Some memories seem to come from so long ago as to not be real. It’s a 35mm camera playing in my head. The events in life that stir these memories up are often odd. Nonetheless, let me tell you about the Old Guy.
I was nineteen or twenty and had just started working in a custom cabinet shop. I sorta knew what sandpaper was and that was exactly what my boss, Kenny, liked. He wanted to train me to do things his way. I was a good dog and did as I was told. We chugged along like this for about six months; me and my sandpaper and Kenny doing everything else. Eventually, the pay grades above us determined that we needed more help. They hired an Old Guy who had a million years of experience in cabinetmaking and woodworking.
What they say about two grown women living in the same house is true. Kenny and the Old Guy couldn’t agree on anything. Ever. I ate a lot of aspirin. The majority of the things that they argued over didn’t really matter in the context we were in. Which parts to cut first? Who was the boss? Where the screws should go? Who shirked their duties the most? Really, it was silly. I determined then that I would attempt to keep my mind open to alternative ways of working and living; to learn from everyone and adapt the methods that worked best.
Habit has a way of screwing your plans.
It is easy to create routine habits and difficult to break them. Since starting at Marc Adam’s I’ve discovered that I’m the Old Guy. It’s not that my habits are bad they are just different and work in a different context. Marc places an emphasis on student experience. A large part of that experience is teaching skills that keep students safe. And it isn’t one of those “do as I say not as I do” kind of environments. Safety is an issue all the time.
I believe the first step to changing bad habits begins with changing attitude. I came from an environment that believed OSHA was the devil. They intruded on productivity and progress. Naturally, we removed guards that got in the way and often used equipment in ways it wasn’t designed for. The attitude I inherited was essentially that safety was about common sense. If you didn’t want to lose an appendage, then you should keep it away from a spinning blade. The irony is that I’ve seen enough accidents to challenge that logic.
In an effort to conform to a new standard (and keep my job) I’ve had to learn some new tricks. It isn’t easy. I’ve had to talk myself through each step every time I turn on a piece of equipment and chastise myself when I forget. The grand eye-opener is that I’m being reminded of what it feels like to be a complete novice, not just trying to accomplish a task but to build a new relationship with the tools and equipment. Oh, and let’s not forget the falling away of any sense of pride or ego.
The best part of relearning is that in a month when classes start and I see someone who is completely new to woodworking approach the same equipment I’ll know what its like to be in their shoes. I’ll know the hurdles they will need to cross. And maybe this old dog can help them learn a trick or two.