Scope Creep

Jiab Wasserman

DURING OUR TIME in Spain, we came to admire the water fountains common in mudejar architecture, the Moorish-style homes of Andalusia. During the lockdown, while I tried my hand at creating art, Jim picked up the hobby of making water fountains using a few basic items, including a small water pump and terra cotta planters that he found around the apartment.

As the lockdown dragged on, Jim progressed to building more complex fountains. He built an indoor one in a Zen-like style, with water flowing through bamboo pipes into a big terra cotta bowl. The cats claimed this as their drinking fountain. He built another small tabletop fountain for my office. The water bubbled over rocks, so I could enjoy the sound of flowing water. This was also claimed by the cats. Still, although the cats enjoyed the fountains, I think it’s Jim who got the most joy—from making them.

About a month ago, we settled back into our townhome in Dallas. Jim wanted to build a fountain to remind us of our time in Andalusia. We already had a large ceramic planter that I’d purchased for $5 at a garage sale, along with a pump given to Jim as a gift. The pump, however, was too powerful. The simplest solution was to buy a smaller $10 pump from Amazon. With the smaller pump and the ceramic pot that we had, Jim could have built a basic fountain in under 30 minutes for $15.

But basic wasn’t the type of fountain he wanted to build. It was a classic example of scope creep—a problem not only in the corporate world, but also in the world of remodeling, as Dick Quinn has written about.

Long story short: Jim tinkered with the ceramic pot so much that it ended up damaged. That meant we needed a new planter. After several days of redesigns and searching for parts, the tab for our $15 fountain is now at $100, and it’s still a work in progress. The cats are getting impatient.

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