4 Years Ago I Couldn’t Even Spell Engineer and Now I Are One

My granddaughter took a couple of online personality tests. One, she said, simply to determine what type of personality she has and the other to think a little bit about a career path.

She got engineer in the first.

She got engineer in the second.


“The fact that Boppa is an engineer actually made me think about it,” she said.

On this day named for Laborers on which we do no Work, I’ll talk about engineering. And what I do for work.

I’ve had vocations or avocations in a dozen different fields. From the time my folks bought a little 21′ plywood cabin cruiser, I wanted to be a belly button designer; I spent my time in high school laying out boats. Lots of boats.

Stevens recruited me with their naval architecture program and access to the renowned Davidson Lab towing tank and marine research facility. Once I got there, I found out that naval architecture was a graduate program that taught us how to lay buildings on their sides and make them float.

I.Am.Not.A.Civil.Engineer. I’ve never, ever wanted be a civil engineer. Heck, I’m just barely civilized. And I certainly didn’t want to design floating bridges to carry bulk ore (although a floating skyscraper presents some intriguing hurdles).

I am an engineer but … I founded and chair a regional arts council with a popular summer music series.

I am an engineer but … I taught swimming so I could get out of gym class in college.

I am an engineer but … I made beer cans. Millions of them.

I am an engineer but … I competed in SCCA National races (the National runoffs are back in California next month for the first time since Riverside in 1968) and built a couple of race cars.

I am an engineer but … I’ve painted pictures with words and told stories with photographs for decades. I write a weekly newspaper column. And this blog. And other stuff. My photography and digital art hangs around the United States.

I am an engineer but … I taught for Vermont Colleges.

I am an engineer but … I’ve run boats up to 65′ long offshore and along the Intracoastal Waterway.

I am an engineer but … I managed a movie theater.

I am an engineer but … I’m a pretty good cook, despite the fact that Rufus thinks I dirty too many dishes.

There is almost no job that doesn’t benefit from an engineering degree. I know teachers and priests and lawyers and doctors, a ChemEng who has been the Tech guy-in-charge for decades for Great Performances and for the Metropolitan Opera, and a (former) president of a South America country all of whom were graduated from Stevens. One of my roommates there is an electrical contractor. One handled international patents for Bell Labs. The third was a spook.

Back to belly button design.

Engineering is a ball if the math and science excites you and, even more than that, if you just can’t pass some gadget without need not only to know how it works but also how to make it better.

Maybe it shouldn’t be “I am an engineer but …” Maybe it should be “Because I am an engineer …”

Because I am an engineer… I’ve invented a faucet and a table saw table and so much more.

Because I am an engineer… I designed and built the machines that make the batteries in the forklift that transports the Amazon package that showed up on your door. I designed and built a stacker that built great piles of Playboys and TVGuides and best selling novels.

Because I am an engineer… I designed and built a 30′ family sportboat with a catamaran hull. Belly button design at its finest.

Being an engineer isn’t labor. Because I am an engineer, I’m able to do art, and build and run boats, and make beer cans, and manage the movies, and race cars, and teach swimming and computers, and write, and photograph and paint, and more. Because I am an engineer, I have fun.


4 thoughts on “4 Years Ago I Couldn’t Even Spell Engineer and Now I Are One

  1. Couple of clarifications:
    1. This year’s SCCA Runoffs will be at Laguna Seca in Monterrey CA, which is quite a way from Riverside. This may be a result of the fact that what was Riverside International Raceway is now the Moreno Valley Mall at Towngate, plus a housing development…. and that has been the status quo for quite a bit of time.
    2. You DEFINITELY dirty too many pots and pans when you cook. There is room to optimize your work process, Mr. Engineer.

  2. I’m not an engineer, I’m a builder and speaking of “fun”, building is the most fun one can have with their clothes on. I never worked a day in my life, I had fun…………………….

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