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One More Busted Knuckle - - - Who hasn't skinned a knuckle or whacked a finger, I know I have!


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One More Busted Knuckle



It's the grease, the grime, the clank of a loose rod bearing, or the snap of a fuse that is familiar to anyone who has ever worked on cars. But, along with the noises and smells of the business there are the scrapes and bruises. Working with machinery, moving parts, and numerous sharp objects there's bound to be a few personal injuries involved. Sometimes I can go an entire week without cutting myself or jamming a finger, but then there are those days… the ones where I have to make a mad dash for the First Aid kit. It just adds to the challenges of the job.



Have you ever been complacent while working on a car? You know... just lost your concentration for a moment and did something stupid? I know I have. Like the time I hit the trigger on my new high torque air ratchet with the wrong size socket on it. As the ratchet spun, it took me for an unsuspected ride as it slammed up against the car's engine with a couple of my fingers jammed in between. Man, did that hurt! Good thing for rubber gloves, especially the black neoprene ones. (They don't show blood stains as well, and they tend to hold everything together long enough for you to find the First Aid kit and check for damage.)



Like a lot of technicians I've got scars, a couple of broken fingers, and a few swollen joints from working on cars all these years. The older I get the more war wounds I seem to collect. "With age comes wisdom". I sometimes have my doubts about that. I sure feel pretty stupid when I get that next bruised or busted knuckle. Age sure doesn't help with the eye sight, or the knees, oh and don't forget about that aching back! Let's face it, working on cars and trucks is a physically demanding job, as well as a mental workout.



I can remember a time back in my youth, when I would bench press a tranny up into the car while lying on a dirt floor. I don't think I'll try that these days. I've grown out of that macho style of auto repair. You know, always trying to prove I can tackle a big job by myself. (Hint,hint… for you younger techs) I'm much older now. Proving my testosterone level by doing some Herculean feat, which only ends up with another scar for my efforts, is no way to end the day. Sure wish I would have understood that back then, might have saved me from a few bumps and bruises. You could say; "Chalk it up to experience" or "Been there-done that-Know better now", kind of thinking.



With blisters, sores, aching muscles,dirt under the finger nails, and the ever present grease stains deep in the grooves of my palms, there's no denying what I do for a living.. Yep, that's right… I'm a mechanic. Those bumps and bruises are all part of the job, even though I don't remember anyone I ever trained with mentioning that. (Should've been a course in tech school on proper bandage installation and application; after what I've been through, I could ace that class.) Like a lot of techs, I only get paid for what I accomplish. Even if this means putting on an extra bandage, and if capable...get back to work.



On one particular day I was changing the U-joints on a truck. The customer had dropped it off early that morning, and I said I could have it done by lunchtime. The joints weren't that hard to change, but getting the drive shaft off was. Three of the four rear yoke bolts came off with no problem, but the fourth one... I wasn't so lucky. The wrench slipped off, and with the force I had on the bolt my whole arm shot skyward. A sliver of MIG welding wire was still on the joint where the rear yoke housing is welded to the actual drive shaft pipe fromthe factory. This made for a perfect slice and dice on my forearm as it passed by.



By the time the customer picked the truck up that afternoon I had most of my forearm wrapped up. "What ya do to that arm?" he asked.


I told him how it happened in all the gory details. I'd like to say he was concerned. He was… just not with my arm. Oh heck no... He was more concerned with his truck. "So you still got the U-joints changed?" he said with a questioning gesture. Yea, thanks for caring, Mr. Customer… I appreciate your thoughts and concerns. Trucks fine, U-joints are fine, I'm fine… life goes on….



Ok, it wasn't that big of a deal...minor cut... no biggie. (My wife just rolls her eyes when I come home with a new bandage on. I think she enjoys tormenting me, while she cleans up my newest altercation with an inanimate object. Gee… Lucky me....). The customer wanted to make sure I removed that hunk of MIG wire, so that no one else would get hurt in the future. Oh don't worry, I did, and I'll have to admit, I removed that little piece of wire as if I had a personal vendetta against it ... Yea, it ain't going to do that to anyone else... EVER again!



Outside the daily workings of the shop I'm asked to speak at different functions, or invited to some event where I'll be shaking a few hands. I used to worry about the roughness of my hands, especially when I was in a room of businessmen and women who had no concept of manual labor work in their daily vocations. It was a concern of mine, andat times maybe even a bit embarrassing. But, you know, I've come to realize, I should be proud of what I do, and those scars and callouses I've collected throughout my working years are like my own personal business card. It's who I am... it's what I am...it's the way I am… a mechanic. I'm proud of what I do… we all should be proud of what we do. There aren't a lotof people who can do this job. Putting your arm into a blind or tight spot,while trying to turn a bolt or nut with nothing more than their fingertips, isn't for everyone. As a technician you do it, and don't even think about that sharp jagged piece of metal you're wedged up against... you just do it anyway.



Even with a few extra scrapes and scars I'm still going back to this job tomorrow. I don't plan on gouging a test light into my hand while reaching down into an engine bay, but you know… it'll happen... maybe not today, but it will.



Best of luck to all the ratchet spinnin', wrench turnin', hardworking techs out there. Stay safe... work smart... and keep the First Aid kit well stocked.


There's always tomorrow, and tomorrow is just one more busted knuckle away.


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Liked the use of "mechanic" through out the story. You changed it to "tech" in the next to last sentence. When "tech" started to be used in place of mechanic I just couldn't hang on to it. I have used it but not often. The public might like to hear Tech but as you said we are mechanics. At least us with many years in this business.

The article started having me count my battle wounds... ugh...

Edited by Spence
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thanks for all the comments, I can see we're all members of the Johnson and Johnson fan club. Thanx again for all your thoughts... (I'm writing this with a bum finger at the moment... geez, do ya think I had an inspiration for this article... yep.. yep I did. LOL)

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We've had some construction guys at our house for the past couple of days installing new windows. One of the guys cut his hand on some broken glass. As my wife was putting on a few bandages she handed him this article... LOL... he got a laugh out of it and totally could see how this relates to any type of work. Made my day... LOL

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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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