Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Parking redefined

I noticed this nifty little parking job while touring Chicago last weekend at the North America Photobloggers meetup. I love examples of non-linear thinking. A long time ago, I learned a lesson about the value of redefining a problem in order to break out of the rut and come up with innovative solutions.

When I was young, newly married and mostly broke, I drove around an old clunker of a car, and an older gentleman from my church, who was a do-it-yourselfer, tinkered with it (on a regular basis) to help keep it running.

One day, while crossing a set of railroad tracks, the car died. After coasting across the tracks and pulling off to the side of the road, I popped open the hood, not knowing exactly what I was looking for. I noticed a loose wire. The metal ring at the end of the wire, which had connected to a terminal on some gizmo, had snapped. Most of the metal ring was still bolted to the terminal. Apparently, the vibration from crossing the rough tracks had been enough to finish a long process of deterioration of the part.

I called my DIY mechanic, who came over to assess this problem. A fellow who worked with me at my place of employment spotted me and my car as he passed by and stopped to offer assistance as well. The answer seemed to be obvious. We had to reconnect the metal ring to the end of the wire. But the metal assembly was one piece. It would have to be welded back together, but the rust would be an issue. My older friend and I began searching our memory banks to think of someone who had the proper welding equipment to reconnect the ring. I began thinking that this could take a while to fix.

The friend from work listened to us muse for a while, shook his head, then retrieved a small tool kit from his truck. He snipped off the end of the wire, used a pocket knife to expose an inch of bare copper wire, wrapped it around the gizmo's terminal and bolted it into place. He walked over to the driver door, reached in, turned the key and started the car. The whole thing took about a minute.

“That’s another way to do it,” my older friend said, a bit embarrassed. We had mistakenly defined the problem as repairing a broken ring, when in actuality, the problem was a lot simpler – connect the wire to the terminal. The problem pictured above was not to find a parking spot long enough to fit a motorbike, but to find any spot the motorbike could fit in to. And if someone else has fed the meter, so much the better.

Clever solutions are possible when you redefine a problem. Give it a try today. Then let me know how it went.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.


Robert said...

You're obviously not a biker James. That's a "standard" parking spot for m/c's. :-)

James said...

New to me, to be sure. Still, it broke my self-imposed standards for parking. Thanks for informing me!