Is it rational to hate a piece of metal?
Ive got to put this puzzle down. Ive had it for months and
while Im no closer to solving it, I have considered using the jigsaw
down in the garage to cut the sucker open.
Puzzles are one of my secret addictions, although like most secret
addictions, it is hardly secret from my family and friends. When one
of my friends get mad at me, it is a simple enough revenge to buy me a new
puzzle because I was thinking of you. You might think theyd
take the answer sheet out of the box, but they know I wont peek.
A puzzle solved by looking at the answer is the most unsatisfying victory
I know. So they leave the answer in the box to torture me, because I
know its there and I wont let myself use it.
Have you seen this one? my friend Glenn said to me the last time we
got together. He had left the puzzle out on his desk, I know he did,
just waiting for me to ask what it was. He held the simple metal
structure in his hand. Then, making sure I could see everything
clearly, he slowly took the puzzle apart. Easy.
As I stare at the unsolved puzzle on my desk, I wonder what I did to piss
Glenn off so bad.
I have to say that as far as addictions go, I could have picked much
worse. Some addictions drain all your money. Some permanently
change your personality. Some completely destroy your life.
One nice thing about puzzles is that the high from a fifteen dollar puzzle
can last for weeks. In the meantime, I get to hone my analytic
skills, skills which are useful, say, when tax season comes around.
And as for destroying my life, well, I would have to say that my quality
of life has actually improved because of my addiction.
Case in point: my son Skylar is just on the verge of walking, which means
he can get anywhere in the house. Already he can drag the kitchen
step stool over to the counter and climb up on the stove. He is
capable of knocking books and precious knick-knacks down from the fourth
shelf. And he is clever. The child-proof cabinet locks slow me
down more than they do him. He understands how to unplug the vacuum.
And he is able to pop open every compartment on my computer printer.
The world is like a giant puzzle to Skylar. He looks at a problem,
like figuring out where the paper that spits out the front of the printer
comes from, as a delicious and mission-critical challenge. And this
is where my addiction comes into play. Puzzles. I understand
puzzles. With my printer, for example, theres nothing like a few rubber
bands to increase the challenge of opening up the paper bin to Master
At first whenever I change something, Skylar gets upset and frustrated.
The paper bin doesnt open anymore and he cant toss paper everywhere.
So he crawls away to do something else. But I can see him looking
back at that printer, oblivious to whatever he is currently sucking on.
His brain is working on the problem. And whenever Im not looking
he relentlessly crawls over to the printer and takes another stab at it.
He has become obsessed with the challenge.
One of the greatest challenges for me as a puzzle addict is in not helping
my son. I understand the secrets to puzzles like opening the
dishwasher or unlocking the china cabinet. But watching him
struggle, like with the rubber bands on the printer, makes it so hard to
sat back and not just show him how to do it. I know Im one who
put the rubber bands on in the first place, but I do so want my son to
But I also know that showing Skylar how to solve every problem he faces
will eventually cost him dearly. For life isnt about knowing the
secret to a particular puzzle. Anyone can be taught a puzzles
secret. No, life is about the solving, about facing a challenge I
dont know the answer to and sticking to it until I figure it out.
If I give Skylar all the answers, then hell be good at learning answers
and repeating them. But what happens the day he encounters a puzzle
hes never seen before and theres no one there to give him the
I suspect you expect this story to end with Skylar solving the puzzle that
has me stumped. Certainly hes tried to get at it, to give it a
crack himself, but I dont want his help. Sometimes solving a puzzle
with another person is enjoyable, but this puzzle has become personal.
I cant bear it any longer. I pick up the frustrating but
irresistible chunk of metal and give it another try.