the opposite of imposter syndrome
Saturday, January 1 2022
location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, NY
Late this morning, Gretchen and I drove with the dogs up to our Adirondack cabin in our Subaru Forester, arriving there around 1:00pm. As we arrived, Gretchen and I immediately began bickering about
trivial issues (such as how much wood ash to put in the composter), setting up a pattern that would continue all weekend. Initially I think my problem was that I hadn't had enough to eat today, though that was soon solved by reheating and devouring a vegan burger Gretchen had gotten for me yesterday from Wizard Burger in Albany. Actually, due to labeling confusion (why have similarly-named products if you're going to write illegibly on the tin foil wrappers?) I ended up with the barbecue burger intended for Powerful. But it was very good and very rich, and made for such a caloric lunch that I wouldn't end up eating any dinner.
Happily, the cabin power from the solar backup battery had still running when we arrived, though by this evening the battery fell below 20% of charge, a threshold below which the Sol-Ark inverter refused to provide household power (evidently keeping the rest available for its internal needs). What we'd been told by the solar installation people was that at that point the inverter should've called for backup power from the generator, but that definitely didn't happen. As we were now well aware, everything we'd been told about our setup were things we had to confirm for ourselves. We'd lost any faith in the competence of the chuckleheads who installed our system.
After having a late start to our usual Saturday morning routine (though drinking tea while playing the New York Times Spelling Bee), I started working on cabin projects. A little before sunset, I hiked out to the start of our driveway with a battery-powered dill and some masonry drill bits and proceeded to drill holes in a three-foot-tall boulder near that intersection. These were to accommodate the dual prongs of a fancy steel house number sign that had been mostly-invisible when stuck in the ground. The first of my holes went easily, suggesting that, at least in some pockets, the local granite (or whatever rock it happens to be) is quite soft. But then I struggled with drilling a second hole only a couple inches away. Eventually, though, I had two holes and could install the sign with confidence. As I was doing this, Gretchen hiked out to where I was working and saw what I'd done and thought it looked great. (She'd tried to walk the dogs, but Neville hadn't even left the cabin and Ramona hadn't left the cabin's immediate vicinity; I found her waiting on the front stoop. Meanwhile Gretchen hiked down to the lake via Woodworth Lake Road and found that, though it now had ice all along its edges, its center was still ice-free.) The weather, by the way, was unseasonably balmy, with temperatures above freezing and much of the snow and ice melted away.
At around sunset, I began working on the biggest of this weekend's cabin project: finishing enough of the tiling in the upstairs bathroom to eventually install the sink and the toilet. As I prepared myself psychically for the effort that would be required, I did a little investigation of the existing plumbing and realized I didn't yet have the correct fittings to do the initial plumbing work, as the pipes coming up from the basement ar 3/4 inch and the fittings I'd bought anticipated they'd be 1/2 inch. I'm still learning this whole new paradigm of PEX plumbing.
My tiling work today saw the completion of all the tiling in the north "alley" of the upstairs bathroom running from behind where the toilet goes to behind where the new pedestal sink will go. I had a little leftover mortar on my second batch, so I then continued installing tiles that didn't require cutting in the direction of the bathroom door. By the time I was done, the floor was over half tiled, though there is still plenty tiling left to be done when one considers the walls will also be tiled.
As I was working on the tile, Gretchen and I started bickering about the smoke detectors, which seemed to be chirping for no known reason. She kept wanting to remove ones that I thought should remain until we'd determined where the chirping was coming from. (I'd already eliminated the possibility that carbon monoxide was a problem; I had a CO meter that I'd used to sniff all around the house, and I'd also installed some two inch PVC to redirect the boiler's exhaust away from the vicinity of our microwave oven's outdoor vent.) I'd been working without a radio, but if Gretchen was going to bicker with me while I was working, I became less concerned about disturbing her while she was reading. So I turned on the radio and listened to the local "retard rock" station, WPYX, which plays exclusively music by white men with three exceptions: Pat Benatar, Jimi Hendrix, and Joan Jett. I played it quietly, with the bathroom door shut, but it was still such a distraction for Gretchen that she began playing solitaire with an actual deck of cards, something she'd begun at the cabin on her last visit only a couple days ago. [It turned out, though, that she was playing solitaire wrong and there was no possible way for her to win the way she was playing it.]
As I was doing my tiling, I discovered my small wetvac had stopped working, something that seemed to be related to the switch, as that had seemed flaky for one operation before it died completely. So after I was done tiling, I took it apart and found the switch was indeed bad. But the Sol-Ark inverter killed the household power as I was heating a soldering iron to simply bypass the switch, though I could still have power by simply turning on the generator.
Wondering why it was that our Sol-Ark generator wasn't turning on the generator by itself, I thumbed through the spiral-bound manual until I found a wiring diagram that clearly showed where on the Sol-Ark the generator's two-wire start wires are supposed to be connected. (I of course knew all about two-wire generator starts from having set up a simple thermostat to turn on the generator whenever the cabin gets too cold.) So I went down to the Sol-Ark to look at it and, surprise surprise, there was nothing wired to its two-wire generator start connector. Mind you, the solar installation guys had told us that our generator would be starting automatically should the battery level fall too low, and one those chuckleheads had supposedly once worked for Generac. They should've known all about how to implement this stuff. But no, it fell to me to implement it. As I often do professionally, I'd approached the subject matter with a great deal of initial ignorance supplemented by the simple ability to execute a Google search (and, in this case, thumb through a manual to find the relevant information). It was a stark reminder of the level of incompetence pervasive (and accepted) in technical fields. Here was a solar installer who'd sold us an off-grid solution. But not only didn't they know how to implement it, they couldn't be bothered to do the small amount of research necessary to fill in for their ignorance. As for their former Generac employee, I'm now confident that in previous job he'd never learned anything about two-wire generator start circuitry, and so he didn't even know it was something that was an important part of our setup. In fairness to the solar installers, they had told us (long after we'd signed the contract) that they didn't have much (or perhaps any) experience with off-grid setups. But that should've made them learn this stuff instead of just relying on the power of prayer. Last week I'd even made things easy for the installers by highlighting the paragraph in the spiral-bound manual where it mentioned the two-wire connection, but that was all for naught.
I often have imposter syndrome in my line of work, but this experience with real imposters is giving me the opposite syndrome, which I don't think even has a name. But this raises another question: what would've happened had I not been the customer, one with ability to ride in like a hero to pull them out of the fire? I probably saved them thousands of dollars in chuckleheaded housecalls. According to Gretchen, this particular solar installation company is pretty much the only provider of such services in the Adirondacks. Perhaps the underlying problem is a lack of competition.
Normally I take mild drugs and drink alcohol at the cabin, but today I'd done neither. I owed my body such a day, as I'd had a mild hangover one day last week.
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