Sunday, 19 May 2019
Englishman in Dubrovnik Englishman in Dubrovnik

Fix it or throw it away - how my father taught me to think before Google

By  Sep 22, 2018

Are we living in a “fix it” or “throw it” world? Do we even bother to try and fix things anymore? Is it even worth the time to try and mend something? No, to answer my own question we are absolutely living in a disposable society.

I remember when I was a young adult spending half my weekend under the bonnet of my car trying to fix a problem. OK, my first car, a Mini Morris, cost me about 2,000 Kunas so there was always plenty of work to be done. We, my father and I, even took the whole engine out once and replaced to with a new, or rather second hand one. I would honestly spend hours unscrewing things to see what they did, and then putting them back on. Sundays were reserved for wandering around scrap yards trying to pick up “new” bits and bobs for this old Mini.

I guess my father was the inspiration for this curiosity. I never ever remember a plumber, electrician, mechanic, engineer, builder, carpenter or brick layer ever coming to our home to fix or build something. Why, because my father would do it all himself. What he didn’t know he would learn, and when he made a mistake, and he made a few, he would learn from them. And it wasn’t only he who was learning. Lots of the time I was on his shoulder passing him screwdrivers, hammers and cement.

These were also days before the internet. You couldn’t just Google “How to fix a washing machine.” No, you tried and tried to find the problem by yourself. The “hard disk” that we now all carry in our pockets in the form of a smartphone wasn’t there to back you up. He built walls, garages, ran electricity, changed bathrooms, fixed exploded toasters, maintained the car, sculptured the garden and fixed the leaking roof all with a tool box and logic.

It was a “DIY” or Do It Yourself generation. If you couldn’t fix it yourself then you went without. Oh, how times have changed. Finding someone today who is good with their hands is like finding the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I was fortunate. Shadowing my father taught me many invaluable lessons. And although I don’t have the practical skills that he acquired I still can do many of the jobs that most people would call for outside help.

And calling for outside help is becoming harder and harder, especially it seems in Dubrovnik. “He told me he could do it but not for six weeks,” said my friend thee other day who helps a small wall building in his back garden. It is probably a three-day job maximum, but this particular builder has so much work that he can’t come for six weeks. It seems that you wait longer for a builder than a doctor in Dubrovnik! And that’s a good builder, for there are many, many, many who are, well, not so good.

As we force all our younger generations into desk jobs, management and pushing paper around an office we are seriously lacking in the practical skills department. You may argue that Dubrovnik is a city dominated by tourism, and therefore a need for tourism workers. It is true. But who services the bus in which tourists go on their day-excursion, who fixes the air-conditioning that keeps them cool at night, who maintains the ice-cream machine, who builds the new apartments to rent on Airbnb and who repairs the leaking swimming pool. The list could go on and on, but the list of actual trained and qualified workers on the other hand is surprisingly short.

Often the marketing or sales or human resources department is overloaded with staff whilst the technical department is seriously understaffed. And it isn’t only the technical department, finding a good chef in Dubrovnik is like finding a four-leafed clover. We have plenty of people to sell rooms and meet and greet the guests but finding people to feed them and fix their leaking shower isn’t so easy.

We are living in a throwaway society. In a society that doesn’t value the skills and knowledge of people who work with their hands. “On the right side of the pendulum, consumerism has reached an all-time high, with products reaching their planned obsolescence within absurdly short timespans and new products being rolled out (and bought) by the millions every day. And, since every action has an equal and opposite reaction, we have to expect consequences,” wrote an expert of waste management Kristi Gartner. It is true. We are already feeling the consequences.


The Voice of Dubrovnik


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