Where Ever You Go...
I was asked some time ago why I write these crazy articles about the car repair business. Why? Well, the only way I can explain it is to put yourself in the position I'm in on a daily basis. I spend a better part of my day trying to understand what a customer is explaining to me,while using my training, background, and basic common sense to come up with a logical answer to their problem. This is where these true to life stories all start.
Then again, a lot of us "in the trenches guys" (mechanics for short) never have the time, nor realize that no matter where we are in this crazy world... people have the same kind of answers to car repair. During an average day a mechanic might work on vehicles spanning more than 20 different production years. Nothing is ever the same, and nothing ever remains the same, from year to year, model to model, or from manufacturer to manufacturer. These differences can be as varied as the people we meet. Knowing these changes in the car systems can be overcome with years of experience. Knowing how to deal with the attitudes and personalities of the consumer can take a lifetime.
The different ways people will explain their car problems to the mechanic can be baffling or even misleading as well. I try never to approach a situation with blinders on and get lead down the wrong repair path. Sometimes, their explanations leave a lot of doubts as to what they really are trying to say. For some people, explaining things isn't easy, so their way of getting their point across is to use an extremely long version of the story or a complete biographical saga from their childhood to the present, just so I don't miss any details. (I would say I've heard it all,but that wouldn't be fair to all those untold stories I haven't heard.)
It's hard to remind myself that I'm not going to make a customer out of every phone call, nor patron who comes in the door, but I'm still stubborn enough to try anyway. As one long time shop owner once told me years ago, "Don't do business with people you can't get along with or ones you feel uncomfortable around." I tend to believe that's true after seeing the variety of people I've run across over the years. But, those odd and different personalities and explanations about care problems are the best material for the next new story. Ya never know...the next one through the door might be a real winner. Like I said, some people can't just tell you what's wrong. They have to involve everything from the family pet to their last vacation photos. Believe me, I've sat through plenty of vacation photos, and have heard thousands of dog stories over my years behind the counter.
When it comes to explaining things back to the customer about their car there's only so far I can go. I usually try several different angles to bring the technical answer down to a level that is acceptable to the patron,but sometimes their comprehension requires everything from charts, graphs, to hand puppets. Sometimes even explaining things to the customer is a show in itself. Oh yea, it can be just as comical watching me try to explain something as it is listening to their stories.
After many years of standing behind the counter, I tend to have a "sixth sense" about the upcoming repair, either from the reactions of the customer, or from the condition of the car. I tend to go back through my memory files and find a situation that is comparable to the latest one. After all these years there's no doubt there are some comparisons to a story I've already put to ink and paper. Writing these stories down also makes it easier to relive those situations, and think of either a better way to handle it, or be aware of the proverbial outcome. In some small way I hope people who read my stories not only see the humor in these situations, but also take away from it a bit of knowledge and respect for these crazy situations. I like to think of it as a life lesson that can't be taught out of the automotive repair manual. But, it's something everyone has or will experience.
You could call it a reality check for the automotive world. I write about the everyday events in the auto shop, not some made up management improvement idea that's going to improve your bottom line. I don't try to be something I'm not; I'm only a mechanic and nothing more. I write about the stuff you and I as technicians have to deal with in our daily jobs. Mechanics from all over the world email me, and have no trouble relating to their stories, and you can tell they're smiling while they write that email. It helps everyone realize they are not alone in this wacky world of automotive repair. And that's what these stories are really all about. But, these stories are not just for automotive mechanics, it's something anyone who deals with the general public will enjoy reading. I even have doctors,lawyers, bank executives, roofers, and a whole lot of other professions who read and relate to the stories.
When you take the time to really think about it, somewhere in our family tree we all have that crazy relative who has done something weird, or a co-worker whose elevator has skipped a few floors. It might even be something you've noticed on the news or on the drive home… you just never know where the next interesting story will come from. No matter where we are there's always something out of the ordinary going to happen sooner or later. And, as long as that keeps happening, I'll keep writing. I guess there's really only one way to explain people and the crazy situations we all get into.... wherever you go, no matter where you are... something wacky,insane, or downright crazy just might happen.