Wisdom from the swamp cooler

The Mussar emphasis for this week is diligence. I wrote a pretty good little blog you can read here http://www.rivertonmussar.org/component/k2/item/482, but I haven’t devoted a lot of time to working on my diligence this week. At least, I thought I hadn’t devoted much time to it until this evening.

Here in New Mexico, we use swamp coolers instead of air conditioners – evaporative devices that just draw air through moistened pads and blow it down into your house. They usually work fine and are cheap to run, with just two electrical components; a motor that runs the blower, and a little pump to squirt water on the pads. We have three units on our house and Memorial Day weekend was time to replace two of them. (Actually, Memorial Day weekend was already about a month late for replacing them, but you know how that goes.) I asked my good friend Jake if he could give me a hand hoisting the new units up onto the roof, pulling off the old ones, getting the new ones set just right, and then hooking up the electricity for the water pumps and blowers. Jake has a degree in engineering and combines smarts with a great work ethic. Just the man you want for installing a couple of swamp coolers.

To keep the story simple, I’ll just say that we ran into a bunch of electrical problems that I never could have solved on my own.

We spent about ten hours on Monday and got one cooler up and running, but couldn’t get the pump and blower on the other one to work at the same time. A couple of times, I expected Jake to say, “Boy, I’ve tried everything and just can’t get it to work right. I don’t know what to tell you.” But he just kept plugging away at it. Finally, came back this evening and switched out some electrical parts, adjusted the wiring two or three times, and finally got the cooler working like the old one had—which still wasn’t quite right. The two-speed motor would only work on one speed, and the pump worked all right, but didn’t have a fuse or circuit breaker to protect it. Now, I have to admit that I would have lived with that situation. We’d spent hours on this stupid thing, and this looked as good as it was going to get. We could just run the cooler at high speed whenever we used it, and the little water pump was unlikely to cause any problems, fuse or no fuse. But Jake couldn’t let it go. He rewired it two or three more times, tested things with his meter, examined this and that and cogitated over them until he had a theory for all the cooler’s shortcomings. Then he said, “OK, let’s get a different fuse (the remaining problem, now that everything else has been straightened out) and meet first thing in the morning to get this working right.”

This will be day three, not a full day like day one was, but the third installment in this saga. Left to myself, I would have settled with a sorta-done job, but Jake wasn’t about to. As he was about to leave this evening, I suddenly realized that I’d been learning a lot about diligence the past couple of days, even though I’d had little time for study and contemplation on the subject. I told Jake he was my mentor in diligence. On the topic of diligence, Rabbi Lefin says, “Don’t allow a moment of your life to be wasted.” Jake showed me why diligence doesn’t want to waste any time. It doesn’t want to let go until it gets the results it’s after. It means getting a bit obsessed about the thing you’re doing, not settling for a compromise solution but going for the gold. I thought about successes Jake’s had in his life and realized that his doggedness has paid off, and will pay off for me too as I put it into practice.


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