There is a song, one of those on the order of “Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” that makes you want to pierce your eardrums with an icepick. (Author’s disclaimer: Do NOT, no matter how good an idea it may seem at the time, pierce your eardrums with an icepick. Do not pierce your eyes or nose or any other vital part of your body. If you must pierce something, pierce your neighbor’s eardrums. That will keep him from complaining about your dog barking. Further disclaimer: I’m joking. Do not assault your neighbor. Unless he really deserves it.)
This song (remember we’re talking about a song here?) starts out, “There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Billy, dear Billy. There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Billy a hole.” See … you’re reaching for the icepick right now, aren’t you? But it gets worse. In order to fix the hole, dear Billy must gather all sorts of supplies. It goes on, verse after wretched verse, until the end when dear Billy, who appears to be not so much a dear as he is a total idiot, needs water to complete the task. He wants to tote some water, but …wait for it … there’s a hole in the bucket. I don’t see why this is such a major problem. I once fixed a hole in a boat with a wad of bubble gum and a stick. Dear Billy needs to think outside the box but there’s probably a hole in that, too.
One thing this song does accomplish, besides illustrating the need to always have bubble gum and a stick on hand, is to demonstrate how jobs tend to cascade. One little task to be crossed off the list entails two other jobs and they, in turn, multiply into eight jobs. Once a person starts on this slippery slope, it’s possible to forget what the original job was. At least this is what happens at my house where things tend to break in sets of two or three, or, on especially interesting days, room by room. It’s like a poltergeist lives here. Things will be going along swimmingly and then one or more items just cease to function. This might have less to do with the supernatural than the fact that whoever wired this house was apparently unfamiliar with the concepts of voltage and amperage and ohms. And electrons and wire gauge. And adequate outlets. And that circuit breakers should not actually break. Other than that, they were right on top of things. So when all the lights in a room sort of dim and the printer is reluctant to, you know, print, I know exactly what to do. I unplug the refrigerator. Ha ha. This is all just some light-hearted home-owner humor. None of this really happens, especially if you are a building inspector or a prospective buyer. In that case, everything is just peachy.
Lights not working is not a good example of jobs cascading. It’s an example of a lousy or perhaps drunk electrician. That fix is easy. Let’s think of a better example, like clogged gutters. The obvious fix for a clogged gutter is to unclog it. Gutters are, unfortunately, usually not installed at waist height. Gutters are often found well above the average person’s head. Using that lightening-speed intellect for which I am not famous, I know that I need a tall ladder. The tall ladder is behind a whole bunch of stuff. When I move the stuff it knocks something off a shelf and that something breaks. Then I have to find the broom. The broom is never where it belongs. I blame that poltergeist again.
A friend, no doubt thinking he was doing me a big favor, told me I had a lot of dead wood in my trees. Being a responsible home owner, I waited until it was 92 degrees and then got out the extendable pruning saw. I am not casting aspersions on my trees here, but I would have been farther ahead to rev up the chain saw and put the tree out of its misery. There were more dead branches than live ones. I started sawing away gingerly. I have a brand-new shoulder and had absolutely no idea how all that metal and plastic would react to being attached to a lumberjack. One of two things happen when you saw a branch over your head. (1 ) If you look up to see how you’re doing, sawdust falls into your eyes. This means the person doing the sawing has to stop, grope their way blindly into the house, find the eyewash (which is not where it belongs…it’s probably with the broom), and rinse the better part of a large branch out of their eyes. See? Cascade. (2) If you do not look up to see how you’re doing, the branch falls on your head. This means the person doing the sawing has to stop, grope their way blindly into the house because they’re blinded by blood, find the band aids (which are not where they belong….they’re probably with the eyewash and broom), and rinse the better part of a pint of blood out of their eyes. See? Cascade.
For the first time in my life, I understand why people live in condos. Let the building supervisor take care of all those pesky chores. His name is Billy.
Vivian B. Blevins. Ph.D., teaches telecommunication employees from around the country and students at Edison State Community College and works with veterans. You may reach her at 937-778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.