Sunday, March 27, 2011

Being Efficient

I installed a new DVD player, and much to my surprise it worked. This was not a hard task: the plugs were colour coded, (although there were too many), and I ignored the instructions about "if your system is..., then do this ...; but if it is...then do that.... "

But, I certainly didn't expect it to work, and the thought, "You are not incompetent" leapt (leaped?) into my mind when it all operated perfectly. This astonished me, because although I bewail the contemporary complexity of technology, I have never thought of myself as incompetent, and if I search back through my treasured Pandora's box of ancient accusations and insults, I can't find an apt one. I can only assume that it was a judgement I took upon myself as a youngest, who, by position, can do most things slower, more fumblingly and clumsily than everyone else in the family.

But it made me consider how differently I would have lived my life if I had thought of myself as competent and efficient. For a start, in my married life I would have cleared out all my mother in law's detritus from the many cupboards. This means I would have tossed out curiosities like a small box of penants printed with tributes to QE2 on her visit here in 1954 - (Our Radiant Queen) ; dull books which turn out to be old diaries; the bill for a sister in law's wedding in 1952 at the Savoy in London: "Couverts" - what is that? - @15/6: 77 pounds 10 shillings. etc. They drank a lot more whisky than gin; plus 70 bottles of Freminet for 122 pounds 10 shillings.
What difference would it have made if I hadn't kept them? None at all that I can see. They are of slight interest to some people, and none at all to others.

One of my sister's in law is a most efficient woman. She had most of the family's written records in her keeping and when she left here she efficiently cleared them all out and burned them.

None of these things actually matter, as far as I can see. (see Leonard Woolf).

Although I had not thought of myself as incompetent, I certainly didn't think of myself as efficient. That I had never cleared everything out, after living here for 40 years, did seem, from time to time, a cause for a little self-reproach. Then I read that a letter from J M Barrie to one of his "boys" , written in 1927, had been recently found at the back of a drawer, and was reminded of that wonderful truth that there is always someone who has done a worse job than you.

In which vein, I always recall during my third year at S Univ, where I was inattentive, missed lectures, harrowed myself with my own shortcomings, and was therefore totally chuffed by Bruce Beresford, entirely without self consciousness asking me the times, days and sites of the Anthropology lectures in Michaelmas Term, 5 or 6 weeks before final exams.

I don't know whether he passed or failed, but I would think that this made little difference to his future as a film director.


persiflage said...

Competence is a quality extremely dependent on the situation, the necessity of the task, the desirability of that desired to be achieved, and the availability of help.
I have never wanted to learn how to change the tyres of a car, but I can manage to write simple instructions for myself and others about the use of computers, emails and TVs. It saves having to remember how to do such things, or understanding how and why things work.
As of today, I am now competent in the insertion of caps into toy pistols.
Eventually it is possible to opt for areas of competence.

R.H. said...

You're funny. Quite a character.

Frances said...

Hello Persiflage,
Although we are constantly reminded - chided? - of those who have never known a life without the web let alone computers, gloriously, skills such as inserting caps into toy pistols still not only matter but evoke overwhelming admiration in some whom we may value most.
Lovely to see you here, Persiflage.
I have a concern on your behalf, in that I cannot tolerate an open loophole, which I believe you may have left. But, I'm a wimp, so this may be nonsense.

Frances said...

Thanks for responding, R.H.
Actually, I see myself as more-or-less rational, rather than funny.

R.H. said...

Whatever you like.

You're distinctive, I'll say that.