Friday, August 07, 2015


It was a malfunctioning capacitor that caused our air conditioning unit to stop functioning, and it took the repairman about three minutes to fix it. I say "repairman" but this kid was barely old enough to drive the big white plumbing-and-heating-company van, and he carried his tools in a backpack that made him look as if he'd just stepped out of his eighth-grade shop class. He spent more than three minutes on the repair, testing things to make sure nothing else was wrong, but I wondered: if a cocky kid barely out of high school can fix this thing in three minutes, why can't I?

The answer is obvious: I don't know what a capacitor is and I wouldn't know how to determine that it was the culprit causing our lack of air conditioning. I can look up the word "capacitor" on Wikipedia and see a lot of electrical terms and equations, but that doesn't mean I understand it. I like the idea of a component that smooths out energy flow, though, and I wish I could install one in my bipolar brain, which tends to be bubbling with energy and ideas and plans and worries at 4 a.m. but then later, when I really need it to respond to a request for important information, wanders off for a cat-nap.
Do you see what I've done there? I've turned an electrical component into a metaphor for the human condition. Making metaphors is what I do best, and helping others make or interpret metaphors is my second-best skill, so I'll be assured of steady employment as long as the world recognizes its need for metaphors.

But if what you really need is a capacitor, call the repairboy with the backpack.

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