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Where's My 10mm Socket!?? --- The professional escapee of the tool box


Gonzo

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Where’s my 10mm Socket

         Deep or shallow, impact or chrome, 12 point or six point, ¼” or ½” drive, it really doesn’t matter, those 10 mm sockets have the ability to grow legs. Out of all the hundreds of sockets in the drawer, only the 10mm seems to be the one that disappears without a trace. Sure, it’s used a lot, and yes, it does seem to be on every car and in every form and fashion you can think of, but why is this most useful socket also the one with the escape artistry of Steve McQueen in the movie “The Great Escape”?

         They can vanish without a trace, leave without warning, or fall into an engine bay never to see the light of day again. One time I actually caught a glimpse of one on a mad dash for freedom.  I was working under a car installing a few brackets with my trusty (trustee) 10mm socket attached to my ¼” air ratchet when the socket spun off the ratchet.  It traveled along the top edge of the crossmember spinning like mad when it came upon a small hole in the center.  It hopped straight up, still spinning, did a perfect pirouette and slipped right down the hole.  It was like watching a cartoon character sticking their head out of the hole just long enough to say, “See ya!” and disappear out of sight.  I never managed to fish the socket out of there, either.  The hole was too small for anything but the socket and the ends of the crossmember were welded shut.  That one got away, but I saw the whole thing myself.  They really do try to escape.

         It’s like spotting Big Foot.  I mean, who would believe ya when you tell them you just saw your 10mm socket make a break for it and escape down some rabbit hole in a crossmember? Ya might as well call one of those tabloid magazines and tell them.  At least they might believe your story.  I think the tabloids would put it all down as some sort of conspiracy anyway. It’s the only way to explain it. When I lose a socket the tool truck always has a replacement.  For all I know, those fiendish little sockets are sneaking back on the truck, while I’m purchasing one of their buddies.  Maybe they’re all out to prove something, or they’re all working with the tool trucks for a cut in the profits. 

We should start a 10 mm support group for all those socket sets and mechanics who are missing one. I can just hear it now. “I’m here to tell my story about my 10 mm socket.  We were good friends, we did a lot together, but now he’s gone and I’m all alone.” The group could all get a T shirt that says, “I lost my 10mm socket.  Can you help me?”, but knowing my luck, I’d probably lose the shir, too.

Maybe I’ll just paint them all bright yellow, or buy them in bulk and keep so many around that I can’t possibly ever not have one handy. But, knowing those 10mm sockets the way I do, I’d bet they’d find a way to have a mass escape when I’m not looking. The next thing ya know, I’ll start a chain gang of 10mm escapees and have them all work on the worst slimy, greasy, dirty, nastiest part of the car I can find.

         Here’s the thing I don’t understand.  Why doesn’t the 7 and 8mm socket make a break for it? They’re out and about just as much as the 10?  As a matter of fact, why not use the 9mm socket or the 11mm a bit more often and give that 10mm guy a bit of break.  Maybe then the 10mm won’t feel so over worked and have the tendency to walk off the job.

         Way back when everything was SAE instead of metric,  I don’t recall having to put posters on the neighborhood telephone poles, “Have you seen this ¼” socket?” Most of the time it was right where I left it, and eventually I would wear it out to the point it couldn’t grip a bolt or nut anymore. But would I replace it? No, of course not.  I’d put it back in the rack with all of the other sockets, only to remember how worn out it was the next time I needed it. But, that 10 mm, haven’t worn one out yet, because that guy will use any excuse to leave before it gets that old.   

 

I’m not saying all the other metric wrenches and sockets are exempt from trying to flee the tool box.  Heck no.  I’m pretty sure I stumbled onto one of their mass escape plans before.  I came into work one day and somebody had moved my tool box.  When I opened the drawer all the sockets were haphazardly scattered everywhere you looked. I’ll bet that 10mm socket dude got the other sockets all riled up and would have made good on their escape if it wasn’t for the tool box being locked.

 Then, there are those two sockets that rest on either side of the 10mm. They don’t seem to do much, they hardly get out of the drawer, and apparently don't take after that 10mm guy at all. You know these two, they're the 9 and 11mm sockets. Every now and then you'll find that one or two odd ball nuts or bolts that are specifically made for a 9 or 11mm socket. They seem to be content living in the tool box with this empty gap between them and they never seem to get lost or go AWOL. In fact, I somehow have a large collection of 9 and 11mm sockets that I don’t even remember buying. But that 10mm socket, that guy hardly ever ends up back in the box and is a bad influence on the rest of them. It’s out all night, can’t find its way home, rolls up under a cabinet and hides, or its favorite trick, finds the one spot in the very center underneath the car that you can’t possibly reach. It's also been known to take the suicide approach of avoiding going back in the tool box. It will take a dive off the edge of a fender and fall into a narrow crevice from which you’ll never retrieve it again. 

I’m starting to believe those 10mm sockets got it in for us mechanics. They’ll hide in plain sight or sit there shining up at us from some unreachable spot in the corner of the engine bay. I’m pretty sure I saw one scoot across the floor and under a bench once.  Never did find him again, either.  Maybe we should get Sherlock Holmes on the case.  Maybe he could find the whereabouts of these elusive 10 mm runaway sockets.

In the mean time I’ve got another problem to take care of.  My new pocket screwdriver I just got off the tool truck has disappeared.  Seems it’s been hanging around those 10mm sockets way too long, and has gotten ambitious about going over the wall on its own.  Or maybe he’s stuck on the edge of the driver’s door again, but that’s another story entirely.


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I found some guy's 14mm open end wrench, on a sharp turn at an intersection I crossed for my daily walk. Turns out it was a Snap-On and I looked up the price as I was curious and it was pretty expensive for one long wrench. $50.00 find! Perhaps the most expensive thing I ever found on the side of the road that was very usable! I guess long wrenches can be evasive too.

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      It always amazes me when I hear about a technician who quits one repair shop to go work at another shop for less money. I know you have heard of this too, and you’ve probably asked yourself, “Can this be true? And Why?” The answer rests within the culture of the company. More specifically, the boss, manager, or a toxic work environment literally pushed the technician out the door.
      While money and benefits tend to attract people to a company, it won’t keep them there. When a technician begins to look over the fence for greener grass, that is usually a sign that something is wrong within the workplace. It also means that his or her heart is probably already gone. If the issue is not resolved, no amount of money will keep that technician for the long term. The heart is always the first to leave. The last thing that leaves is the technician’s toolbox.
      Shop owners: Focus more on employee retention than acquisition. This is not to say that you should not be constantly recruiting. You should. What it does means is that once you hire someone, your job isn’t over, that’s when it begins. Get to know your technicians. Build strong relationships. Have frequent one-on-ones. Engage in meaningful conversation. Find what truly motivates your technicians. You may be surprised that while money is a motivator, it’s usually not the prime motivator.
      One last thing; the cost of technician turnover can be financially devastating. It also affects shop morale. Do all you can to create a workplace where technicians feel they are respected, recognized, and know that their work contributes to the overall success of the company. This will lead to improved morale and team spirit. Remember, when you see a technician’s toolbox rolling out of the bay on its way to another shop, the heart was most likely gone long before that.
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