Not Leaving Well Enough Alone

I got a package the other day from my daughter. It contained a fidget spinner with the printed message “couldn’t pick a better dad.” I was touched. Three of my grandsons have fidget spinners, most decorated in flames or menacing video game characters with names like Scorpion and Thor. Mine was subtle and more refined. You know, for older boys. It was perfect. Couldn’t be improved.

And then I “improved” it.

I’ve never had luck improving things. From haircuts, hedges, and motorcycle gas tanks to financial investments and relationships, every time I tried to make things better, they got worse. I can’t leave well enough alone. I wouldn’t call it a character flaw exactly. It’s not even a learned skill, since no one else in my family suffers from the same condition. I prefer to think of it as the result of an active imagination. “Sure, things are running smoothly now, but what if…” And then things start to unravel. Hours, days, months, even years later, I find things in worse shape than if I had just left them alone.

For instance, as soon as I unwrapped the spinner and gave it a few twirls, I decided that I could make it better by adding lubrication. Mind you, the spinner came directly from the factory, so it had never been used. Still, I thought I could increase its life expectancy by adding grape seed oil to the bearings. I had plenty of grape seed oil left over from a failed French macaroon business, but that’s another blog post.

To my dismay, the grape seed oil had the opposite effect, and the spinning slowed down considerably. I decided to remove the oil by heating the spinner. I had had some success removing oil stains from pants by ironing over them with a bath towel, so I wrapped the spinner in a dishcloth and put it in the microwave. I wasn’t about to use the oven on a summer day. However, the only thing that accomplished was to expand the rubber rings on the legs until the plastic cracked on two of them. Ever intrepid, I forged ahead, keeping Lady Macbeth’s line in mind about being so far steeped in things that “returning were as tedious as go o’er” (III, 4).

I consulted that modern Delphic oracle, YouTube, and discovered that I could make amends for all my sins by disassembling the spinner, soaking the ball bearings in Isopropyl alcohol, and drying everything with a hairdryer. I did not have 99 percent so I used 50 percent alcohol, wintergreen flavored. Oddly enough, I have a hairdryer. Hours later, instead of whirling around like a dervish, the thing plodded along like a fat swamp fly.

What have I learned from the experience? First, you don’t mess with the factory model. You accept what’s given, especially if it works. I cannot improve the product that came out of the package, and I certainly cannot create another one. I am also loathe to throw out the spinner, since it was a gift from my daughter and reminds me of my grandsons. My mistake was in not accepting it for what it was.

Second, as a society we’d better be careful about creating that new and improved version of humanity. You know, the one so-called “transhumanists” are excited about. They want to throw out the factory version and replace it with Homo Sapiens 2.0, which will be some sort of carbon-silicon hybrid with quantum computing capability. Add a pair of Rayban-Google glasses and, voilà, we will become a race of digitized, highly sexed, soma sedated, industrial units. Fortunately, I won’t be around to see it. Unfortunately, my grandchildren will.

There are personal lessons, too, the main one being that you can’t force relationships. You can’t come on too strong, too fast, too soon. That scares most people away. As it turns out, the work of relationships might not be to improve them but to let them unfold on their own terms, out of the box, if you will. So much for those relationship books you see promoted on Twitter. Who knew?

So, I promise to start leaving well enough alone. That will be my September resolution. Just as soon as I get the spinner working again.

Haven’t had enough? Go to Robert Brancatelli. Fidget spinner photos by Sebastian Voortman from Pexels. The Brancatelli Blog is a proud member of The Free Media Alliance. Note to self: If friendship lies in contradiction, not agreement, what of marriage?

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