Giving Ourselves an Edge
GETTING STONED: it’s good for blades

That may seem like a dulllead, but I don’t think it is because it cutsstraight to the point.

Well, my first one, anyway.

I do a fair bit of food preparation, I build and repair things and I make bowls, pens and other items on a wood turning lathe,so I appreciateknives, chisels and other tools that are in top condition.

I also enjoy sharpening my equipment… although that has not always been the case.

My attitudechanged when I realisedIsaved more time on the job using sharp tools than it took to sharpen them.

I also realised the investment made my work more enjoyable.

I’m telling you about this now because when I went to a friend’s house last week to sharpen his kitchen knives, he told me about a recent boating experience that may berelated to thispoint.

Before I sharehis tale, however, I would like to mention that I don’t enjoy sharpening things so much that I seek out other people’s blunt instruments.

It’s just that Pat gave me a grindstone for my birthday, so when he turned 82, sharpening his knives seemed like an appropriate… and very affordable,gift.

Before the honing, Pat told me about a journey he and fivefriendsmade along the Belgian canals, which are a man-made water highway system.

They are common in Holland and the UK and a main feature of Venice, Italy.

The waterways can be quite narrow, and in Belgium they are used by heavy cargo barges, so accurate steering is essential for little pleasure boats like the one Pat and his friends rented.

As a matter of fact, it is so important that their boat had two sets of controls.

One out in the open on the top deck and one inside behind a windscreen where the person in control can stay dry and warm in foul weather.

When the rains came, however, the crew discovered only the right-side windscreen wiper switched on when they pressed the button labelled ‘wiper.’

Unfortunately, the steering wheel was on the left, so the person in charge of steering had to sit up top in the rain for five hours.Whenthe boat arrived at its next destination, Pat and three of his friends carried the soaked and nearly frozen driver below, while another crew member called the rental company.

A mechanic rushed to the scene, listened to their complaint, and then pushed a second, unlabelled button on the left side of the controls.

And just like that, the sleeping wiper sprungto life.

Evidently, the label had been lost when the original switch was replaced.

Its function and location, however,were clearly displayed in the operator’s manual which was conveniently located next to the boat’s controls.

Of course, none of the men had bothered to open the thing, let alone read it. And that, in my opinion, was a mistake, because I think preparing ourselves with background information can also be seen as sharpening our mental tools.

It requires investing time at first, but in the long run it usually pays off.

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