A Little Too Creative

Hello again. It’s been a while. Sorry I haven’t written.

I do have a small creativity-related anecdote to share, though. I have a really cool chair at work. It’s a mesh back chair with lumbar support and adjustable armrests. The armrests are the really cool feature, because not only is their height adjustable, the top of the armrest is formed to fit a forearm and can rotate inward or outward to allow good typing posture.

I love this chair. Until recently, I had one small problem with it, and I was determined to solve it, even at the expense of some of the chair’s functionality.

On the left side of the chair is a lever that moves about 1/2″ in and out. It allows the chair to lock into upright position or release into recline position. Unfortunately, the 1/2″ throw is too short, and occasionally the lever would work itself out and pitch me backward in the chair without warning.

I examined the lever and determined that there was some kind of pin inside the housing of the chair that kept the lever in its limited range of motion. Since I don’t have much of a need for the reclining position, I tried to figure out a way to hold the lever in place so it wouldn’t pitch me backward. After removing the base from the chair and taking apart the housing, sure enough, I found a pin on the shaft of the lever.

Thinking back to the section of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in which Persig’s character uses the metal from a beer can to create a shim for his motorcycle’s handlebars, I found a tin can in the break room trash. Then I borrowed some tin snips from one of the people in the warehouse and proceeded to cut a couple of strips from the can that I could wrap around the shaft of the lever between the pin and the housing, effectively holding the lever in the locked position. I wrapped one piece of tin around the shaft, and it fit almost perfectly. I felt pretty proud of myself for coming up with such an ingenious idea.

About that time, our safety director, who was visiting from another facility, walked in and asked what I was doing. I began to explain what the problem was, and how elegant my solution was. About halfway through the elegant part, he interrupted me and said, “Why don’t you just tighten up the spring so it doesn’t tip back as easily? Then you don’t have to make any modifications and you still have the full functionality of the chair.”

I guess sometimes it’s possible to be a little too creative.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

By: Robert Pirsig

Type: Philosophical Novel

Setting: The highways and backroads of the north central United States, as well as the cerebral roads of Mind and Memory


Pirsig takes us on a mental and physical journey into what makes up the realms of Quality and balance, whether those entities are definable (if they even need to be), and how to strive for them. Beautifully interlaced with the philosophical and metaphysical aspects of the story are scenes involving Pirsig and his son, Chris, which provide us with character sketches and the reminder that the people in the story are all too human, despite Pirsig’s lofty ideals. The sketches also serve to show us that being human isn’t all that bad. Keeping in mind that Chris was murdered outside a Buddhist temple many years after the book was written adds an eerie feeling to the exchanges between father and son, as well. 


Zen is the kind of book you can reread several times and still get something new out of it each time. It changes levels with you as you learn, and I suspect that is why it continues to be a classic book of modern light philosophy. It is not always easy to like Pirsig’s characterization of himself; some of the things he does and says are inconsistent, but the reason becomes apparent as the book progresses. The book leaves you with the feeling that you can’t tell how much of it it is based in truth and how much isn’t, but that’s not the point. The point is to teach people that they can accept responsibility for their actions and can learn how to keep their bodies and minds in good repair, just like a good motorcycle. Our Selves need maintenance just like our machines do, and Pirsig gives us a few wrenches to work with, as well as showing us what happens when we let ourselves slip out of balance. 


Though not for everyone, this book is ideal for young adults looking to find a path to follow after their college or high school lives are over. Zen is also useful for those of us who feel we have lost our sense of ourselves, those who thought we knew ourselves well only to find that we have a few surprises left.