A  neighbor of mine from my home town is now an engineer, and he tells of his exploits in constructing a front porch. We will call him “Greg” (since that is his name). Greg said that he was frustrated that one of the blocks didn’t fit correctly. Unfortunately, it was that last block in the layer on the perimeter of the porch. And, of course, the only logical engineering solution was, as Greg did, rip out the entire layer and start over again. Perhaps this gives a clue to why many engineers get slowed down on home projects. It has to be right. It just has to be.

The sad truth is that it never turns out perfect, and engineers know it. Greg said that for months after finishing his porch, he would walk toward his front door and shudder as he thought about all the mistakes in it – all the millimeters out of skew it was, all the fractions of a degree to which it wasn’t square. I know, that seems a little too emotional for an engineer, but if the engineer is going to have an emotional involvement, it only makes sense to encounter one, not from something unquantifiable like a wife, but from something that the engineer is truly attached to, such as a porch he just designed and built. Greg did say that after many months of non-engineers, such as his wife, telling him that the porch was wonderful and how it looked good and how great it was, he was finally able to be “OK” with the results. Did he feel better about it? That’s going too far. But at least he notices the flaws to lesser extent. Maybe the non-engineers in our lives do serve a function.