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The Gasket Lesson

A simple incident, but it pointed to several pitfalls in thought. Reminded me once again of the adage – “Assumption is the mother of all fuck ups”.

I set out today morning to buy gasket for our Hawkins pressure cooker. My wife told me that the cooker capacity is 3 – 3.5 liters. She asked me to carry the cooker lid so that I could verify. At the shop I found gaskets suitable for 2 – 4 liter capacity. So did not bother to check the gasket by fitting on the lid. On top of that I bought 2 gaskets – just in case we needed a replacement in the future.

Came back home and found that the gasket did not fit. Checked the cooker and found that the capacity is 5 liters. Got irritated. Left the 2 gaskets already purchased at home and returned to the shop to buy new gaskets. At the shop, they offered the new gaskets in exchange for the ones previously bought; I need to pay only the differential cost. But bloody hell, I was not carrying them!

What went wrong?

No.1 : Assumed that the capacity is 3 – 3.5 liters. Did not check.
No.2: Assumed that there is no need to check now that I had gaskets in 2 – 4 liters range.
No.3: Assumed that the shop would not accept return of the old gaskets.
No.4: Assumed that I would need extra gaskets for future whereas the gasket had failed after 10 years.

This tyranny of assumptions or wrong conclusions without a basis of fact pervades life. Why? Why this reluctance to verify even when it takes little effort.

I prided myself for being scientific spirited. But this incident busted that myth. It requires constant vigil to overcome this propensity for assumptions. It needs will to verify fact before jumping in. To make this a matter of habit requires considerable effort.

However, to me it seems prudent to doubt our own assumptions and seek a sound basis for them. It is imperative to question ourselves before proceeding with judgments. I believe it is worth the trouble.

I doubt if as a society we are tolerant towards the doubting Thomas-es. We like the fruits of their skepticism. But as a rule, they are a despised lot.

Categories: Musings
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