Fix it as Soon as it Breaks

I am an ardent fan of the maxim, “fix it as soon as it breaks.” I have never known anything that fixed itself, whether it is a leaky faucet, a flat tire (or tyre, on all the British cars I have owned), or a faulty electrical outlet. Admittedly, I am not good at fixing things. David is better than I am when it comes to repairing things that break (including with his favorite tool, chopsticks), however, he is far from being a handy person when it comes to serious household and automotive repairs. For these, more complicated repairs, David and I have usually been fortunate to hire people who excel in fixing things. For the past 10 years or so, we have been hiring a wonderful person, named Eric, who can fix almost anything. One of the best things about Eric is that, if he can’t fix it, he won’t even try, fearing he will make the problem worse. Both David and I have observed our parents, as they aged, preferring to let things go instead of having them repaired. I have a vivid memory of walking into the half bath in David’s parents’ lovely home, only to find the toilet tank lid on the toilet seat, with a sign taped on it saying “Out of order.” (Luckily for me, they had 3 other bathrooms that contained working toilets!) When I asked David’s mother how long the toilet had been broken, she said, “It’s been a while, but we decided not to fix it.” This, among other things, was a sign to David and me that it was time for his parents to move someplace where broken things were easily repaired by someone. My mother lacked the financial resources to have things fixed. Her Depression era philosophy, “Eat it up, wear it out, and make it do” was mostly fine except when things became dangerous, such as a lock that wouldn’t lock or a light that wouldn’t turn on. I know some people who, unlike my late mother, have the financial ability to repair broken things, but who, for whatever reason, choose not to fix them. One of my former friends told me her husband is a perfectionist who would never allow anyone to fix things in and around their home. In that her husband was far too lazy to fix anything that broke (not to mention clean up after himself), their house transformed from a charming cottage to a hovel over the years they lived there. I like to solve small problems before they turn into big problems; I like to fix things that are broken; and most of all, I like to take care of business.

Homeownership seems to involve an endless “to do” list.  There is always something to do.  Sometimes, the to dos are small items, easy to resolve.  Sometimes, expertise is required, or at least more expertise than I possess.  Or strength – some fixes take more expertise and muscle than I have, or any one person has.  It is, for that reason, I happily engage Eric, or someone else as necessary, to resolve a problem.  I don’t want to make a problem worse, or get hurt in the process.  My take on Melissa’s post title is, however, more about workplace issues.  We do not own our office space; we never have.  Problems with the office involve contacting the landlord.  I have always tried to do this quickly when there is a problem because I know the problem isn’t going to fix itself.  A leaky toilet, for example, won’t get better if it is ignored.  Just this week, I reported a toilet that was “running” and the problem turned out to be easily resolved, but by someone who has more plumbing skills than I.  No more wasted water.  My “fix it” issues, however, usually involve the many things we at Magnus own and use for the business.  We use lots of stuff (equipment), stuff that is easy to ignore when not in use.  For example, tripods.  We use tripods and video cameras to record focus groups and mock trials.  There are lots of cables involved as well, and they have their own issues.  But, as to tripods.  I’ve been using tripods for over 40 years.  I have bought, used, sold, and worn out countless tripods.  I have some favorite brands and have selected one of those as Magnus’ tripods for research.  The thing is, these tripods travel, they get checked in luggage for flights, and they get banged around.  They have weak points and parts that loosen over time.  Recently, I saw one of our tripods with gaffers tape wrapped around its tripod leg.  That same day, I noticed we had a missing connector on a tripod head.  These things are alarming in that they indicate the equipment was not only misused, but ignored.  Both of these problems were easily resolved.  A screwdriver and pliers eliminated the need for the tape and the missing part was located.  But this was an example of problems that should not have happened.  I try to encourage my team to flag anything that is in need of repair, as well as  checking the equipment when it comes back from a project.  To me, it is critical to fix these things as soon as possible after the problem is noticed, and before it becomes a problem on another day – especially a research day!  Repairs are not usually top priority post research; the priority at that time is for data analysis and report production.  But, after the videos and reports go out, I expect our staff to deal with equipment problems before the next project.  I want them to speak up if there is a problem, point it out, and  make sure it is resolved before it becomes a bigger problem the next time around.  Flag it, then fix it!


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