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I have a few thoughts about change and wanted to share them with you. First, let’s talk about how and what you do to stay ahead with technology today. Recently, I had a contractor in my area call me because he was in a bind with a radiant job. The mod con boiler he had installed was misbehaving. I offered to put a second set of eyes on the “problem child.”
I arrived with an analyzer, gas pressure gauges, temperature and voltage meters … all my hand tools basically. Low fill pressure was preventing the boiler from even attempting to light off. We did manage to fire it long enough to get the combustion analyzed. The LP pressure was spot on, and I was feeling good about it. After several minutes of smooth running, the control would lock out on high limit. The display would indicate the temperature had reached the limit temperature, but the pipes and entire boiler, were barely 100 degrees. I could wrap my hands around the entire fire tube heat exchanger. It was connected to a new, cold radiant slab, and it had plenty of load and flow to handle it. It appeared to be a sensor error. We tried all the connectors, the usual suspects, to no avail.
I will admit to not knowing much about the control on the boiler. We used factory defaults to get it running. It made me realize an installer really needs to be trained specifically for each boiler and control they are installing. Reading the extensive control manual in front of a cold, unhappy customer is not a practice I recommend. I suggested my friend take the time to read through the documents and understand them, or find someone locally who had factory training on this equipment. Armed with the information and readings we acquired, we tried calling tech support. However, this proved impossible as it was a Saturday.
I have a brand of boiler that I am partial to, and it also has a powerful control with almost unlimited potential. By default, I have been able to sit through several factory trainings that happened to coincide with training events that I was involved in. I actually got paid to learn this product and control.
It makes me wonder how many contractors make the time to get specific product training, from the local rep or the manufacturer? How many different brands of training would one need to install and service all the brands and models out there? Is it even possible to know them all, especially with rapidly advancing controls and ever-evolving products? Back in the day, a troubleshooter could work on almost any brand of standing pilot boiler or furnace with one basic class on controls. They all looked and worked about the same; each have the same components: transformer, safety string and gas valve.
Even with lots of experience and training, you have to stay up on this fast-moving industry. Otherwise, you risk being left behind, or at least wasting a lot of time.
This lesson applies to how we communicate these days, too. I admit to having some challenges. I try every day to keep up with all the forms of communication available. Certainly, I’ve mastered the phone pretty well, the land line version at least. Although I still have a batch of old voicemail messages I swear I’ve deleted a few different times. I have just enough smarts to do basic functions on my sometimes-smarter-than-me phone. While traveling through airports, I make a point to learn a new trick or two on the iPhone or download a new app. All my FaceTime contacts have been “butt-dialed” without my knowledge. How is that even possible? Even the term “butt-dial” is hauntingly recent.
But all these different ways and vehicles to communicate with can be intimidating. I can hunt and peck a text, plain and to the point, nothing fancy, and typically emoji-free. With email, I get a passing grade. With Facebook, I’m sketchy. I apologize if I am ignoring someone out there, and plead lack of knowledge and practice, so I deserve a C- for Facebook. I do have a LinkedIn account and have accepted probably 10,000 requests to connect, from across the globe. Alas, another form of communication that I would take a C- on.
My company recently opened an Instagram account. I’m a solid novice (or lower!) to the point of not even having an account. I do like Pinterest, have an account, and scroll through to relax and look at clever crafts and fun things. Pinterest doesn’t harass me like Facebook tends to when I’m not participating enough.
I have acquired what I feel is a passing grade (or slightly above!) for GoToMeeting. I’ve survived about 100 of these presentations as the talking head and content developer. I do appreciate the premise of reaching several hundred attendees whenever and wherever I can get a connection. I presented once from a rest stop in Nebraska several years ago, although, admittedly, it was a bit choppy. I even pulled one off from a hotel room in near Meridian, Mississippi, with a live camera feed. All while the housekeeper was knocking every 10 minutes. (You won’t tell, will you?)
I have enough passwords to choke a horse, two pages worth if one were to dare type them out. I haven’t gotten around to that yet, and I just scribble the code letters and digits on a battered sheet of paper, in increasingly smaller script. I even have a password to access my passwords on the phone!
I love my various Sirius radio settings, in the shop and in my vehicles. It’s a one-way, almost limitless, communication platform, but I do talk back. Are they hearing me, or seeing me, like my microwave has been accused of? On Sirius, you can find and choose whatever suits you throughout the day. Great for the nine-hour drive to Milwaukee.
Interestingly, I just watched Sir Elton John perform on “The Tonight Show” before I started hunt-and-pecking out this story. The songs and stories he shared took me back to exactly where I was and what I was doing in those years. What vehicle I was driving. A 1970 Jeep CJ-5. A sort of longing for simpler times and lifestyles overcame me. If I wanted to talk to someone, I drove over to their house, or called them from a rotary phone. If they weren’t home, well, the conversation would just … wait.
Elton performed two classics, the second being “I’m Still Standing.” I suppose that is where I feel I am with today’s technology — software and hardware, equipment and communication tools and even story-topping social media sites. It’s going to take lots of training to keep up. And a bit of humor and understanding when we find ourselves buried under it all.