The Previous Owner

It seems universal that everyone complains about what the previous owner did.  In forums you see it posted as the “PO”, abbreviated because it is used so often that everyone knows what it is.  You also see “SPO” for “stupid previous owner”.

It occurs to me that this is sort of like complaining about how stupid tourists are, we all assume that when we are the tourist that our questions are intelligent and that we aren’t taking up space that the locals would prefer was left as open air.  At some point we all become the stupid previous owner.  I know that when I was restoring Leda that I made some jokes about the stuff that had been done to Leda ahead of me.  Most of them unkind.  I know that should anyone follow in my footsteps that there will be stuff that they wonder about.  Most likely when I am referred to it will be the “SFPO”.

It isn’t because I use a lot of crappy band aid solutions.  It is because the task becomes large enough that there is no possible way for a single person to complete it in their lifetime.  Couple that with the stuff you do that is well intended, maybe even well researched, that just doesn’t work the way you had hoped.  Or more likely didn’t have the longevity you had desired.  Somebody is going to find something you did and wonder why you thought it was a good idea.  The best I can offer is that I always try to do a job as though I am going to be the guy fixing it the next time around.  And still sometimes I fail.  When I do become that guy who is fixing the stuff I did before, I wonder why I did it the way I did.  Trying to make things permanent often just makes it worse.

But that isn’t what I came here to talk about today.  I came to talk about generational responsibility.  I was a young teen when the youth movement of the 60s became the youth movement of the 70s.  We blamed the older generation for a lot of stuff.  You know, the “greatest generation”, who had fought and endured the Second World War and then came home to build huge economies and better lives.  They raised kids who were the best educated generation the world had ever seen.  And we turned on them.  They were for the most part not pleased.

Well the Baby-Boomers had their chance to change the world.  We fought for civil rights.  We fought for women’s rights.  It seemed we were on the right course.  We also decried the greed of corporatism and got involved in protecting the environment.  Then in a few short years we took that good education and we got good jobs and became exactly everything we told the previous generation we hated them for.  Only we were worse.  We had greater numbers, and we knew everything.  By the time that Ronald Reagan was in his second term Baby-Boomers had hit their peak earning years.  The mottos “Greed is good” and “He who dies with the most toys wins” were deeply entrenched in the culture.  Storage units sprang up across the land so that we could store all the crap we bought.   If you are a Baby-Boomer reading this and it pisses you off, good!  It’s true.  We bought BMWs and big houses and raised kids that can’t be let outside to play.  

And now those kids are the ones who are trying to change things and will be talking about the “stupid previous owners”.  Frankly, we deserve it.  But then it will become their turn.  They will be taking apart some equipment on their boat and find massive corrosion from dissimilar metals used to make the contraption and wonder how anyone could have been so stupid as to not use the right materials.  They will discover that the reason the refer never worked right was because the insulation in the bulkhead was missing, or the wire was undersized.  Or maybe they will blow an oil line they thought would last forever because it was rated to 4000 PSI.  They will find this and know that the knowledge of how to do it right was available and wonder how it got missed.  They will know that the mess could have been avoided if one had paid closer attention.   And they will know that they are the ones who did the work and marvel at how it could possibly be. 

I think about my policy of doing projects on the boat as though I will be the next guy to have to work on it.  I wonder if I have behaved the same with my generational responsibility.  Have we?