When I was a child, my two brothers and I would hide out upstairs when our Dad started a new DIY project. Now Dad was an accomplished handyman – he constructed our garage, stripped down and rebuilt my Mum’s car and tiled the bathroom in my first flat – but these were always nervous times for us.
Dad would have planned everything meticulously so things would usually go smoothly at first, until he hit some unexpected turbulence. He’d find some faulty wiring hidden in an old wall; a previously reliable tool would let him down; an initial measurement turned out to be a millimetre or two out, throwing an entire job into jeopardy.
I never once heard the man swear, but when things went wrong we would hear him sighing loudly in confusion through the wall. Then the fateful, baneful cry would go up. ‘Gee whizz’, he’d say. ‘Gee whizz’, over and over, with increasing frustration. One of my brothers would pop his head nervously around my bedroom door. ‘Did you hear?’, he’d say. ‘Yes,’ I’d nod gravely. ‘It’s gee whizz time.’
‘Gee whizz time’ was a period of great tension, and the breeding ground for many an argument between my parents, so my brothers and I would wait out the storm in our rooms. And although we would still hear Dad muttering darkly to himself, left to his own devices he would almost always think of a way to solve the problem. He’d draft and redraft new plans on graph paper, he’d walk to the top of the garden to calm down or he’d improvise his way out of the situation, often in unconventional ways.
There’s no doubt he could have done without them, but the problems he had to overcome seemed to heighten the elation he felt when the job was done.
Challenges at work and at home can make me feel like I’m living through my own ‘gee whizz time’. But if you remain flexible and allow yourself time to stop and think, there’s usually a way.
(By the way my new Twitter handle is @GeeWhizzTime. I’m sure Dad would heartily disapprove.)