Sunday, January 30, 2011

Swing Barter, Barter, Barter. Sah-wing Barter

In regards to an entry over at Jane In Her Infinite Budget, J.Q. Public suggested I ought to learn how to do some basic car maintenance type things all by myself. Things like oil changes and brake pad replacement. In his mind, this takes just a few tools plus some instructions and one, such as myself, should be all set to go. Self-sufficient like.

In his defense, he doesn't really know me very well.

Because if he did? He'd understand there is a reason people avoid giving me sharp, pointy objects or  suggesting I do my own car repairs.

It's not a gender thing, mind you. It's not that I believe I can't do something simply because I have a vagina. It's that I've learned from painful experience just how not-mechanically-inclined my brain is wired.

For instance, when Lex and I first moved into the Grotto, I bought a desk - some assembly required. Lex told me he'd help assemble it but he didn't have time during my timeline - meaning right this very second. So I started assembling it on my own.

3 hours later, Lex found me curled up in a little ball on my bedroom floor, pounding the floor with my fist, and crying in frustration (this is not an exaggeration). There might have been glue in my hair.

It wasn't because there weren't detailed instructions or that the assembly required anything more than a screwdriver, it's that when I try to follow written and drawn instructions, something is lost in the translation between the written page and my brain. As a consequence, the desk was (and still is) put together, in some aspects, upside down and backwards rendering it rickety and unstable. I cringe every time Vinny jumps on it.

Currently, I can do 3 maintenance-type things on my car:

1) I can put gas in it.
2) I can fill the windshield wiper fluid reservoir.
3) I can check and fill the tires with air...but not until I was taught just a few months ago.

I suspect I ought to learn how to check the oil first before I learn how to change it, yes?


What's great is that I don't actually have to know these things per se. As my circle of friends widens, the talents and knowledge contained in the circle grows with it. I have lawyer friends, engineer friends, mechanic (Mr. P!) and electronic genius friends (shout out to the BFF for fixing my dysfunctional computer speakers tonight). I have friends who cook and craft and sew. I have friends who write code and design websites (the beloved modchen, for one). I have friends who massage and friends who are medical professionals. I have friends who can actually grow things - like food! And friends who know where to get the best deals (thank you, TC. Sincerely.)

I have places and people in which to turn when I need all manner of practical, wonderful advice and assistance.

In exchange, I can emotionally counsel, plan parties, clean. I can help you find an extra $20 in your already tight budget. I can inspire and motivate. I can review and edit your term paper, resume, article. I can help you move. I can hold your hand. I can do your taxes. I can organize your life. I can feed your cat while you're out of town. I can drive you to the airport so you can get out of town. I can bake a cherry pie and brownies and the best damn chocolate chip or ginger cookies you've ever tasted. I can be your social buffer or your social instigator. I can make you laugh. I can heal.

As the budget tightens and as unexpected potential disasters arise, the more willing I am to ask friends for advice and assistance. In turn, I'm increasingly more willing to free up time to respond in kind.

The barter system works. It is alive. It is well. What an amazing system it is. I'm awfully glad I can call on it and contribute.

So I say, tonight, if any of you need any of the things I can do? Please! By all means. Call me. E-mail me. Facebook me. I want to give you what I can. It comes back. In the end.

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