The Lore of the Drawer and the Door Frame

I am pleased to announce that the other day when I came home from my ambulance shift I actually performed an act of home improvement.

That’s right, I came home from work, saw a chronic problem that had been in need of repair for quite some time, and fixed it. I fixed it good too, using actual tools, all before I even took off my work uniform. You may all be assured that the door frame that had come loose from the wall is now quite well secured and the door is once again wholly functional.

It had been broken for years. The repair took me all of five minutes.

This door, right here.

You may be wondering why I’m so proud of this small act of home improvement. After all, it only took two small wood screws, five minutes of my time, and the gumption to finally get up and do it. You may also be wondering why it took me almost three years to complete the project, even when I walked by that particular broken door frame multiple times per day every day and knew that it was broken.

That’s cool if you’re wondering that, because I’m wondering the same thing. I can’t explain why I let the project fester for so long without repairing it. It’s something I really don’t have a good explanation for. However I do have a good reason for why I finally fixed it.

A few weeks ago we had another paramedic transfer to my station from the station across town. He’s not a new guy, he’s been working for the service for some years longer than I have. He had just been permanently stationed at the other station for a long time and save for the occasional shift swap or overtime shift, he hadn’t spent much time over in our neck of the woods.

We work 24 hour shifts and he’s on the shift that relieves me on two of my 3-day swings. As such, my partner and I see him and his partner a couple of days per week. One of those days we had been up for most of the night running calls before they came in to relieve us and I had slept in for an hour or so involuntarily. When I finally got up and out of bed, they were out in the bay checking the truck. I snagged a cup of coffee and went out to shoot the breeze with them for a while as my car was warming up in the parking lot.

Now this medic, heretofore referred to as “New Shane” because his name is Shane and is new to our station, had finished the truck check by the time I got out to the bay and was fiddling with the medication drawer we have in the back of our truck as we were chatting. He asked me “Hey, how long has this drawer been messed up?

This drawer, right here.

This drawer, right here.

“Oh that drawer?” I asked, dismissively. “It’s been like that for like, ever man. The guys on “C” shift tried to fix it a while back ago and I know that fleet maintenance has said they’ve looked at it like nineteen times but it apparently can’t be fixed.”

It’s a pretty well-known fact that I’m not the handy one at our station or at home. While I’m an Obsessive Ambulance Cleaner™ and I’m really good at checking the mechanicals on the ambulance, I’m not the one people call on to fix things usually and for good reason. Apparently New Shane is much handier than I am, because a few weeks later when I was checking the truck I opened that particular drawer to grab the defibrillator testing device and the drawer slid right open like magic.
He fixed it! That little guy actually took the drawer apart, reset the rails, fixed the stripped screw holes, and fixed the drawer problem that had been vexing us for years! I texted him with my amazement and he brushed it off like it wasn’t a big deal. However, he was wrong. It *was* a big deal. It is a very big deal. You see, being handy enough and taking the time to fix the drawer is one thing, but the really amazing thing is that he broke through the Lore of the Broken Drawer and took enough initiative to fix it.

We all have the Lore of the Broken Things in our personal and professional lives. Be it the doorframe in the hallway that I’ve always had a million reasons why I couldn’t fix, or the drawer in the ambulance that maintenance and the guys from the other shift have tried and failed to fix those times we reported it. Those broken things are the things that we’ve learned to accept as being broken and unable to be fixed for so long that they become the things that we believe have just always been that way and probably always will be that way. We accept these broken things as symbols of other problems. The drawer, for instance, was unable to be fixed because our maintenance shop really doesn’t care about our ambulances, especially this time of year when they’re busy with keeping the snow plows on the road and the doorframe in my house wasn’t able to be fixed because it was just going to become this huge involved project that I’ll get to when I have the time but can’t do right now because I just have so much stuff to do and can’t add one more thing on right now, ok?

We can make our own lore about broken things, like I did with the door frame in my house, and we can have lore that develops and affects entire groups like the broken drawer did with all of the guys at my ambulance station. The problems that create the lore can be big or small but all of them tend to become inflated and magnified over time as they annoy us more and more and we keep coming up with new explanations as to why nothing ever gets fixed around here.

And sometimes all it takes is someone with a new perspective to come in, take some initiative, either choose to ignore or not know about the lore saying why something can’t be fixed, and fix the problem like it ain’t even a thing.

Like New Shane did. In one shift. Over about 20 minutes. With a screwdriver…

And when I realized what New Shane had done about fixing the drawer, it inspired me to head home that very next day and fix that stupid door frame. Just like that. New Shane broke through the lore of the unsolvable problem and that one simple act inspired more change.

Imagine if we all looked at our unsolvable problems through the eyes of the New Shanes of the world? How many of these long-term Bigger-Than-They-Should-Be problems could we just solve with a few minutes of a new perspective, some thought, a bit of gumption, and a little time?

Be like New Shane. Go fix something and inspire others. You never know what might be accomplished once you ignore the lore. The problems really aren’t as big as you imagine them to be.