I headed up to the cottage again this past weekend, and as usual, a good time was had. I was the only one of my generation up there until Friday evening when Hayley showed up. We didn’t get a lot done with knocking stuff off the “to-do” list (mostly because I was so tired I fell asleep when I got there and it was beer-o’clock by the time I woke up), but that which we did complete, I was little more than manual labour.

It got me to thinking about the cottage lifestyle and how it seems to be a dying breed. Perhaps it’s just my generation, but the prospect of having to look after the cottage when mom and dad are gone is quite intimidating. Hopefully it won’t be for a very long time.

The systems that are in place up there range from simple plumbing to very complex heating systems. What worries me, is that even the “simple plumbing” I wouldn’t have a clue where to start with should something go wrong. Something as mundane as a leaky faucet is beyond my level of skill and knowledge to fix, and that really scares me.

My father and my uncles could have a problem like that identified, analyzed, removed and repaired within a few minutes to at most a few hours. I’d still be looking for the correct size wrench 3 days later.

And it seems to not just be me. My peers (I don’t mean to speak for them and forgive me if I’m incorrect) could not execute these tasks either.

The upkeep of a home or cottage is knowledge and experience that lies outside of the realm of our day-to-day existence, so much so that any foray into the mechanical realm invariably (at least in my case) has the necessity of having access to either one of the previously mentioned parties or Google and a lot of patience.

I’d like to say it’s from lack of paying attention, but I don’t think (at least in my case) that’s the issue. Whenever repairs are made, I try to understand and memorize what has been done, however so much of it is based upon practical experience, that any attempt to replicate it falls into frustration.

I believe that it is because I never had to deal with these things when growing up. Maintenance was always taken care of by dad when it was needed and schooling, instead of a mechanical aspect, an approach to the digital was more interesting so that’s where I drifted (in fact, auto shop, which, I believe, was a staple of high-school education up until at least the 80’s disappeared entirely during my time in school). This leads to quite a divide in knowledge. Whereas previous generations would spend “father and son” time building a car or some other project of the ilk, mine is spent with me either watching him perform some perplexing task (I understand the mechanics of whatever is being undertaken, but don’t ask me to replicate it) or him watching me perform some menial chore on the computer or digital equipment.

And this is a large chasm to cross.

Part of it is that either of us can perform our tasks much more efficiently than instructing the other in doing so. I would imagine having my dad watch me change an electrical socket is as exciting for him as watching him configure Outlook is for me.

My biggest beef with that particular comparison, though, is that if he checks the wrong box in Outlook, he gets an error message; if I touch the wrong wire, I end up 20 feet back with some serious heart issues.

It’s also an efficiency problem. The last time I was at the cottage I asked dad to help me make a little table/shelf thing to fill a gap in my kitchen.

All my years of schooling do not amount to this.

I was going to try to make it, but the problem was that my vision was a board, 4 legs and a few nails. This would have resulted in a very poor table that wouldn’t have even held the milk. So because it would have taken me days to complete the project to a suitable caliber, dad did it. Consequently, I have an amazing table, but I have no idea how to make one.

And there’s no fault there. How can I expect him to stand around and supervise me learning how to change the blade in a tables aw when in the time it takes me to do that, he would have the table built? It’s division of labour based upon proficiencies. But what happens when the one who knows how to do one particular task isn’t there any more?

I think it was Joe Rogen who said “If I give you a hatchet and send you into the woods, how long until you can send me an email?”

The specialization of knowledge that my peers and I now posses is so monumentally useless in any practical situation; I can setup and configure this blog (with a little php help from Steve) but if the lights go out, I doubt I could even fire up the generator without reference.

So all this leads to my biggest fear… when the zombies come how the hell is the computer generation supposed to survive if we can’t build a secure barricade?