Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Father (In Law) and Son (In Law) Bonding Day

I had the funniest experience last night. Mushi and I went over to her parents' place to eat dinner and to work on her parents' new computer. The computer is a Compaq(beh) with the standard sub-standard Compaq parts. The specs of the system aren't bad but it lacked a floppy disk drive and that is something Mushi's mom could not live without, so I went to the local toy store and picked up a cheap black disk drive to install into the system.

Since my big computer is in the pre-production process, I yearn to work on any system, mine or otherwise, I just need to get my fix, so the floppy drive installation seemed to be right up my alley. I get to open a computer and tinker with stuff and make everyone happy in the process. Yay!

This is where a routine hardware installation took a memorable turn. As I went into the room where the computer was, Mushi's dad followed me. I take a seat in front of the new machine and Mushi's dad takes a seat next to me. Now is a good time to describe Mushi's dad.

Dale is a pretty cool guy. He is tall and lanky and vaguely reminds me of Art Garfunkel with a mustache. He and I have very similar senses of humor and he likes “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”. Dale and I differ when it comes to our mechanical and technical inclinations. He is very good with his hands and a set of tools. The guy can fix dang near everything from cars to sprinkler pipes and has a broad knowledge of how most mechanical things work. I envy him for this.

My dad is not a "hands on" person when it comes to auto repair or really anything of that nature. He is a great guy and I love him to death, but when something breaks around the house he throws it away and gets a new one or sends it somewhere to be fixed. If a car's oil needs changing, he takes it to a Jiffy Lube. There isn't anything wrong with this style except for the fact that my dad did not teach me a damned thing about tools or mechanical stuff when I was growing up. Around my parents' house, if something broke someone else would get paid to fix it. I have decided that this way of living has put me at a distinct disadvantage now that I am a homeowner. I do not like having things break and not knowing why or what to do. This has happened a few times and Dale is usually the guy that gets called. Dale and my dad are polar opposites when it comes to fixing stuff.

Anywho, back to last night. So I am sitting there inspecting the internals of the Compaq and Dale is watching me the entire time. I explain what different stuff on the motherboard does and show him how everything is hooked up. Dale is not a technological guy but likes to learn about computers as much as he can. Thanks to Compaq's ingenious crackwhore-esque case design, installing the floppy drive was much harder than it should have been. The new Compaqs have this mounting bracket that secures all of the drives in the computer by having a little plastic thing click down in front of the screws that are holding the drives to the mounts. This prevents the disk drives from wiggling around within the case. This works great for the drives that are already in the machine but sucks for drives that are being installed. In Compaq's infinite wisdom, they decided that no floppy disk would ever need to be installed into the machine so they made the mounting bracket incompatible with 3.5" disk drives. Nice.

So I ended up needing to break off a piece of the tab in order to get the drive in there properly. All the while, Dale watched as I worked. I told him I was going to shorten the tab and then use the piece of plastic that I was going to cut off to slide in behind the screw. That way when the shortened tab clicked down, it would secure the screw from the front while the little piece of plastic that was behind the screw in the slider would secure the screw from the rear; a nice solution to the problem if you ask me. As I was cutting the plastic tab it became apparent that the scissors I was using were not going to cut it. Dale then said he had something that would work better and went out to his shed to get it. He brought back a tool that looked like it was designed to cut metal and so it went right through the plastic with no trouble at all. After that, everything went smoothly and the disk drive was in soon after. The drive made the front of the case look weird because it interrupted the sleek black design of the exterior but Dale said he was going to try to cut the exterior panel to fit the drive. All in all, the install was fun because it actually made me think a bit. The thing I thought was really cool was the fact that I think Dale was impressed by my solution to get the drive installed. I think I taught him something and the installation seemed to be a bit more of a cooperative effort just by having him sitting there. I thought it was cool when he helped me out by getting the metal shears as well. In contrast, my dad doesn't usually care too much about how something gets fixed when his computer dies, just so long as I can fix it. This is something I have always liked about Dale and it was cemented even more so tonight, he likes to know how stuff works and he likes watching other people in order to learn a little bit more for himself. I think that really says something about him as a person and I think it is an admirable quality.

The other thing that struck me as weird is how I responded and how I feel about the whole event. I have never been a person to go out of my way to get praise or to be overly affected when praise is given to me but I find myself trying to impress Dale and feel a sense of elation when I think I have. He is one of the few people that I feel has a genuine interest in my tinkering with computers and electronics in general and that makes me feel really good. It’s all very odd, even while typing this, I get a sense of pride in the fact that he and I connected tonight and that I think I impressed him. Odd. :)

All of the television shows that portray In-Laws as these evil soul sucking beings that stay at your house for weeks on end and annoy you are dead wrong, at least in my case. I love my in-laws and enjoy having them around. Maybe I am lucky, I don't know. What I do know, is that I had a father and son bonding moment with a guy who up until five years ago, was a total stranger to me. My dad and I have known each other for almost 25 years now and I can count on my hands how many times he and I have connected like Dale and I did yesterday and my dad and I have a very good relationship. When you make that kind of a connection with someone you usually know it and remember it for your entire life. Yesterday will go down as the night that I connected to my father-in-law just by installing a twenty dollar floppy disk drive. It is odd how mundane tasks can become memorable and meaningful experiences due to the interaction between two people. Life is funny sometimes.


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