Thursday, July 17, 2008

Skill Sets

On Saturday night, a neighbor and I were having noodles at the Vietnamese-Chinese place on Gorham (next to the video store). He mentioned that he was doing a firearms certification class at the place on Andover Street and would be purchasing a personal firearm.

"Sweet," I said, "Weapon familiarity -- what an awesome skill to add to your palate."

That wasn't so much his line of thinking -- he saw it more as an expression of patriotic duty. However, in my not as high-minded spirit, I immediately just kept ticking off the reasons why some kind of basic handgun or rifle familiarity is just a neat skill to have, because you just never know.

I personally don't ever want to own a weapon of any kind. Not while I'm still single, but especially not once I'm married and have little ones running around. But in the meantime, it's a comforting thought that I can recognize and identify different types of weapons (and the threats they pose), could load or unload and dismantle several of said weapons, and, if the fit really hit the shan, could possibly help win one for the home team (of course, I'm thinking John McLean in the first Die Hard...but you already knew that).

The point is, it's a neat skill.

So is driving a stick shift. I've never owned a manual transmission, I've never driven one full-time, and I hope I never do. From what I hear, advances in automatic transmissions have made them even more efficient, not to mind less of a pain in the posterior when you're caught in stop-and-go traffic.

Still, why have the skill?

Let's say your buddy is inebriated and you can save him from a DUI or something far worse. Let's say a pregnant lady is going into labor and needs to be rushed to the hospital. Let's say [you insert the 'save-the-day' contingency here].

Let's say the only auto available is a stick shift. I hope you learned this one beforehand, because it's not suddenly going to come to you while you're stuck in the middle of an intersection.

I was talking about skill sets with another friend this week and we both instantly recognized CPR as another to be added to this list.

Basic vehicle maintenance and home improvements come to mind, too. Maybe not as instantly critical, but the same principle applies.

As much as time allows, I'm always trying to work on the skill sets, and I recommend you do the same.

The one piece of advice I have is that the best (albeit the most expensive) way to really commit yourself to something is to formalize it. Unless you're part of a class or a group, you're never really going to practice your Tae Kwon Do Poomsae maneuevers, declinations of your Russian verbs, ability to resuscitate fellow humans, or maybe just to make a mean Cuba Libre.

Plus, it might be a fun way to meet your neighbors.


Nick said...

One skill I highly recommend: basic plumbing.

If you don't know how sinks and toilets work, just spend one afternoon in the library doing research. Then go home and poke around your bathroom.

With the most basic knowledge and a few cheap tools, you can take care of the bulk of plumbing issues yourself.

While this skill is not quite as heroic or important as CPR/First aid, it can prove mighty handy.

Matt said...

Another one: basic car mechanics. One of my "bucket list" things is to take a year off and enroll in a trade school. Would be nice if I had any clue how the most important material item -- both equity-wise and life-wise -- I own (i.e. am slowly paying off) works. And if something went wrong, knowing I might be able to fix it, or at least get not ripped off by a mechanic. Corollary: knowing how to change a tire.

This post got me thinking that it would be really sweet if one year of college was only devoted to trade stuff -- plumbing, mechanics, electrical work -- nothing too intense, but it's strange to grow up and have very little awareness/ability with the inner workings of my practical life.

The New Englander said...


Great additions to the list there...matt, good suggestion re: trade school. I think my problem is getting from the "I'd like to know how..." stage (even though I really mean it) to the rubber meeting the road, so to speak. One thing I'm going to try is just to focus on one thing each night that I'm home (i.e. today I will just learn about cars, and that's it, no distractions)'s so easy to fall into a sort of time-wasting, information "grazing" mode on-line..


Chris said...

I recently needed a new muffler. I did some cursory research on the internet and decided this was something I could do on my own. I bought the muffler online, then installed it myself - all you need is a curb to back your car onto and a socket wrench. I was proud of myself and I saved $60.

Shannon said...

I agree being able to use a firearm is a great and important skill. Maybe (apart from them being great protection) because they are so intimidating.
In Arizona it is legal for anyone to carry a loaded gun(as long as they are not a felon of course) and as long as it is not concealed you can take them anywhere. I'm used to seeing people with them so when
someone walks into a store with a gun in their pocket it doesn't mean they are about to commit a robbery.
However, I talked to a lady that moved here from Florida and she said that she immediately called the police when a man walked into her store with a gun in his pocket. Of course the cop didn't come out and explained Arizona law. Her customer purchased something and left. She said she couldn't understand how everyone in Arizona was not shot dead since anyone can carry a gun.
But I don't think it works that way. Lots of people here grow up around guns and don't tote them around just to be "cool". The ones that seem to pose a high threat are the ones who carry them as a representation of power and control, (kids, or, adults for that matter, that are in gangs come to mind) but would probably do it whether guns were legal or not. I just don't think that legally carrying a gun increases crime. If someone wanted to commit a crime they would do so regardless of any laws.
There are large gun shows here about twice a month. Anyone can attend and purchase, which is not so good since the sellers will sell to anyone over 18. Now legally the purchaser has to fill out an application...right..that may happen in a gun store but not at some of the shows.

The first time I held a gun I was scared because I had no idea of how it worked (pulling the trigger was obvious)and I thought that it was probably not a good thing to be scared of something that was supposed to protect me.

Anyway, I'm a little off subject
I learned how they work and how to shoot them although I wouldn't say I'm skilled yet but its like overcoming a fear and earning knowledge and I feel good about that. Learning a new skill is pretty amazing once you've got it under your belt because you get to keep it forever.

So, great posts! Its nice to hear about the skills that interest others and the reasons for it.


The New Englander said...


Great examples, both. In both cases, you're taking something that seems mysterious or maybe impossible, overcoming it, and gaining familiarity. It's not about becoming a part-time car mechanic or expert marksman (or marksperson!) either...just the confidence that comes from knowing your basic way around something.

One thing I admit I should learn, but haven't yet, is doing a tire switch-out when I get a flat. I still believe in using AAA because I feel MUCH safer doing anything at the side of a busy road when there's a giant truck with flashing lights behind me...still, the same principle applies -- learn it just to know it in case you need being able to drive a stick just in case an emergency arose. I never learned that stuff at home and don't know where there's a formal class that teaches it (Middlesex night courses, maybe?) but have to find a way to make the deliberate effort.

Good stuff, thanks for your posts..


Paul said...

I like Matt's idea a lot, and I've thought about doing the same thing. For one, it's probably something you could do part time, thereby not having to alter your career too much to make it happen (I believe many of the students at these schools work part/full time anyway). Secondly, I think it would be a great opportunity to interact with and gain knowledge from "blue collar" folk who many of us may not have a chance to meaningfully interact with in our day to day lives.