Monday, September 14, 2009

Skills, skills, skills

This weekend I helped out a couple of buddies with car problems. One had a clutch linkage that had stretched out a bit after forty-something years of existence and the other had an intermittent stalling out problem. This summer I had to put a new water pump and new axle bearings, seals, and rear brakes on my daily driver. I am not a mechanic by trade, but ever since my youth I have loved to work with my hands on all things mechanical. My dear, departed father was a jack-of-all-trades and my inspiration for learning as many skills as I could.

I learned how to drywall, plumb, wire, and roof before I was in high school. From high school onward I have learned how to do a fair amount of the repairs for the cars I have owned. Whenever something needs fixin' around the house, chances are I can fix it. I'm not as fast as the pros, but I don't have to pay them, either.

After spending my weekend helping my friends, it occurred to me that these everyday skills are some that I will need if there is some sort of societal collapse. Societal collapse might mean that ninety percent of the population is wiped out in a nuclear or biological attack, or it might be the result of a slow economic decline where we have to rely upon ourselves and make do with a lot less. Or anywhere in between.

Whatever does happen, having a broad range of skills enhances one's chances of survival. I know that I can't know everything, but the skills I have gained over the years will have some value, for myself and possible in trade with others who have skills I don't have. I don't think that I have the time to become skilled in farming or machining or cabinet-making, but I am getting to where I can take care of most of my own problems. And that is the key to a successful life, I think. Being able to take care of one's own problems, and/or having sufficient skills to trade with others for what one cannot do alone.

Skills like basic auto repair, electrical, plumbing, and roofing may not seem like survival skills now, but that is only a matter of perspective. Suppose your water pump starts pouring out antifreeze one day and you need your vehicle to drive twenty miles to work. If a water pump, sealant, and antifreeze run you $50.00, but a shop wants $400.00 to do the work, and you have $100.00 to get you through the week, basic auto repair could be a survival skill.

Now is the time to develop those skills, and there are lots of resources to take advantage of. For example, start changing your own oil, flushing your radiator, replacing your own brake pads. There are any number of vehicle repair guides and old automotive trade school textbooks out there. Replace that broken down water heater or replace that faucet yourself with advice from the hardware store. Confidence gained from doing the simple things can help develop the confidence to tackle more challenging projects and gain more valuable skills, both for now and for TEOTWAWKI.

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