“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.” — Martin Vanbee
This little story came to mind today as I found myself, for the second time in two days, the lucky beneficiary of someone else’s experience.
A small village had a system of plumbing pipes that had, for many decades, been maintained by one man. Yacov had spent his years in the central control room learning the intricacies of the pipes and keeping the system running smoothly.
As is often the case, new technologies come along that interfere with the old ways.
One day the village elders came to Yacov’s house to inform him that they had decided to install a new, computerized system to run the town’s pipes. His services were no longer needed. Yacov smiled at them, accepted their decree and went back into his home to brew a pot of tea and enjoy the view of his garden.
Several days after the new system had been brought online the plumbing in the town failed. None of the technicians could figure out what was wrong. Nobody knew what to do. After a few days of listening to the townspeople’s complaints, the elders gathered at Yacov’s front door and begged him to please come fix the pipes.
With a small smile on his face and a glint of something in his eye, Yacov agreed.
Back in the control room the elders stood in silence watching Yacov as he stood very still for many minutes. He looked. He listened. Then he took a wrench in his hand walked over to a junction and tapped twice on the overhead pipe. Lo and behold! the system began to run again.
Later that day the village elders received a bill from Yacov charging them $2000.12 for his services. Outraged, they once again assembled at Yacov’s front door, this time shouting at him and asking how dare he charge them this enormous amount when all he did was to tap a couple of times on a pipe!
Yacov’s smile was wider than the village square as he said to them, “The 12 cents is for the tapping. The $2000.00 is for knowing where to tap!”