Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Do you know what happens when you start a Tecumseh lawnmower engine with the oil fill plug not in place? You get a patio-scale version of what you see in the accompanying photograph, that's what happens.

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I was giving my old mower an oil change out on the patio when some company showed up. I was pretty much done with the oil change at that point. I started the engine and let it run briefly. (It was a bit hard to start -- the engine doesn't seem to like the jerking around it gets whenever I elevate the mower to drain and change the oil.) I stopped it and unscrewed the oil fill plug to double check for correct oil level. That must have been the point at which my distractedness from company's arrival caused my brain to shut down, because I set the mower aside with the oil fill plug still off, but I didn't follow through with checking the oil level and topping it up.

It was a couple of hours later, after company had left, that I thought to get back to the mower. Having completely forgotten about the oil fill plug, but wanting to check that the engine was back to its normal, easy-starting self, I primed the carburettor and gave the cord a yank. It started right up like it ought to, accompanied by a peculiar cloud of droplets rising from it. I caught on quickly enough and stopped it, and went right to work wiping up a truly amazing amount of oil from the mower and its immediate vicinity.

I relate all that to make this observation: Individuals' ability to deal with distractions and interruptions when they're working varies widely. Mine is virtually non-existent. Distractions and interruptions cause my I.Q. to plummet to the very low double digits. Those of us who are like that need to take it into account, and at least take measures to preclude troublesome outcomes from such occurrences.

The lesson for me and for those similarly afflicted is this: When an interruption/distraction happens along, immediately take care to leave the work at hand in a 'safe' condition ( e.g. oil fill plug back in place), and simply abandon the job until the incident has passed. Then, think carefully about where it was that we left off before resuming the job. We'll save ourselves some aggravation. Granted, we may miss out on observing some interesting phenomena now and then, but I think that's a small price to pay.

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