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I Must Be An Antique --- A new found respect for my profession


Gonzo

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I Must Be An Antique

 

One weekend my wife and I decided to take a detour on our way home and stop by some of the local antique stores. She was looking for a piece to put in her quilting studio, and since I was driving, I grudgingly tagged along. Window shopping isn't one of my strong points. I'm more of the "Get what you came for, and go home" type. Although a little quality time with the Mrs.is something I didn't want to pass up. There wasn't a whole lot that interested me, other than the architecture, but on we went from store to store.

 

We came across a store front that had the charm of days gone by. Inside was a long counter that was as antique as the store, full of all kinds of items. The ceiling was original with an ornate tin embossed design that stretched to the back of the store. The entire store was as much an antique as the wares for sale. By now my curiosity was in full swing to see the rest of the building. It originally was the town's hardware store from around the turn of the last century, and the décor hadn't changed from its early beginnings.

 

We made our way around the displays and meandered to the back of the store. Here the store divided into an upper and lower level. She asked me, "Do you want to go downstairs and check it out?" Sure,might as well take the grand tour. The rickety stairs creaked and moaned with every step, and as we reached the bottom floor a large room opened up with what can be best described as a tool guy's paradise. Hanging from the rafters and on every shelf were tools of every description. Wood, concrete, railroad, gardening, big, small, tools and more tools, and yes… row after row of mechanic's tools. I must be in heaven. I've never seen such a variety of tools in one place before. Shelf after shelf of every type of tool you could think of. Some looked as worn and tattered as the old building, while others looked practically new.

 

In one corner of the basement were several timing lights of different types and sizes. On a hook was a well-used dwell meter hanging by its cords, as well as multi-meters and amp gauges. As I walked around staring at all of the history on these shelves I couldn't help but smile. I could recall working under the hood of a car with these very same tools, and here they are resting in the basement of an antique store. It was like I stepped back in time, and was reliving all the work I've done with them. I couldn't help but feel nostalgic about my chosen profession.

 

By now my wife had drifted off to another part of the store. I'm sure she knew where to find me. It wasn't likely that I was going to wander too far from here, at least not until I had my fill of looking at all this stuff.

 

"I'll come find you when I'm ready," she said as she headed back up those creaking stairs. I waved my hand in her direction as if to say, "I know, I know… go on…I'll catch up."

 

Over on one shelf was a small leather covered box. I opened it, and inside was a dial indicator …almost complete. It was lacking the extension rods. Not a problem, I just happened to have a set in my toolbox. The price on the sticker was… ten dollars! I've got to get this. On the very next shelf there was a well-worn piston ring groove cleaner. No price tag on it and it still had a layer of grime covering the cutting bit. Not that I'm going to be needing a ring groove cleaner any time soon, but it was one of those things that looked out of place on the shelf. It had to come home with me.

 

After what seemed like minutes, but I'm sure my wife would tell you it was more like hours,I thought I better go find her and take my new found goodies up to that old counter. On the way out I saw a large pile of snap ring pliers. One had the smallest tips on it that I've ever seen. Now, that's something I can use. The tag read… two dollars! Two bucks? Ok, it's coming with me, too.

 

I found the wife in another part of the store still searching for her one item, which she still hasn't found. She seemed a bit curious as to what was taking me so long. With a great deal of enthusiasm I proceeded to tell her all about them. Obviously my exuberant tale of my great finds didn't interest her that much. In a stern voice she said, "Can we go now?"

 

"Ok, let me go pay for these," I said with a gleam in my eye.

 

I put my best bargain hunter's face on, and laid my items down on the counter. "I found this dial indicator for ten bucks;it's missing a few pieces and this snap ring pliers for two, but this other thing you didn't have a price on it. It's kind of grungy, needs cleaned up, how about I give you ten bucks for all three?" I said with a smile.

 

The clerk looked at the items I had laid out, and then picked up the groove cleaner. She held it up to her elderly father sitting just off to the side, "What's this worth, Dad?"

 

He got up from reading the paper, leaned forward, and peered over his glasses, "Ain't worth a thing."

 

"Well this guy wants to give you ten bucks for all three of these things. I don't even know what this is, Dad?"

 

In my haste to make a deal I blurted out, "If you can tell me what this is, I'll gladly give you the ten bucks for all three."

 

The old man leans over the counter, squints a bit and says,"That's a piston ring groove cleaner, probably from the fifties. I've used one many a time," then sat backdown, "Sure I'll take ten bucks for all three."

 

With that I handed the cash to the little lady.

 

As I finished the transaction I walked over to shake the old man's hand, "Sir, there's not too many people who would have known what this is. You've made my day."

 

As we drove home, my wife curiously asked what was so exciting about looking at all those tools, especially since I handle tools all day long. With a great amount of ambiguity I said, "Well,they're tools, dear… you know… tools."

 

She may not understand my thing for tools, but from now on I'll keep my eyes open for another place like this and maybe pick up a few more treasures. It was about then, while driving home, I finally realized where I'd been… an antique store of all places… these tools are antiques! That's when I realized my own plight, its official… I must be an antique as well.

 

 


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As one guy told me, "I'm not an antique, I'm VINTAGE!"

What ever way you say it, We're all tool guys. Old or Young, antique or vintage.

(I would have gave 30 bucks for it too... LOL)

Got to confess, I must be an antique too. There is a big flea market in my area during the summer months. My wife usually drags me along; we make a day out of it. While she is looking for the clothes and jewelry, I wander off to the tool tables. And, I have to admit, although my life for the past 4 decades has been centered around tools, I do enjoy looking at the tools. I always manage to find something that I just got to have. Last summer I found this set of small files that had strange twists and odd shapes. Not sure when I will ever use these files, but I just had to have them. My wife looked at me funny, but WE know different, right?

 

A few years ago I found a table that featured machinist tools. There were old calipers, dial indicators, depth gauges, etc. I found this real small depth gauge that must have been pre-world war II from Germany. It came in a nice wooden box. The price tag on it was $30.00. I picked it up and offered the guy behind the table 20 bucks. He looked at me and said, "No one has ever picked up that tool, you must know what it is and what it's worth, 30 bucks". I laughed and gave him the money.

 

I have that depth gauge on my desk as a conversation piece. Funny how different people value different things?

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  • 4 years later...
3 hours ago, Joe Marconi said:

It's always a little challenging when we realize there are more years behind us, than there are ahead of us. But, the really good news is that we learn to appreciate the things that you cannot define with a price tag.   And that makes it all worth it to keep on pushing through life's obstacles.

    As I told a student in my class the other day, "Experience comes from yesterdays mistakes.  Knowledge is not making the same mistake tomorrow."   I appreciate every day anymore . . . .and I'm not done making mistakes yet.    

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Gonzo, I really enjoyed this piece, you made me recall memories when I used to go to Sears and their professional tool sections. I felt like a kid in a candy store! Thank you for sharing, I hope you are healing well and feel even better. Out thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

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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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