Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Rules of Incompetence

The following could be considered a fairy tale, or perhaps a fable with a moral at the end. However, the events depicted below are 100% true. So take that as you will. 

For months, the headphone jack on my cell phone wouldn't work. You could plug it in, but it would often pop right back out. It seemed like it was ill-fitted. It wasn't the headphones; I tried several different sets of headphones and they all did the same thing. Which was a shame, because it kind of made the entire point of having headphones in the first place unattainable. The only explanation was that somehow the jack on my phone was somehow deformed, not that there was anything jammed inside of it. So this was the First Crank Crank Revolution Rule of Complete Incompetence: When there is a valid explanation, ignore it and assume it's something vastly more complicated.

I put up with it for a while; as long as the headphones were steady and I didn't accidentally bump it and didn't hit any potholes with my car, it would still work about 20% of the time. The other 80% it would just pop out for no reason whatsoever except to be a dick. I would occasionally walk around with my thumb pressing on the top of the headphone jack, as if I were some sort of medic whose pager was on the fritz and it was vital that I keep in constant communication with the Command Center. I also tried looking up if there were any known issues with my model of phone or what my options were of replacing it, all of which turned out to be relatively expensive and/or nonexistent. Thus was the Second Crank Crank Revolution Rule of Complete Incompetence: Come up with a labor-intensive solution to a problem that shouldn't exist in the first place.

Finally, I decided that maybe, just maybe, there was a chance that the reason my headphone jack wouldn't work properly is if there was some foreign object inside of it. I didn't think so--nothing fell out if I turned it upside down--but who knows? It would be simple, and require only a flashlight (preferably a small one, like a pen flashlight you get at the dollar store) and something to dig out whatever was in there. However, this proved to be difficult: the times in which I would remember I needed to do this (work, car) did not coincide with when I had access to a flashlight (home). So I would pull up to my house and immediately forget for the next 16 hours that I should grab a flashlight and a pair of tweezers and take ten seconds to fix the problem. And this went on for easily eight to ten weeks. Third Crank Crank Revolution Rule of Complete Incompetence: Don't bother writing down or taking notes or otherwise creating a reminder for yourself; instead, shamelessly convince yourself that you definitely will remember as soon as you get home to literally do the single simplest task that could ever be created. And then not do it.

Finally, yesterday, I managed to get the stars to align: I asked a co-worker for a flashlight (which he ended up having, thank goodness); I peered down into the jack and, sure enough, there was a bunch of lint crammed down in there. (No doubt from the six months of me doing everything possible to compress it down as hard as possible.) A simple bent paper clip and ten seconds later, and I had a small, millimeter-sized puff of lint that had been giving me heartache for the past half year. Sure enough, I popped my headphones in, and they connected with a satisfying "click."

So, in summary, follow my simple rules if you want to succeed and frustrating yourself at the blatantly obvious.

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