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So, When Did You Become Such An Expert?

May 26, 2020

Elder, what language were they speaking?

That’s Dutch, Elder.

That don’t sound anything like what they taught us in the MTC. Elder do you think I’ll ever be able to speak like that?

Sure you will. One day, someone will come up and ask you a quesiton and you’ll answer him without even thinking.
– “The Best Two Years”

No one sets out to become an expert. Oh, maybe in a few things. My daughter is a 2Lt in the Army. She has gained the rating of Expert Marksman on the rifle range. But, for most people, they don’t set out to become an expert. Most of the time, we just want to be good enough to get along.

I’ve become an expert in a few things in my life. Mostly by accident, or simply working on improving everyday.

The quote above is from a movie about Mormon missionaries in Holland. I was a Mormon missionary in Chicago. I was working with deaf people. I practiced daily for months and months. By the time my two years was over, I was a fluent as any deaf person. To compare to a spoken language, I signed like a native.

My first “real” job was working for WordPerfect Corporation supporting their email product. In a poor naming decision it was called WordPerfect Office. I worked there for years. I got pretty good. I remember one day on the phones a person asked me a question. I didn’t know the answer. I thought of who I might ask. The programmers didn’t understand as well as I did, how the customers were using the product. The same went for testers. I was the most experienced person on my team. I suddenly came to the realization that there was literally no one in the world who could answer that question. If I didn’t know the answer, no one did.

I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer to that.

Oh, that’s okay. I was just curious.

I had become an expert without realizing it.

Over the weekend we went to visit my daughter’s ranch in Southern Utah on Saturday and Sunday. My younger daughter went down on Friday. She called me and told me her car broke down just outside the gate to the ranch. She explained the problem and I packed some tools to take down with me. My son and I talked about it on the two hour trip there.

Well, she said that it just quit while she was driving. It’s most likely the alternator.

My son-in-law called me while we were on our way.

Yeah, it looks like the pulley totally came off the alternator. The belts are pretty chewed up.

We bought a new alternator and new belts. Then, on Saturday, as my lovely wife, kids and grandchildren went off to enjoy the obsidian beds and the nearby lava tubes, my son-in-law and I replaced the alternator.

Today another son asked me to come “listen to my car.” It was making a weird rattle noise when he accelerated above 30 MPH. I noticed it right away. It was centered around the right front wheel.

It’s either a broekn belt in the tire, or possibly a bent rim.

Well, I did hit a pothole pretty hard.

It could also be that you dropped one of the weights they use to balance your tire.

So, you don’t think it’s an engine problem?

No. Definitely not an engine problem.

Later he took it to the tire dealership where he bought his tires. They ran it through a series of tests. He told me what they found.

They said my tie rods need to be replaced, but that wasn’t creating the rattle. They think the rim might be bent. They attached some weights to try to balance it out.

I realized then that twice in two days, I’d correctly diagnosed a car issue without even really thinking about it. I had become Elder Calhoon from “The Best Two Years.” At the end of the film a man comes up and asks him directions for the train. He answers him without thinking.

He’d become an expert.

When did it happen?

While he was working on figuring out how to get by.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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