Preparation can only take you so far…

I inherited a 1972 Singer Touch ‘n Sew II from my grandmother. This thing is a tank. I used it for my graduate thesis, and it gave up the fight shortly before my final review. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but the failure involved pieces of flying plastic and small puffs of acrid smoke. I finished the work with a borrowed machine from a friend, and the Singer sat in a closet, awaiting some service love.

Shortly before IIDA’s 2009 Prêt a Porter, I had the machine serviced with the hopes of getting a material that might require its’ services. Adjustment to the timing and a few small replacement parts rendered it good as new. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that helpful with floor vinyl; we ended up winning “Best of Hard Surface” with Forbo that year.

Upon moving to a new apartment, my new sofa was in desperate need of some new pillows. Severly overpriced items at several stores stirred my healthy refusal to pay retail for something I can easily make myself. With a few inserts from Crate and Barrel and some yardage of a few great Knoll fabrics, I was ready to rock. My partner and I had finished three of the four covers, and with about 12” of a finish seam left on number four, I hit the head of a straight pin at the seamster’s equivalent of about 67 mph. I had neglected to remove it from a seam we had worked on about an hour earlier. The final cover sits unfinished, and the Singer is again awaiting service.

I share this story because we have all been there, and it’s never the last time. Even the best laid plans can’t save us from the series of cataclysmic events that result from an 11th hour fire. As a general rule of thumb, if you think a rendering will take 3 hours, it is probably closer to three days. Computers will literally catch fire at the most inopportune moment (yes, this DID happen to a friend of mine in grad school), and if the print shop isn’t closed, you better believe that the plotter you need to use is out of ink.

Prepare to the best of your abilities, and do your level best to keep a handle on everything that is under your control. When you show up for your interview, focus on the great work you have to show without apologizing for the other great work that is currently jamming the printer. Look great in the shirt that you wore, even though the one you wanted to wear fell victim to the flames of the iron from hell. And don’t worry about that pimple the size of a doorknob that showed up in the middle of your forehead overnight. I promise you, your interviewer would rather look at your drawings.

In closing, always be sure to leave a little extra time, have a little extra money and a truck-load of extra patience. Just remember, it happens to everyone. What elevates you above the rest is how you respond to the inevitable train wreck. In the words of Quentin Crisp, “You should treat all disasters as if they were trivialities but never treat a triviality as if it were a disaster.”

4 thoughts on “Preparation can only take you so far…

    • Well, that’s a rather open ended statement, so I will ask you a few questions. What point is it you don’t get? Are you missing the point of the article, the point of the Emerging Professionals Blog, or the point of your involvement in the profession altogether? The substance of the complete dialog can never be better than the substance of its’ constituent voices. Help me help you get the point by being a little clearer about what it is you don’t understand.

  1. I took an introductory architecture class long ago and learned a very important lesson; “You will never please everyone.” It still applies daily. While I respect your opinion, I think you may have missed the point. While having difficulty finishing a personal project, I was reminded that the semester was coming to an end and others might be in a similar position. There is never enough time to finish everything you need to get done before “pencils down.” If you have never been in that position, then you have played it far too safe. As contributors to this blog, our goal is to share our thoughts of the moment. Not everything will be applicable to you at any given moment. All I can do is share the thoughts that I have when it is my turn to write and enjoy the fact that some people find it relevant, humorous and timely.

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