Garage Logic

Garage Logic

A recent issue of "Readers Digest" contained an article about the American garage as the spawning ground of many inventions we enjoy today.  In a garage Henry Ford built his first automobile, Buddy Holly and "The Crickets" practiced their first song, and Hewlett and Packard built their first computing machine.

What would happen if Hewlett and Packard had tried the same thing today?  Would they have violated some local ordinance about light commercial zoning?  Would Buddy Holly be cited for noise pollution?  Would Ford be fined because his garage was not engineered to handle the situation if his fledgling automobile leaked some fuel?  Having experienced problems because of excessive ordinances I can imagine what Ford would have run into today.  It might go something like this……

After deciding that the kitchen sink was too small a laboratory in which to develop his internal combustion engine, Ford begins clearing the coal out of the backyard coal shed.  He makes a pile next to the shed and begins work on his first automobile.  As he is constructing the frame of his invention there is a knock on the door of the coal shed.  A neatly dressed man introduces himself as a building safety inspector. 

"Excuse me Mr ….er um"

"Ford, Henry Ford" Ford says extending a soiled hand.

"Yes, ahh, Mr. Ford."

Says the neatly dressed man as he wipes his now soiled hand on his hanky.

"Do you know who put that coal there?"

"Why?  Is there a problem?"

"Yes,  there is an ordinance prohibiting the outside storage of fuel."

"I suppose I could put it in my basement."

"Not without an inspection of your house and the installation of a sprinkling system"

"How about if I just have it hauled away?"

"That would be fine as long as you use a licensed fuel hauler.  May I ask what you are doing in that coal shed?"

"I'm building a horseless carriage." 

Says Henry, beaming with pride.

"Well you can't do that here."

"Why not?"

"You aren’t zoned for manufacturing."

"Er,, What do I have to do to get zoned for manufacturing?"

"You would start the process with applying for a variance." 

"And then I would be rezoned?"

"Maybe, if it fit with the zoning commission's plans for this area."

"If I got it rezoned could I build my horseless carriage?"


"OK, I'll start the process tomorrow"

Enthused Henry as he turned and went back into the shed to work.  The building inspector, craning his neck in an attempt to see around Henry into the darkened shed mumbles,

"Of course, even if you get zoning changed you can't build anything in that shed."

"What?" says Henry bumping his head on the low doorway as he does an about face.

"Why not?"

"That structure was designed for cold storage of solid combustibles.  You would have to build a structure designed for light manufacturing." the building inspector states.  "What kind of fuel do you propose to use for your horseless carriage?"

"Gasoline.  It's a common cleaning solvent."

"That won't do at all you know."  Says the building inspector as he taps his pencil on a clipboard produced from a small carpet covered satchel he was carrying.  

"What if you spilled some?  What about the fumes?  You haven't already procured some have you?"

"Uh no.  not as such." Henry stammers as he deftly pushes a small red can near his feet behind some weeds.

"This sounds far more complicated and expensive than I thought." continues Henry.  "I had better call some friends over tonight and discuss this and see if we can raise the necessary capital to do this legally."

"I'm afraid I can't let you do that Mr. Ford."  interjects the building inspector sternly.

"Your house is zoned and built as a residential dwelling.  If you want to have any meetings here you would have to have handicapped accessibility and fire exits and men's and women's bathrooms."

"You mean we can't just use the outhouse?"

An incredulous look from the inspector is all the answer Henry gets.

He had dreams of a horseless carriage in front of every house.  Increases in national productivity and shorter travel time.  A nation brought closer as the distance between people seemed to shrink.  Parents getting home from work in time to play with their children, and all because they were able to move quickly, safely and cheaply from one place to another.

"But, How would people get around if I can't build my invention?"  Henry blurts out.

"Get a horse Mr. Ford."  states the building inspector matter of factly as he turns and walks away.

If Ford or Hewlett and Packard or Buddy Holly had to deal with the regulations stifling creativity today we might still be riding horses, adding on our fingers and have never heard of "Peggy Sue".

Example of Garage Logic in action:

A few years ago a group of college age kids in Rochester Minnesota were troubled by the lack of positive recreational activities for kids in their town.  In stead of just complaining about it, they pledged their own money and time to build a building that could house a skate ramp and where Christian Alternative bands could perform on occasion.  A rural location near town was offered them and a loan was obtained for materials and the kids themselves provided the labor.  Kids began coming to "The Barn" as they called it, in stead of driving out on some gravel road to get drunk.  The skate crowd began to skate in the new facility in lue of alleys and down town parking ramps after hours.  The dream of these few kids who saw a problem and invented a way to fix it was becoming a reality, but it didn’t last for long.

As the new hangout became popular it drew the attention of county zoning and building safety departments. The structure had been architect designed as a storage building and they thought it needed improvements before the kids could skate in it.  The first suggestions were reasonable but as more and more requirements were added the cost eventually grew to several times the cost of the building.  The building was eventually tagged making it illegal for anyone to enter it, or even to use it for storage.  Kids are back to skating in the streets and parking ramps late at night.  The Alternative Christian concerts are gone, and there is a group of kids, older, wiser, and a bit more cynical than they were a few years ago.
beanfarmer51 beanfarmer51
Feb 9, 2013