The Technology of Faking It

While I was working on my boat engine this weekend I had a sudden moment of clarity, and I stopped to appreciate just how lucky I was to be a Dad right now. 

No, I don’t mean because of my kids, I mean because of the Internet! (And dear wife, please let me explain before you hit me…)

This Sunday started out with a plan: we were going to the lake, and the whole family was going to enjoy a day filled with sun and water sports. The plan started out just fine – we were packed, hitched to the boat trailer and on the road by lunchtime. My wife had packed a road lunch along with everything else like sunscreen and life jackets. Our plan was coming together, and we ate our lunch with zeal, knowing that we would need the energy for tubing and knee boarding.

It was only after we launched the boat and discovered that the motor didn’t want to start that we felt the pain of our wonderful plan starting to derail. It took another 30 minutes of futile attempts to start the engine before we finally gave up and pulled the boat out of the water, admitting that the plan was dead. The drive back home wasn’t nearly as exciting as the drive out had been.

After parking the boat back in our driveway and unloading all of the gear I opened up the engine cover and gazed at it for a while. I tried to start it again, as if transporting it back home would have magically fixed it. No, it hadn’t. Then I tried peering at the engine again, this time with much more focus. It still just looked like a dead engine to me.

Then I did what any self-respecting Dad would do: I searched the Internet for “boat won’t start”.

(Are you done laughing yet? Can we continue?)

Miraculously, my lame search turned up plenty of articles with tantalizing titles such as “top 10 reasons your boat won’t start” and “boat engine troubleshooting steps”. I sat down in one of the seats in the boat and started reading. After about 15 minutes I was armed with a wealth of newfound knowledge and I started the diagnosis. About 90 minutes later, and after lots of wire tracing and voltage testing, I had the problem narrowed down to somewhere near the fuel pump. After removing a relay and adding my own jumper wire, I turned the ignition key once more – after only a few cranks, much to my amazement the engine burst to life!

One of my daughters was outside and heard the noise, so she ran over. I killed the engine and grinned at her.

“Did you fix the boat engine?” she asked.

“Yes,” I replied happily.

“You’re awesome Dad, you can fix anything!”

It was in that moment that I realized how lucky I was. As my daughter skipped away, I thanked the Internet and the countless number of people who write helpful articles – what a priceless feeling it is to hear those words of admiration.

I also felt a little sorry for my Dad and countless generations of fathers before him who actually had to know this stuff instead of being able to fake it.

About the author:
Todd Trann has been programming computers since 1983, and is a self-proclaimed geek and Dumb White Husband. If your Volvo engine won’t start he suggests checking the diodes just before the fuel pump relay. You can find him on Twitter at @toddtrann.


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  • reply Todd Trann ,

    I don’t even want to talk about the amount of rude people at the boat launch. There appears to be more stress in launching and trailering a boat than a bride has planning her first wedding.

    • reply William Moore ,

      I like your post as I can’t say I have seen a better representation of this phenomenon … though I deny ever using the internet to solve a problem ;)

      • reply Medbhlet ,

        I am 150% cleverer with the interweb. :-)

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