Nov 12 2012
Fluffy just finished one of his little household projects this week, and the ending reminded us that sometimes great things are discovered through a combination of hard work and accidents.
We have a portico that covers our front porch, and that portico is the bane of Fluffy’s existence. Because it is flat on top, water tends to just stay there and not run off after the rain. After we had lived in this house for several years, we noticed that the plaster and paint had started peeling off the underside of the portico, and water dripped down through it when it rained. A couple of home repair companies confirmed that the structure was rotten and would need to be replaced. So we got several estimates, and finally got it replaced for a reasonable price. That was about five years ago.
Things went fine until early this year, when we noticed the peeling and dripping had started again. Before the damage got beyond repair, Fluffy pulled out the ladder and climbed onto the top of the portico to survey the damage. He discovered that the large asphalt sheets that covered the portico had started to wear through, so that the rain could get through them. Fortunately, the company who rebuilt the structure five years ago had given us the unused portion of the asphalt sheeting roll, and there was enough left that we could place a new layer of sheeting on top of the old one.
A trip to the local Lowe’s produced a gallon of roofing tar, some roofing nails, silicone sealer, and other things needed to finish the job. As the new sheets were being installed, Fluffy came to the conclusion that he would never like being tarred and feathered. No matter how hard he tried to be meticulous, excess tar got everywhere and it was difficult to remove. On one of his trips into the house, he mentioned this to me, and I volunteered to do some online searching to see if Google could provide any tips of removing tar. He had already tried soap and water, and the pathetic results showed him that he would either have to skip church the next day, or wear a long-sleeve shirt and a pair of gloves and make up some story about having an infectious skin rash.
My research indicated that many petroleum-based products would remove tar, but a common product that worked well and that most people would have was WD-40. When Fluffy came inside at the conclusion of his project, I yelled downstairs to him (I was in my upstairs office) that he should try WD-40. This caused him to laugh, which I thought was odd.
When he came upstairs to shower, and was miraculously tar-free, he told me why he was laughing. On his trip through the garage into the house, he had stopped and looked at the shelf of household products to see if there was anything that might remove tar. The only thing that looked promising was a can of WD-40, and his initial experiment showed him that it worked pretty well. So we had both come to the same conclusion, I through research and he through chance and circumstance.
I have always heard that the inventor of the ubiquitous yellow Post-It note came up with it by chance. An article in Wikipedia seems to confirm this. It took the poor inventor five years to convince his employers that there was a use for his weak adhesive that had been a failure from one of his experiments designed to find a super-strong adhesive.
I also found another web site that lists the Top 10 Accidental Inventions. Not only is the list interesting, but I liked this comment on the first page:
Louis Pasteur once said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” That’s the genius behind all these accidental inventions: The scientists were prepared. They did their science on the brink and were able to see the magic in a mistake, set-back, or coincidence.”
I have also found this to be the case. Often great things happen by chance, but we still need a basic foundation of knowledge and hard work before the miracle can appear. And I strongly believe that some of these “chance” occurrences really are based on heavenly inspiration even if that is not always apparent to the one receiving it. As someone once said, coincidences are those times when God wishes to remain anonymous.