By admin |

There's a bit in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance where Robert M. Pirsig says that there are two types of mechanics [I'm paraphrasing]: those who have to have a place for everything and everything in its place, and those who remember where they put everything down. If you disturb either one of their organization schemes, they won't be able to find anything.

The summer I interned at NPTN in Cleveland (1996), I needed to buy a CD-ROM drive for my laptop. I went to a little used electronics shop that was on my way home from work. The place was total chaos — there was simply not enough furniture for the amount of merchandise, so stuff was scattered all over the carpet. The proprietor was a big Caribbean man with skin the color of charcoal, and so plump he looked like he'd been inflated. He was padding around the store barefoot. 

I told him what I was looking for, and he went immediately to one of the piles and picked up exactly what I was looking for... but with no power adapter. (This was before USB had caught on, and years before USB carried enough power for a CD-ROM drive.) He asked if I already had a power adapter, and since I had a universal one, I said yes. He gave me a discount because of the missing dongle.

But when I got back to my apartment, I found that the universal adapter did not in fact have the voltage that the drive needed. I went back to the store — without the drive — and explained the situation. He padded over to a filing cabinet and opened it to reveal a drawer brimming over with power dongles. He reached in up to his elbow and pulled out … exactly what I needed!