Kids↹Leisure Reading / TV

A Bit ‘O Percussive Maintenance

April 18, 2017
A Bit 'O Percussive Maintenance

I have followed many sitcoms and many movies of all genres over the years. I can memorize essential dialogues and related subplots and apparent resolutions during second viewings, which has also inspired my skill at recognizing production techniques and identifying tropes and the like. My brain became accustomed to pulling apart film, à la literary analysis style, during my collegiate days spent as an enthusiastic English major and subsequent master’s thesis composer, followed by a decade of teaching “the stuff.” I love mulling over why certain characters exist in particular spaces and respond in specific ways in certain circumstances.

It’s just like real life.

Because my mind is accidentally filled with as much cinematic technique as it can hold, I often imagine my daily movement through life to be that created by a screenwriter for a serial dramady or telefilm series. Oftentimes, I find that the hubs, the kiddies, and I greatly resemble the kooky, unstable stability commonplace in family comedies.

We’re laughable archetypes sometimes. We have some spicy moments, some tearjerkers, some completely animated milestones. There are junctures when a laugh track would be authentic and stages when a sad instrumental could warn of worry or trouble.

Of course, there’s always so much unconditional love underneath the layers of scenario.

Here’s an example scene. Mom is awakened by a young, energetic toddler and shows her disinterest in his toy plane by squinting against the sudden sunlight, one eye closed, the other opened about 15%. Dad rolls over with a groan, but does sneak a small lippy grin at his son. The baby concocts a yelp from her crib in the next room to alert anyone listening that she is awake and ready to be freed. Mom casually glances at her bedside clock, then looks up at the camera. “We overslept,” she announces, throwing the comforter aside in a rush.

Cue speedy “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

Most of the time, occasions of existence for me and my family are smoothly rowing along in the symbolic boat down the stream, and the stream is serene and static and sunny. However, an advancing motion usually brings one to a rougher set of fortunes where the stream gets a bit unpleasant due to an upcoming waterfall. That’s inevitability. That’s generally unwelcomed conflict in our plotlines. But it’s okay.

It’s when the universe kicks up a bit ‘o percussive maintenance on us.

“Percussive maintenance” is the conduct of instituting a well-placed twack, bang, or slap to technology or machinery that has seemingly malfunctioned in some manner after an undetermined amount of time attempting to get it to work the “regular” way. Hitting the side of said malfunctionary gives us the illusion that we can force the equipment to operate correctly again by kicking whatever is loose back into place.

This act is a common television truism. It may have some origination from the 1970’s show Happy Days, when the Fonz, one of the more popular characters, could be commonly seen pounding atop a jukebox to get it to function.

In a Popular Science article, writer Daniel Engber answers the question, “Can you fix a machine by smacking it?” with the specific answer, “Maybe for a while.” He says, “A good smack can temporarily fix an intermittent connection, but it’s risky. . .The same approach is used in emergency medicine, too. When paramedics apply the ‘precordial thump’ to the chest of a person in cardiac arrest, they’re not unlike old-school repairmen, smacking the heart to start it up. . .That’s why ‘percussive maintenance’ is best left to professionals.”

Additionally, according to writer Justin Gammill, “No matter what you call kinetic forms of re-adjustment, there is actually a scientific reason that [percussive maintenance] works. According to Mack Blakely, executive director of the National Electronics Service Dealers Association: “In the old days, devices had a lot of mechanical stuff in ’em, and you could jar something back in place.” Blakely, who has been an electrical engineer for almost 50 years, explains that when it comes to electronics, “A solder connection might reconnect, but it probably wouldn’t be long before it would be acting up again. A few well-placed taps may identify a weak connection on a printed circuit board.

When I was a kid, slapping the side of my 19″ television would temporarily clear a fuzzy picture and blowing into Nintendo cartridges cleared out the invisible “dust” that kept them from connecting properly to the console. It wasn’t long before they sat in error again, but “fixing them” made 8-year-old me feel fueled.

In our life’s sitcom, we move along spritely, but proceed through tunnels, some darker than others. Because we cannot always see where we are going, we fall into a muck or a trench. Then it’s a good idea to ask for help.

The universe taps at us, gently or harshly, to get us back into the correct position, straightened out on our life paths, much in the way a television viewer hits the side of a blurry screen in frustration. The universe, therefore, applies a bit ‘o percussive maintenance to realign our purposes and to kickstart our motivation repeatedly through challenge. We should not stay in turbulent times; there will be more again soon.

It’s okay. We must appreciate the good and thrive from the posterior knock from the universe in the bad. The show must go on.

Cue studio audience applause.

Works Cited

Engber, Daniel. “Can You Fix a Machine By Smacking It?Popular Science, Nov. 13, 2014, Accessed Apr. 17, 2017.

Gammill, Justin. “Why Hitting Broken Electronics Can Make Them Work: The Science Behind ‘Percussive Maintenance.’I Heart Intelligence, May 16, 2015, Accessed Apr. 17, 2017.

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