A burnt-out bulb brings a challenge to a young engineer. Fix this with no tools to impress the girl!
My relationship with my wife is centered on engineering -- namely I am continually fixing everything, a trait that won her over on only our second date. It is engineering that makes the world and our relationship go round. More specifically, it's my real-world application of the problem-solving process.
In 2005 as 19-year-old college sophomores at the University of California, Irvine, my wife and I went on our second date to a party at my wife's friend's apartment. A typical location for a party -- a poorly decorated, sparsely furnished, sad excuse for domicile, but nevertheless, a place of freedom for kids our age. Since we had gone early to help setup, I being a college guy sat down on the couch to watch TV because I didn't cook and was therefore useless. That is, until I saw a strand of Hawaiian lights hanging in the window.
Being a lover of electricity (yep, I'm an electrical engineer), I immediately noticed that the strand was burnt out. It was a typical condition for a single strand of twinkle lights poorly maintained by college-aged youth. I asked for replacement lights and guess what, there weren't any. (When have there ever been replacement bulbs when you really needed them?) Without time to take a quick trip to Ace, Home Depot, or even CVS, me having a never-quit, stubborn attitude (another trait that helped win my wife over -- cue eye-rolling), I asked if they had any tools. Another "No" along with an eyebrow furrow. Sure they're college girls, but who knows, maybe a handyman parent left a toolbox with a wire stripper and some electrical tape.
That answer still didn't stop me, so I asked for any scissors and tape and received just what I expected -- a roll of Scotch tape, a pair of pink schoolgirl Fiskar scissors, and a sarcastic "good luck" (the sarcasm coming from my wife's friend).
I'm not sure if it was the stubborn guy in me or the guy trying to impress the girl, but I knowingly went against any vague recollection of electrical or UL safety codes: I cut right into the strand of lights (yes, I unplugged it first) to bypass the one light whose semi-transparent brownish tint around the base of the bulb disallowed full transmittance of the backlight I held the bulb up to. Once the wires were stripped and twirled together, I was surprised at how well the Scotch tape actually held everything together, and I did try to put a big glob of tape on there to minimize any shockage.
At the moment of truth, no fireworks, no blown fuses, just a beautifully lit strand of Hawaiian Christmas lights and a cool, demure "need anything else?" I was pleasantly satisfied by the looks of surprised amazement when the girls glanced up to a glistening decoration successfully resurrected from the dead. Triumph.
Whether it's soldering a faulty diode into the back of a supposedly broken TV, swapping car window motors so it's not an icebox driving down the freeway, or problem-solving a disappointment, my engineering training and passion for the solution keeps it all going in the right direction.
Eight years later and the journey continues.
About Author Chris Higgins: "CEO of SparqEE, the startup that brought you the SparqEE CELLv1.0 on Kickstarter. I'm a computer and electrical engineer who loves innovating across hardware, software, systems, networking -- anything that advances technology in the world."
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