There were several interesting comments with regard to my recent blog Does It Really Take an Engineer to Pack a Dishwasher? Barton Meeks explained how his daughter -- a ceramic artist -- attacked the dishwasher-packing problem by creating a beautiful set of dishes custom-designed to fit her dishwasher.
Aubrey Kagan (a.k.a. Antedeluvian) responded, "Because I don't have the facility to make my own plates, the last time we bought a dishwasher I took along a few of my problematic dishware items to try them out for fit in the store."
All I can say is, "Wow!" Taking my dishes along to the store is something that would simply never have struck me. I would add that if it had struck me, we wouldn’t have purchased the expensive piece of %$#! we ended up with, but let's not go there.
Aubrey went on to say, "I also take a few empty suitcases along to see how they would fit in the trunk of a new car." Once again I have to say, "Wow!" If ever I heard about a pragmatic approach to a problem that made me think, "That person truly is an engineer," this would rank right up there in the top 10.
All of this let me to ponder the question: How do you know if you are in the presence of a real engineer?
I'm not talking about the usual stereotypes here, like the hunched shoulders, or nervous twitches, or awkward shyness in social situations. (Do you remember the old joke? Q: How do you know if an engineer is outgoing and gregarious? A: He looks at your shoes rather than his own!)
No! What I'm talking about is that je ne sais quoi that sets us engineers apart from the rest of the world -- that certain something that marks us as being different from the hoi polloi, that indefinable aura of raw power that marks us as masters (and mistresses) of the multi-universe, that… I'm sorry. I'm afraid I'm getting a little carried away with the excitement of the moment. I guess what I'm really talking about is the "knack."
Can you think of anything you've seen someone do, or heard of someone doing, that has made you say to yourself: "Now, that is someone I call an engineer!"?
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting