The electric guitar on my workbench belongs to a customer. “Just change the strings,” she said as she left it with me today. Finally! A job I can do without becoming bogged down. Twist the buttons of the tuning machines, insert the ends of the individual strings, and tune it up. No sweat. This will be a breath of fresh air after the clarinets and flutes, and saxophones of the last few days. On those terrifying projects, one adjustment leads to another, which leads to replacing a piece of cork, or a pad. Springs are broken, keys bent, and screws are frozen in place. The simple task of putting an instrument in playable condition (we call it “PC” in the music business) is never quite simple. I am weary. And, ready for an easy string replacement on a guitar.

After removing the old strings, one of the first things I do to the guitar is to clean the grime from the top of the instrument. The job is difficult to do at any other time, but easy to accomplish with no strings obstructing the surface. As usual, I spray the guitar cleaner on a rag and wipe the surfaces for a moment. As I brush the volume knob, I notice that it is loose and spinning in its mount. This could be a problem if not attended to, since the wires attached underneath will break loose with the excess motion over time.  An easy fix…simply remove the knob and tighten the control nut which is underneath. I slide a flat pry bar under the edge of the knob and gently twist. Immediately, I hear a loud cracking noise and the knob pops loose, but something is wrong. The metal shaft of the volume potentiometer is sheared off, with pieces of it remaining in the center of the knob. Looking closer, I see evidence of a popular metal glue called J-B Weld on the sheared off pieces.  It was broken before and a sub-par repair had been made. My easy, relaxing job has turned into a repairman’s nightmare.

Of course, you know what I did. Yep. I sat down to write this post. I know what they say about “when the going gets tough”, but I’ve had it. I’m past tough and moving rapidly into cranky. And, like any good procrastinator, I know when it’s time to sit down and do fun things instead of essential ones. I love to write. The words flow from my brain into my fingers and right onto the screen. There is nothing to break, nothing to bend, nothing to replace. I think that I may just stay here and ignore all of the work that is piling up around me for the rest of the hours I have to spend tonight.

If all you know of me has been acquired through the posts you read here, you might think that I am a rational creature, a realist who thinks through each action and considers the ramifications of every move, always selecting the optimal route to completion of each task. I am not such a person. I am often an escapist, a dreamer who wishes and hopes for a different world in which to live. I eschew hard work and conflict, and I embrace ease and serenity. Alas, that will never be the world in which I move and dwell. The rebel in me insists that I can do as I please, while the pragmatist acknowledges that I will never be able to do that. Even as I write these words, I know that I must soon return to my once attractive, now distasteful, task.

I will reluctantly push up from this comfortable seat and move to stand once more in front of the guitar.  Instead of a simple string replacement, I will disassemble the electronic section (about 20 screws to remove) and unsolder wires, removing the broken potentiometer, or pot. Re-soldering wires, mounting a new pot, testing the new circuit, and inserting the screws once more, I will then be ready to begin the task I started an hour or two ago.

If you are still with me after my poor-poor-pitiful-me rant, I applaud your tenacity. I’ll make just one point and then you may make your determination of how profitably your time has been spent. My guess is that I spend a fair amount of my time while writing this blog in building up my reputation, in crafting a facade that I want you to believe of me. What you need to know is that all of us are human; we all get cranky and cantankerous. The test of our character is not necessarily in our initial response, but in the disposition of the matter, when it is completed. I am reminded of the example which Jesus gave of a father and two sons. For some reason, it is not an example we use often, especially with our own children, since we want them to respond positively every time.

The father asked his sons to go and perform a particular task in the field. One son replied, “I won’t!” and turned away. The other son, wishing to gain his father’s favor, simpered, “Father, I’ll be happy to do the job.” End of the story? Bad son, good son? No! As it turns out, the son who sassed his dad went out afterward and did the job. The son who gained the advantage early with his reply simply didn’t do the work at all.  Who accomplished the job? Who gained the ultimate favor of his father?

Well, my play time is over. I have a job to face and complete. Let me know if you can’t figure out the answer to the puzzle above. Obviously, I’m confident that you already have. Now, is there some task you’ve been avoiding? It’s not too late.

As I’ve said many times before, where there’s life, there’s hope. You’re still breathing, aren’t you?

“And he answered, ‘I will not’, but afterward he regretted it and went.”
(Matthew 21:29~NASV)

“…the best form of tenacity I know is expressed in a Danish fur trapper’s principal, ‘The next mile is the only one a person really has to make.'”
(Eric Sevareid~American journalist~1912-1992)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved. 

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