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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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Nothing Beats a Full House
There’s days, even weeks (depending on the time of year) when a pair is pretty good. Then there are days when three of a kind ain’t bad. But in my book nothing beats a full house. I’ll bet you thought I was talking about poker, didn’t ya? Nope, I’m talking about the automotive repair business. When the shop is humming, and the jobs are flowing, and business is brisk, that’s when I know I’ve been dealt a winning hand. It might mean coming into work really early or staying late, but at the end of the week it’s a pretty good feeling to know you’ve played your cards right.
There’s been many a day that closing down the shop early is better than being dealt jokers or cards that won’t play. The phone isn’t ringing, the shop is empty, all the tools and service bays have been cleaned, and all the shelves are stocked, but not a single car in the service bays. Those are the days that even a pair sounds good. I’d even settle for pulling one decent card out of the deck on those days.
“It’s feast or famine,” a good friend of mine told me. He’s a realtor, and his business is the same way. One day everybody is calling, and the next day you have to pick up the phone just to see if there’s still a dial tone. (Boy, do I know it, I certainly can relate to that.) There is a pattern to all of this chaos though. It took me years of running a shop to figure it out, and I’m sure the same thing happens in every part of the country, just like it does here in the southern part where I live.
Take the holidays… no, seriously… take them. There a joyous time to be with family and friends, but it’s not that great if you’re making a living servicing cars. It never fails when a holiday is on the calendar you can bet it’s slow. But, the day or so before a long weekend holiday you can guarantee it’s going to be packed at the repair shop. Seems everybody waits to the last minute to get the car ready for a trip and everybody wants their car done… RIGHT NOW! I pretty much know those are the days I’m coming in early and staying late.
Then there’s when school starts… listen close…can ya hear the crickets out in the shop? I know I can. Usually the week or two before school starts everything slows to a crawl. Oh you might get a couple of pair, maybe three of a kind but it’s doubtful you’ll get a full house. As soon as school is in session the cards start to fall in the right place again. It’s a sure bet the shop is going to be full for the next couple of weeks.
Of course there’s Fair week. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Fair, I think it’s pretty cool, but not from a business stand point that’s for sure… it’s the week to fold your hand. Nothing ever happens Fair week. In my early years there was one Fair week that I’ll never forget. I had one car for the whole entire week… yes… one and only one car. However, it was a super huge job that nearly took the whole week to finish. (Funny how things work out that way.)
Temperature and the weather have a lot to do with what cards you’re dealt in this crazy world of auto repair. Heavy snow or monsoon rain means… stay home, fold em’. Now a light rain, one of those steady down pours that doesn’t seem to end has a different affect. The shop slows, but the phone rings constantly. The usual caller will tell me something like this; “Yes, I’m having a problem with my wipers can you fix them?”
I’ll answer, “Why yes, we could get you in right now.”
“Oh it’s raining, but as soon as it lets up I’ll bring it in.”
I know better than to assume they’ll be in on the next sunny day. As soon as the sun comes out they forget all about their wiper troubles. I guess it’s one of those “out of sight, out of mind” things. Although, I’ve learned to get their phone number, and call them the next day and remind them of their previous call and set an appointment to get it in the shop. Surprisingly enough, it works.
Now the temperature, that’s a real fickle issue. Too hot or too cold does some strange things to cars. Usually means it’s going to be busy. Then again if it’s a “room temperature” sort of day… it’s probably not going to be that busy. There are the calls of course, there’s the “stop by the shop and chat about it” kind, and then there are the ones that just want to pick your brain and price check everything.
When it comes to creature comforts in the car, it’s a safe bet on those high or low temperature days those systems are on the top of the repair priority list. Wouldn’t be the first time someone has come in the shop with their brakes metal to metal, but they’re not worried about that… that A/C is a must. Now in the winter months it’s the heater, or the defroster, or the wiper blades that froze to the windshield the night before and they didn’t bother to clean them off… they just turned them on, and now... oops… they don’t work at all.
The one ace in the hole that does take the edge off of the ups and downs of the seasonal changes is to have a back burner job sitting in the corner of the shop. Maybe a restoration project or some personal toy you can pull out of moth balls for the guys to fiddle around with when it’s slow.
All in all, doing this job is a great reward; it’s a great career choice. You meet some really interesting people from all walks of life in this business. A lot of them become regulars, and stop by no matter what the temperature is or whether or not the Fair is in town. Ya just got to play your cards right, know when to fold them and know when to hold them.
When it’s slow you might tend to dwell on things and think you’ve done something wrong, but then things pick back up and you forget all about those thoughts. You’re taking a gamble in just about any career choice you make, automotive repair is no different, and when someone asks, “How’s it going?” I always answer with, “It’s slowly getting busy or busy getting slow.” A couple of cars in the morning, maybe three of a kind later that afternoon, whatever there is that’s the hand you’ve been dealt for the day. But, in this game of auto repair… nothing beats a full house.
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We've been trying to find good help for the past 3 months and have been very unsuccessful. We have ads on craigslist and indeed and had no luck on there neither. Our workload is backed up and now it's starting to affect our profitability, in terms of we're taking 2 weeks to finish a week's worth of work. Anyone have any good suggestions on how to get out of this bind or is being patient our best bet?
Technically, a full moon is when the earth, moon, and sun are in approximate alignment, unlike the new moon when it is on the opposite side of the earth. The full moon has the entire sunlit part facing us, while the shadowed portion is entirely hidden from view. (A new moon has the entire shadowed side towards us.) When the moon is full the tides can be higher, also some say that animals can act differently, and there's talk that some people will act a little weird too. Is this weirdness caused by this alignment of the planets or is there something else to this moon phase thing? I'm no scientist or astrophysics major, I'm just a mechanic… and from what I've seen even the repair shop isn't immune to its' affects either.
It's not just the type of problems that show up, it's the way they are explained at the front counter. If ever there was a reason to second guess what someone was trying to tell me, it would certainly be during a full moon. I don't want to sound superstitious, but somebody is going to have to explain to me what else it could be if it's not due to a full moon. I know it's sometimes hard to separate the facts from fiction when I'm dealing with a problem in a car, or when I'm trying to decipher the customer's explanation. It just seems worse the closer it gets to that time of the month. The number of strange customers, bad parts, or weird unexplainable problems always goes up right about then.
Now, I don't sit around and calculate the time and date of the next full moon, but I can't help thinking about it after spending a day at the office with a bunch of wacky repairs and even odder customer complaints. Its kind a funny too; most of these odd problems seem to clear up within a few days, just about the same time the moon passes into its next phase.
Take this weird situation that arrived at the door one day. A lady I've never met before, or even talked to comes into the shop. She walks up to the counter, and says in a quiet voice while looking around as if someone was following her and says,
"I can't leave my car right now. I'm waiting for the aliens to arrive. I'll be back as soon as it's safe for me to drop the car off."
She turned and walked out the door never to be seen or heard from again. I guess the aliens got her, or it could be the aliens fixed her car. I'll never know…
Here's some of the myths the full moon has been linked to: increased homicide rate, traffic accidents, crisis calls to police or fire stations, domestic violence, births of babies, suicides, major disasters, casino payout rates, aggression by professional hockey players, violence in prisons, psychiatric admissions, agitated behavior by nursing home residents, assaults, emergency room admissions, behavioral outbursts of psychologically challenged rural adults, delusional beliefs that one has turned into an animal, sleep walking, and several other ailments.
But in all these studies no one ever mentioned the effects of this lunar phenomenon on the lonely mechanic. Maybe it's time we make it known to these psychiatrists and other professional people who study things like this that they need to add automotive repair shops as another full moon dilemma. I should have had a psychiatrist at the shop the day this guy brought his cat with him to the front office. The guy tells me the cat knew where the electrical short was in his truck. The guy was very insistent so I played along with this cat diagnostics just for the laugh. We walked out to the truck with cat in hand, he gives the cat a little nudge towards the truck and says, "Find the short kitty" The little feline sniffed and purred around the truck for several minutes then rubbed up against the tires, jumped on the hood and then into the bed of the truck. This little diagnostic wonder ended its diagnostic journey curled up next to the rear bumper.
Was the problem there? Ah, no… it was under the dash… I think the cat was just tired of walking around the truck. The owner told me I must have confused the cat's ability to locate the cause because I wasn't putting out the right "vibes" while the cat was searching for the problem. As the owner stated, "The cat has never been wrong before." Ok, sure… whatever ya say there fella. There's a chance there is a lunatic somewhere close… I know it ain't me and I don't think it's the cat.
It's not often that big ball of cheese up there gets me to thinking the entire world has just gone nuts, but on those occasions that someone comes into the shop and tells me their car is possessed, or claims some mail order device is going to save them hundreds of bucks in fuel costs. I start to wonder about this moon thing. I, for one, don't believe in any of this stuff. I'd like to believe that I'm not affected by some mystic force when the moon is full, but since it seems to give everyone an excuse to go a little crazy once a month, I guess I'll just play along with the rest of the nutty world.
There's something magical about heading out for a scenic drive late at night with that glowing orb hanging low in the sky. Get out into the open country away from the city lights and you can really appreciate the magical glow of the moon. Will it affect the car, I don't think so. Will it affect the person behind the wheel, well… maybe… just do the neighborhood a favor while you're looking at the glowing space ball… try to keep the howling down to a minimum.
Just another day at the shop, just another situation to deal with. If you've read some of my previous stories you might have noticed I reused the alien lady part again... to funny to only mention one time in one story. LOL
Hope you enjoy the stories, leave a comment if you can. Thanx again Gonzo
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