28 December 2017
If you know me at all, you know that I am no mechanical genius. However, I have come to terms with this in my own way, and I am able to fix most things around the house. I grew up with no understanding of tools. We had a screwdriver, and we had a hammer, so we were in good shape. I thought screws and nails came in different shapes and sizes, born of a can in the garage. A butter knife was as good as any flathead screwdriver, and for everything else, there were duct tape and pliers.
Since then, I have learned that the right tool for the job is the simplest response to most household crises.
But here in Latvia, the rules don’t necessarily apply.
Last night, we had some guest over, and they asked me about the difference between living in Latvia and living in the United States. My reply, somewhat to the dismay of my Latvian friends, was that everything in Latvia seems to take three tries or three times as long to get right. I used some of my bureaucratic quests to illustrate my point.
Today, I set off to change the inner tube of my bicycle which had developed some kind of leak as I was riding home the other day. The tire and tube are almost brand new. I bought a set of those little plastic levers and a new tube from my favorite store, Depo.
I have changed many bike tires in my time. The process, sometimes frustrating, usually takes about ten minutes. My bike has quick releases, and I had thought that once the tire was off, everything would go pretty smoothly. As you have already probably guessed, this was not the case.
First off, I thought I bought a presta valve tube, but it was some kind of weird hybrid that looked like a presta but was as wide as a schrader. Luckily, it fit into the hole of the wheel. I had to figure out how to inflate it a bit before replacing it in the tire. So far, everything went pretty much as planned (aside from dropping things and fumbling a few times). But then, when I tried to get the wheel back on, I could not coerce it into place. I had to go back upstairs to find this wonderful video that even had the same brand of tire as mine! Wire bead. I had never encountered this before, but with some determination, I was able to get the tire on and inflated.
Now came the hardest, strangest part. Normally, this would be easy. Just put the wheel back on, tighten it up and hook the brakes up. Done. But for some reason, this bike makes nothing easy. The wheel would not go back on. I had to completely remove the quick release for it to fit back into the slots. Then, I had to really coerce it to get it to sit properly. Then the brakes were too tight, and the tire kept rubbing on the fender. There just seemed to be no way to properly balance the wheel in place, and every adjustment I tried to make, only made it worse.
After 20 minutes or more of making tiny adjustments to the fender, wheel, and brakes, I got it back together, but nothing would completely eliminate the slight rubbing sound coming from somewhere.
Ultimately, I gave up trying to make it perfect and instead accepted the repair for what it was. Complete but imperfect. I am sure this has some deeper philosophical resonance, and I should learn from the experience. I have always just wanted to be a person with a system, who could do things the “right” way, but very few things I do are completed with perfect, precise, professional results. Instead, things are thrown into a pile, rearranged, and I hope that the chaos comes to some kind of final order. Perhaps I should stop hoping for change, and just accept this life that I have chaotically created. After all, chaos ultimately trumps order, so why fight it?