Archive for September, 2011

The Nail Clippers

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Fairly recently, my wife picked up a pair of jammed nail clippers and tried to wrangle the lever back into its proper position. After struggling with it for a minute, she gave up and handed it to me. I took a look at it and in about 5 seconds I had unjammed the lever and returned it to its proper position. Now, nail clippers are a fairly ingenious but simple device in their construction. None of us gives much thought as to how they work, but what I brought to the situation was the ability to visualize the mechanism. I could see that if the two metal parts that actually do the cutting were brought together, this would leave space for the lever to be manipulated back into place. If my wife had had the opportunity to take an industrial arts class in school, she might have also been able to picture that nail clipper in her head and see the configuration needed to free the lever. Nail clippers aren’t normally part of shop class curriculum, but I did gain overall skills in problem solving, hand-eye coordination and clearly seeing three-dimensional space which could be applied to many situations.

The reality is that all of us have a tendency to be stronger in one area over another. My wife is much better than I am at writing. I struggle when I write. I can’t construct a sentence as well or as quickly as my wife can, but I keep writing anyway. My next-door neighbour, on the other hand, has hardly done any writing since he left school 60 or so years ago. His wife was the one who wrote letters and signed cheques. His career was as an auto mechanic. Now that his wife is sick, he has to do the paperwork himself and finds it quite difficult. Learning young and maintaining a variety of skills throughout your lifetime is one of the messages I want this project to convey.