Versions of Ourselves
Versions of Ourselves
December 24, 2009
- I have a theory that humans have a natural impulse to create things that are versions of themselves, or parts of themselves. For example, a computer is like a brain, the Internet is like a central nervous system, and Facebook is like your personality. Most forms of entertainment involve fictitious people. Creation is simply imitation with constraints.
Arguably, there aren’t that many basic concepts in the universe, and the human body has some of the best. Complex inventions would necessarily mimic the popular systems in a human. But it feels as if something more basic is at work. It feels as if we are limited to creating only things that have some analogy to our human experience. Perhaps everything else we create is by accident.
I was thinking about this the other day as we entered the final surge to get our new home constructed and approved before Christmas. It took 4.5 years to get to this point. A year ago, we planned to do the entire construction in 12 months. Everyone told us it was an impossible deadline. Well, almost everyone: Our builder told us from day one that we would be hosting our family in the new home on Christmas day. We didn’t know if he was the last optimist in the world or the best builder in the universe. But we liked his
There have been complications along the way. Man, have there been complications. Every step has been like planning a walk on Mars. For example, the power company wouldn’t give us electricity until the city’s
building inspector approved the home for occupancy. And the building inspector wouldn’t approve the home until the power was on. (Huh?) Now multiply that problem times the 400-or-so people who worked on the project, either directly or indirectly. And imagine Shelly and me trying to pick everything from the color of the outlets to the curvy shape on the top of the baseboards.
For the past month, dust was literally rising from the construction zone. Workers were on top of each other. Our builder, who is the most gifted project manager I have ever witnessed, was solving a seemingly unsolvable problem every ten minutes. All knowledgeable observers told us we wouldn’t be in by Christmas. It simply wasn’t possible. It wasn’t even close to possible.
We scheduled the movers for the weekend before Christmas, and e-mailed party invitations to family members for Christmas eve. We didn’t want our builder to be the last optimist in the world.
Ten days ago, we didn’t have a driveway. Rain was forecast. Lots of it. The sky turned grey. Neighbors saw worker’s trucks lined around the block. They knew we were serious about getting in by Christmas. They also knew it was impossible. The rain alone would be enough to stop us. You can’t move
furniture over mud. You need a driveway.
We started packing our boxes.
The rain came. The driveway guys had huge plastic tarps. They worked between wet spells. The sound of drilling, sawing, and some of the most creative cussing you have ever heard emanated from the property. I guess no one told the crew working on the project that finishing by Christmas was impossible.
About a week ago, in the evening, I got a voice mail from our builder, Dave. He said, in construction lingo, that the panel was hot. We had power. It was the last major obstacle to occupancy. Inspections and approvals would follow quickly.
I can’t fully describe how the news made me feel. It was powerful. When the house became part of the electrical grid, it was as if it became alive. The HVAC units rumbled and the structure breathed. Warm water circulated throughout the floors of the home to keep it at the perfect temperature. Soon after, the equipment rack in the wiring closet lit up, and the house had a brain. The brain connected to the Internet and became part of the world. It was a stucco baby delivered by 400 doctors.
I volunteered to run an errand soon after getting the news that the panel was hot. I didn’t want anyone to see me cry. I turned on the radio, pointed our Honda minivan South on Tassajara, and fell apart. I was feeling the pure joy of creation. Shelly and I had created a home that has a life of its own, and by design it is imbued with our personalities. It will outlive us, and a few generations after us.
The movers estimated that we had 17,000 pounds of furniture and boxes to move from our old home and my old office. We thought we might have time to unpack some of them before our 35 relatives arrived and wondered what they were going to eat for Christmas Eve. We would need to lift and push and pull
that 17,000 pounds ourselves about three more times after it got inside the house, and we needed to do it over a weekend. It was clearly an impossible task. Then Shelly told me that we were going to get a Christmas tree and decorate that too. That’s how we roll. If it doesn’t seem at least a little bit impossible, we’re not interested.
Construction continues while we live in the house, but we don’t mind. Relatives are already heading this way. The tree looks great.
Have a great holiday season. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for reading Dilbert. You created a house.
I need a nap.