A long time ago, in the machine shop where I went to college, I asked a veteran machinist if I could borrow a tap, the tool used for cutting screw threads into metal. He said, "sure." But as he began to hand me the tap, he froze in his reach and asked, "have you ever broken one of these?" Trapped between a desire to be honest and the thought that he might not loan his tools to a confessed tap-wrecker, I hesitated, but finally answered that yes, I had broken a tap. He finished his reach and ...

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