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Article: I Must Be Insane - - It's my excuse for being a mechanic

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I Must Be Insane

Insanity has been described as doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Well, I must be insane, because every morning, as I drive to the shop and unlock the doors, I’m expecting today to be different than it was the day before. I haven’t exactly had any professional evaluations as to whether or not I’ve actually lost my mind or not, but I’ve got proof I must be at least a few sockets short in the old tool box. At least I have an excuse for what I do. How else can I explain dealing with all this car stuff if I’m not just a bit touched in the head? I’ll try to explain it, or at least try to make some sense of this senseless occupation I’m in.

Unlike a lot of trades where you learn the needed skills through college or trade schools, and then spend your career refining those skills, in this field nothing ever is the same. Just as soon as you master a system it becomes obsolete with something newer. Even though in a lot of professions the tools of the trade are improved from time to time the basic “product” doesn’t change. Now, you might find some people who will disagree, but let’s face it, a brick is a brick, wood is wood, dirt is dirt, and a doctor still only has two models to deal with.

Even changing oil isn’t a simple task anymore. It’s enough to drive a first year lube tech nuts trying to remember how to reset the oil lights. There’s everything from stomping the gas pedal three times to running through an on-screen menu, while holding down two buttons, or using a scanner to clear them. I can’t think of one person out there who has memorized all the different ways to reset the various oil reminder lights on every car. But, if there is, I really feel sorry for ya, dude. You need to find a new hobby; you’re just a little touched in the head fella.

Aside from your basic open end wrench and a screwdriver, there’s all these new-fangled tools and scanners and testing equipment you’ve got to learn. That alone can make a person dislodge a few marbles just trying to keep up with that stuff. Then, there are the various situations and interactions with the parts store, the other mechanics, busted knuckles, and of course, let’s not forget about the customer. I think I’m overdue for my trip to the sanitarium.

If you put the time into this job, take advancement classes, and study the latest systems you might be referred to as “an expert”. But, even then, you’re going to run across somebody who will say to you, “I hear you’re pretty good.” Honestly, I never know how to answer that; is it an insult or a complement? Depends on their tone of voice I guess. Sometimes I feel like the old gun slinger at the bar in an old western movie, you know the scene were this young whippersnapper comes strolling in and asks the same question to the old gun slinger?

Seriously, after three decades of doing this, I’m either completely crazy, or I must be pretty good at this car repair stuff. How should I answer that question? I’ll try anyway. I keep my piece, (peace) and answer with, “Sure am. What can I do for ya?” Even though, what I’d like to say is what that old gun slinger says to the young whippersnapper, “Ya come to find out? High noon, outside, be there.”

It’s just nuts I tell you, every day there’s a new challenge to my sanity. Take used car salesmen, no really… take them. These guys can be a shop’s best customer or some of their worst. The last one was no exception to that rule. His first comment to me was, “My boss said I needed to take this car to a reputable shop.” (I’m experiencing a few uncontrollable ticks and odd eyebrow twinges right about now. I usually get them when the crazy is about to come out, and I’m going to say something stupid that I’ll regret later.) My first thought is they know of a “non-reputable” shop out there and that’s where they get their cars serviced? Makes me want to go buy a car off of their lot right now. I guess this particular problem couldn’t be solved with the “Let’s swap parts until it’s fixed” method, so they’ve resorted to actually getting it diagnosed. And, I’ll bet this repair is either going to be way out of their budget, or be so simple that no matter what I charge it’s going to be too much. (Those twitches are getting a little more noticeable now.) Get the straight jacket and the rubber room ready, I’ll be there in a bit.

It turned out to be nothing major, just a faulty charging system. The computer picked up about a zillion codes for loss of communication due to low voltage. A new alternator and a bit of reflashing took care of the entire problem. Now, I had to deal with the boss.

Time for the interrogation and badgering over everything I described about the repair. Now I have to listen to how this guy could have done the entire repair with a rubber band and a toothbrush. Ok, call me crazy; call me nuts, I must be, to listen to this balderdash. I’ve heard it all before. Seriously, trying to belittle me only makes you … be little. I’m already so close to certifiable that trying to make me feel even more nuts than I already am ain’t going to make a bit of difference.

I know I’m not alone here; the line to the funny farm after too many years under the hood is quite long. Take this story another shop owner told me, “This guy wanted me to find a leak in his car. I checked it over but I didn’t find one. I thought I was losing my mind, he said there was a leak! I had to call him and tell him I couldn’t find it.” The customer answered, “That’s what I expected you to find.” Really? Now, if somebody tells me they have a leak in their car and I look for one and I don’t find it, I’m going to look again…, and again…, and again. But when the customer tells me there was never a leak and the only reason for all this fuss was to see how honest a mechanic I am, well crazy may not completely cover this one. He’s lucky to have kept his cool and not gone postal after that one!

 

Whether it’s because of the different cars, the different tools, or the different people at the counter, my sanity is always questionable. So, until I get checked out by the shrink, I’m going to go with the insanity plea as to why I’ve stayed at this trade for so long. Now it’s your turn to fess up. So, what’s your excuse?

 

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