywhere.

Here is the backstory: No. 1 son broke the toilet seat in the downstairs bathroom and set about replacing it. The toilet, though, has an odd shape. It is mostly oval but with a tapered front, making an off-the-shelf replacement pretty much impossible to find.

The last one my wife ordered from Amazon.

Undeterred, Mike went to Wal-Mart and got a replacement seat, only it does not fit properly.

The lip of the cover overhangs the bowl by at least half an inch, the effect of which is almost comedic. It is a bit like a toddler wearing his dad’s shoes.

When my wife confronted Mike about the misaligned replacement, Mike (who is 23) came back with: “I have my own particular aesthetic.”

​​I am copyrighting that because Mike crystallized the guy ethic toward getting things done, sometimes with less than perfect results.

It encompasses a blend of this-is-all-the-craps-I-give (which is to say zero), an attitude of “Hey, it’s fixed, isn’t it?” and I-am-comfortable-doing-things-my-own-way-even-if-it-is-unconventional.

Take for instance my beloved childhood friend John.

John (aka MacGyver) is a tinkerer who can jury-rig solutions that would make Rube Goldberg envious.

The one time I laughed so hard I actually clutched my sides and fell to the pavement came when John, myself and our buddy Pedro were walking along Westchester Avenue in the Bronx.

Pedro had plastic frame glasses that were perpetually breaking, with the lens coming loose or popping out.

John’s solution?

He had the cap of a Bic pen he tried to melt with a lighter, hoping the plastic would fall into place and forge the frames. The problem was Pedro had to hold the frames as John carried out the repairs.

The results were about what you would expect:

Melting plastic falling on Pedro’s hands and fingers, Pedro screaming and cursing at John, who insisted on trying again, and me on my knees, laughing so hard that the only thing that drowned out the commotion we were making was the subway on the El above us.

This attitude of why-strive-for-perfection-when-you-can-achieve-practicality abounds.

Me, for instance, I don’t fret about making hospital corners when I make the bed. So long as the sheets don’t come loose, I’m good.

And my friend Rich wrote: “Repaired my son’s truck bumper with duct tape, plastic bottle, broken pieces of the bumper and some epoxy glue. Lasted about a year.”

This approach goes back to prehistoric times: Consider those crude cave drawings of woolly mammoths.

Clearly a guy’s handiwork.

I am certain he was in a rush to finish the drawings so he could spend more time inventing fire. And duct tape.

MacGyver and Other Tales of Improvised Engineering