I walked into a local hardware store, with the following thought in my mind:

I need a 5mm metric hex key

And I wandered around aimlessly as I do in stores, almost bought some double sided tape for a different project (decided against it), and eventually made it to the place with all the sockets, hex keys, screwdrivers, etc.

Words that previously meant nothing to me (Torx, SAE, metric) made sense. Felt a little like the very first time I felt power learning to write code (the strongest memory is that of changing color of a button in VB6 with one line of code). What was noise before had meaning now.

I got myself a little folding metric key set with hex keys going from 1mm to 6mm - I knew I had some new windscreen clip-ons that needed a 4mm key, and am sure I’ll find a 6mm somewhere.

I pick up something that costs 13$, and looks ok. I look at a different brand, and decide I like that better because of the way it folds. “Hey, this means when I try to turn it, I’ll get better leverage!”. I actually know what that sentence means, and I choose one brand over another based on actual knowledge rather than a guess. If my programming experience is anything to go by, I’m completely wrong in ways I won’t even understand for a long time.

But I buy it, leave the store, and try using it for intended purpose on my motorcycle - to remove the bolts holding my bar end weights in. Earlier that week, I had stripped these by attempting to use a friend’s impact driver with a torx bit (it sort of fit, and I had no mental model about what I was doing!). The head stripped, and the thread stripped, and I took it to Performance Motorcycles in Berkeley who fixed it up for me (although the bolt itself did break and they had to put a new one in).

I had since beat myself up about not knowing enough about hardware to not strip the head, been comforted by a friend, realized that I had set weird standards for myself where somehow I must already know all of this having never put in any effort to learn, and then being delighted that ‘oh wait this is just another skillset I can pick up’. It will probably take years, but that’s ok!

Earlier that day, I had went back to the mechanic and asked him exactly what screw he had used for the bolt. He told me it was a 5mm hex, and I should use an exact one or I will strip.

I extend the 5mm key, and fit it in. It seems to be a perfect fit! I try twisting left, repeating internally to myself “Lefty loosy”. It doesn’t budge, and I’m slightly anxious. But I trust that it is not super likely to strip at this point - I’m not a very strong person, and this I fully believed was the correct size. So I put more energy into it.

AND THE BOLT TURNS! I FEEL ELATED! AMAZING JOY! It is a bit like seeing your code run for the first time, AND IT FEELS AWESOME!

So excited for this future :)