Wednesday, February 9, 2011

In a Fix

Good news, fellow New Yorkers.  Your own Metropolitan Transit Authority (motto: "Train Skipping Your Station") is getting a makeover! Maybe you've seen the ad.  It's on all the subways, just to the left of the redolent yelling gentleman with the twenty-six garbage bags.  It goes like this:

"If it's broke, fix it."
Instead of waiting to fix everything in a station at once,
we're fixing critical parts as soon as they need fixing.
This is accompanied by a reassuring picture in which a hard-working actor pretending to be an MTA workman performs the vital workman task of getting photographed.  Now, I don't know about you, but golly, I think this is just an amazing revolutionary progressive breakthrough business method.  Just think! Fixing things that are not only broken but could possibly maim or kill you! One can hardly guess what kind of cushy amenities they will dream up next.  Perhaps they'll institute a "valued rider" program that, for a fee, guarantees you the comfort of knowing the conductor won't slice your fingers off in the doors, at least not on purpose, unless perhaps he is having a bad day.

If you ask me - and I hope I do not sound hyper-patriotic here, but gosh darn it, I just can't contain myself - this is precisely the sort of "new-frontier" business vision that makes America great.  I give you Exhibit B: my shower.  Now you may recall I live at college, which means a shared bathroom, which in turn means such features as seething, raging, tentacled bacteria the size of standard Angus bulls.  You get used to them after awhile, but it's a little disconcerting at first when you walk in only to have them come lurching forth from the toilet to say things like, "HA HA HA.  PREPARE TO DIE, (YOUR NAME HERE)."*  

But it's all worth it when you get to take a nice hot shower, except if you ignore the little bitty minor infinitesimal small detail that the shower is actually ice cold.  So it was that, with a heavy heart and the theme from "Jaws" beginning spontaneously to play in the background, I put in a maintenance request to: University Facilities Management.  I explained that when you turned on the shower, hot water runs for 45 seconds, after which it goes cold.  Their response was to wait a few days, then send me back a status update, as follows:

Problem: No hot water in shower
Actions taken: Turned on shower.  Ran hot water fine.
Status: Fixed

Yes, I'm proud that, as a nation, we're committed to taking this kind of "go-getter" initiative.  It just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside as you go through your daily routine, eat breakfast, go to the gym, take a shower ... YAAAAAHHHHH! THIS THING IS LIKE ICE!!!! WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA????

Ahem.  It's all right; naturally, there are always kinks to work out of any system.  We consumers understand the concept of "work in progress."  And it's not just the subway and my shower.  There's also the Space Shuttle Program (motto: "No Catastrophic Losses of Life Since [Tuesday]").  Now to their credit, the folks at NASA tried to get this one right.  They really did.  However, this is obviously hard.  To begin to understand the sort of complexity involved in such an undertaking, let's look at just a few of the rejected designs for the Space Shuttle over the years:


But practice makes perfect, which is why, next year, after the Space Shuttle is retired, NASA plans to replace it with the ultimate vehicle: 

Of course, there are sure to be certain snags in this plan as well, such as when the fleet loses one of its headlight eyeballs.  But still I have enormous hope for the future, and I'm sure you do too, especially if you are talking about the future on Planet Zwumf.  But it's okay; works in progress are part of life.  We know that; the people at NASA know it.  And we're all in this together.

However, NASA, if you're listening, I hope you'll permit me a small suggestion.  If things don't work out with the Magic School Bus, I say it's high time you "take the plunge" and replace your fleet with the ultimate vehicle: the New York City subway (motto: "Train Skipping Your Planet").

* They don't actually say your name, you see; they literally say, "(YOUR NAME HERE)".

1 comment:

The Old Wolf said...

Brought to mind by your post:

[Almost] actual Air Force Repair Orders (and their responses)

Here is a very old list of some [almost] actual maintenance complaints logged by Air Force pilots and the replies from the maintenance crews.

(P) = Problem (S) = Solution

(P) Left inside main tire almost need replacement.
(S) Almost replaced left inside main tire.

(P) Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
(S) Auto-land not installed on the aircraft.

(P) Something loose in cockpit.
(S) Something tightened in cockpit.

(P) No. 2 propeller seeping prop fluid.
(S) No. 2 propeller seepage normal - No. 1, No. 3, and no. 4 propellers lack normal seepage.

(P) Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
(S) Evidence removed.

(P) DME volume unbelievably loud.
(S) Volume set to more believable level.

(P) Dead bugs on windshield.
(S) Live bugs on order.

(P) Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200fpm decent.
(S) Cannot reproduce problems on ground.

(P) IFF inoperative.
(S) IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

(P) Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
(S) That's what they're there for.

(P) No. 3 engine missing.
(S) Engine found on right wing after brief search.

(P) Aircraft handles funny.
(S) Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

(P) Target Radar hums.
(S) Reprogrammed Target Radar with words.