Posts Tagged ‘ life ’

Life Is A Six-Speed Manual.

I’ve been pondering lately how life is like a transmission.  First gear (when you’re born) is starting to move, and requires the greatest learning curve.  It is where acceleration, over time, is never faster.  You must learn at least two languages–one spoken, the other with numbers.  You must learn to feed yourself, walk, speak.  You must learn to coexist with others in social settings.  You must learn to navigate a large and extremely complex series of emotions, and apply them at the very least to your relationships with your parents and siblings.  The amount of information to take in at this stage of your life is staggering.

Second gear covers your teenage years and your twenties.  You’re running at 5,000 RPM, picking up speed, going to school, getting your life moving.  You move out of the house, go to college.  Pay your own bills.  Repair your credit.  Buy your own car.  Get a dog.  You’re busting your ass to become independent, get a career on track, plan for a spouse and family.  Putting out near-maximum effort just to get ahead.

Third gear is to second gear what your 30s are to your 20s.  If your transmission is geared to get comfortable around this time, you are finally enjoying the fact that many who first meet you don’t immediately assume that you are inept because you are so young.  You are not so new to the work force that your experience actually counts for something.  If your transmission is geared for massive acceleration, you are still clawing for every extra MPH you can get, constantly trying to get ahead to sixth gear in as little time as possible.

Fourth and fifth gears are effectively purposed the same as third gear is–forever accelerating, forever working toward the ultimate goal of getting comfortable.  The thing about everything after second gear is that there are times when you are working, working, working, until you can work no harder–and only when you have enough speed and momentum to jump up to the next gear can your engine (for a short time) drop its RPMs, and doesn’t have to work so hard.  Then, something new comes along (a kid, a mortgage payment, a lawsuit), and once again you are forced to work harder, to put out more power, to put on more speed.  Some people spend a long, long time running at the top of their current gear’s limits before being able to breathe a little easier in the next step up.

This is why everyone is envious of those who are the wealthiest people in this country:  They are cruising along in sixth gear–typically the Overdrive gear–and they are comfortably doing 90 or 100 miles an hour while their engines loaf along at 2,500 RPM, sipping gas and barely breaking a sweat.  Everyone else is mired in the middle gears while these people are at the pinnacle of financial freedom, and in many cases, the higher up they go, the less actual work they must do to stay there.  Also, nothing makes people envious more than when people in their 20s and 30s find ways to either run through the gears quickly, or skip to sixth all together.

I suppose if life is a six-speed manual, people must be engines then–it would explain why some move slowly, and others light fires behind the tires at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Right now, I’m one of these:  

Soon, I’ll be one of these: 


Surprise Disappointments, And Life’s Other Realities

I’ll never forget where I was when I found out an unexpected truth in life–one which completely defies everything I thought I had known when I was a kid:  Airplanes, for all intensive purposes, have no “reverse.”  They must be pushed back by a tug.  I’m not sure why I was disappointed; I guess I’d always assumed that airplanes were like any other complex machine–cars, riding lawnmowers, trains, even some motorcycles–and all of them can do both.  (Thrust reversers cannot be counted because while many of them can move an aircraft backwards from a dead stop, it is dangerous to do so because of the amount of junk that gets kicked up when they are deployed.  It is not safe to stir up stuff in the air, to be ingested by the front of the engine.)

In keeping with our aviation theme, one of my other biggest disappointments happened when I found out that pilots aren’t responsible for directly hand-flying the airplane the whole time–they have an autopilot system which keeps the aircraft on course and at the assigned altitude.  For all that time, I had thought that the biggest reason for pilots being so revered in the early days of commercial flying was because of the immense responsibility inherent to managing a quarter-million-pound machine with so many souls aboard.  When I was a kid, I had equated pilots to any other profession for which you are highly paid for your skills–surgeons, dentists–and I was disappointed to find out that they aren’t even doing most of the work themselves.  For all you pilots out there, I mean not to diminish your responsibility or skills, but I’m sure on some level, you can relate.

My wife mentioned to me over wine on our deck that she has several of these disappointments of her own, which lead me to post on this topic based on the assumption that others have them, too.  One of the biggest disappointments my wife has encountered came while she was working at a particular hotel to get through school; she told me it was depressing to see the vast difference between what the hotel’s customers see, and the condition of the behind-the-scenes stuff that makes the hotel function.  Outside, there were gleaming, polished floors, freshly vacuumed carpets, and granite countertops; the workers’ workspaces were dark and dingy, and not well-kept at all.  Everything was strictly utilitarian, and it was as if they  got to be around the glitz and glamour without being able to participate in it.

Along the way while she was finishing her Epidemiology degree (epidemics, not epidermis), she told me one day that people shouldn’t be using soaps that say “Antibacterial” on them because they are unnecessary.  “But how could that be!” you ask (I did).  “Isn’t the goal of soap to kill bacteria?”  The answer is no.  I was disappointed to find out that soap’s only purpose in life is to make it harder for germs to stick to your skin when you run your hands under the water.  Soap’s only purpose in life is to be slippery.  (Further, this brings new meaning to the phrase “wash your mouth out” with soap.  I think the terrible taste was actually a design enhancement.)

The reason we shouldn’t be using antibacterial soap surprised me, too; the reason is that by using antibacterial soaps, we expose the germs to a toxin that they will eventually evolve to resist.  Then, what have we created?  Antibacterial-resistant (or, in the case of antibiotics, antibiotic-resistant) germ strains.  Sort of amusing that we are creating germs that are becoming harder for us to kill.  I know…it surprised me, too.

Here’s one more for the books:  How many of you were disappointed to find out that some musicians on the radio don’t actually write their own songs?  I was…as a longtime music student, poet, journaler, blogger, and guitarist, I had no idea that some of my favorite songs weren’t written by those who performed them.  People who do all of their own music–write the lyrics and melodies, and then perform them–are out there, but more often than not, they are the exception, not the norm.  I guess I had always assumed that in order to make it to the level that some of these musicians are at, you would have had to have cultivated some talent.  The reality is that it’s hard to find people who are the “Triple Threat”–people who write, sing, and perform all of their own songs.  It’s the reason people like Bob Dylan, Tori Amos, and even Taylor Swift have such dedicated fans.  (NOTE: This is not music commentary, so do not rant about the obvious sacrilege of Bob Dylan and Taylor Swift being the same sentence.)

What were YOU disappointed to learn?  The older I get, the more I wish I could go back to being a kid again–no responsibility, everyone was inherently good, and life was grand.

%d bloggers like this: