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Gonzo

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Everything posted by Gonzo

  1. Define luxury, it seems to me, each decade the luxury level changed. Take power windows, that was luxury in the 70's. . . Now it's the norm
  2. Car and Driver The technical changes most everyone is familiar with have more to do with emissions or performance issues. But, let’s step back a bit and look at the whole thing from the occupant’s vantage point. You know, what changes has the driver had to endure? When the horse and buggy were still rulers of the open road, cars were just a tinkerers dream. Actually those open roads were more like uneven ditches with wagon wheel ruts, but a road none the less. The first cars had to adapt to those rutted roads and of course, the driver had to take his fair share of bumps and bruises just to prove his new horseless carriage was up to the task. It wasn’t long before a confrontation between the staunch horse and buggy drivers and the scarf wearing, goggle protected new-fangled automobile occupants came to a cross road. Laws were enacted that a man had to walk at least 50 paces in front of the car holding a raised red flag to warn fellow travelers (mainly the horses) to be aware of this metal contraption belching noxious fumes while sputtering along at the amazing speed of 7 mph. Later, it was the horse and buggies turn to have a red flag warning assistant in front of them as the roles of were reversed. Before long, a horn was mounted to the side of the car creating this obnoxious sound that not only scared the remaining horses but annoyed every passerby as well. The model T has always been considered the father of the new age of automobiles. But, there were a lot of improvements other than the assembly line that came along around the same time period. Later, enclosed cabs were added into the latest designs with retractable windows and a hard top. Heating systems were incorporated along with other creature comforts. All of these changes made the ride that much more enjoyable, and of course, sold a lot more cars. Eventually the pedals of the model T were replaced with the standard three pedal design, which made operating the car a bit more “driver-friendly”. Changing gears was made easier with a shift lever instead mashing down the pedal for low and up for high as in the model T. Cold starting a car was still an issue, but instead of getting out of the car and raising the hood, a lever on the dash could be pulled out for cold starts and in when the engine warmed up. The electric “automatic” choke followed years later which meant one less chore the driver had to accomplish. Hand starting your car was the norm. Even with careful instructions there was still the potential of a few wrench elbows and a couple of broken bones from simply trying to get the car started for that weekend jaunt around the country side. An electric starter was the answer. Now all the driver had to do was mash a pedal on the floor to accomplish the same task. When the automatic transmission made its debut a person’s strength or ability to shift correctly wasn’t important in operating a vehicle. The car was becoming even more user friendly. The huge steering wheels could now be replaced with a much smaller version incorporated with power steering. Brakes, wipers, suspension, steering, lighting, heating, and air conditioning improvements meant less effort and far less exertion on the driver’s part to control the vehicle while being enclosed in their very own micro climate controlled environment. The car was becoming what some said in the 50’s as ‘futuristic’. True, yes… but Oh, if they only knew what was coming off those assembly lines just a few decades later. Thoughts changed to emission controls and safety issues during the 60’s and 70’s. Speed limits, bumper heights, seat belts, safety glass, were required from all the manufacturers. Those creature comforts were not forgotten about either. Smoother rides, better tires, and lush interiors were on the minds of every manufacturer. But, it was only the beginning of things to come. We’ve zoomed through the jet set age, moon landings, and the smog, to come face to face with the electronic age or what some would call the computer age. Cars aren’t wired together with bulky switches, relays, and mechanical linkages anymore, most everything is data signals, sensors and plastic. Not only is the modern car a rolling computer controlling all aspects of the emissions and passenger comfort it is also can be seen, controlled, and monitored by outside sources. Let’s face it, the days of you holding your hand out of the window to signal or move that seldom used device on the side of the steering column to tell other drivers of your intentions of a right turn may be entirely left up to a computer and not yourself. The car will soon talk to the other cars on the road and they’ll all know what your destination is, and the route you’re taking. All you need to do is tell the car to ‘Go’. In the near future, the only requirement to “drive” a car is to be able to push ‘enter’. Traffic lights, R&R crossings, and highway congestion can all be controlled by a system of checks and balances. You won’t need to know how to shift the transmission, how to use a road map, decide which wiper speed to use, signal for a turn, judge when the high beams need to be dimmed, or control your traveling speed. You won’t have to do a thing except to be patient and wait in the comfort of your car while you arrive at your destination safe and sound. When that day comes, you won’t need a steering wheel, pedals, or even a horn. Today’s standard safety features such as air bags, have saved countless lives, but it’s possible that a new and far more advanced crash avoidance system may even make the air bag system as obsolete as the guy with the red flag. Multiple position seating with heat, massage, and air conditioning, automatic tinted windows, premium sound systems, navigation, active cruise control, parking assist, touch screen commands, voice recognition, and an endless variety of other creature comforts are available. Honestly, some of these creature comforts are far better than what I have at home! But, it’s our car, our transportation, something we spend several hours in and of course, we want it to be just the way we like it. It’s no wonder you hear that today’s generation can’t drive a stick shift, or how they’ve never heard of “three on the tree”, let alone understand the three pedals on a model T. Those technologies are from a different time, a different era, and are not part of the modern world. In fact, most new cars don’t even have a shifter of any sort. Everything is done by the push of a button. Talk about occupant evolution! What do you think the next generation of drivers are ‘not’ going to need to know that you need to know today? It’s very possible that an ignition key will only be found in a museum, and I’ll bet they probably won’t understand what a door key was used for. Soon, those automatous cars won’t be something we’ve heard about, but will be the average-everyday car on the road. Now, the only reason to have a guy holding a red flag is to keep the crowd back from the cars on display at the weekend car show. But, through all the evolutionary changes for the car and driver, one thing has remained a constant. The seldom appreciated, hardly thanked, and least likely to be respected by the hustling-bustling-fast paced money-chasing drivers of these new-fangled contraptions… the person we couldn’t do without… the mechanic. As long as they make some form of transportation, and continually make it more complicated the more we need the educated and highly skilled technician to keep things in tip top shape. Today’s average driver knows far less about their cars than the previous generation. Although the mechanic needs to know quite a bit more than their predecessors. Before a driver was responsible for nearly every function of the car, but those functions have been passed onto computer signals. The responsibility of keeping those computer signals flowing has fallen onto the mechanic. So, if you like all of your cars bells and whistles, thank a design engineer. If you’d like to keep all those bells and whistles working…thank a mechanic. There may not be a ‘driver’ for every car in the future, unfortunately, they’ve been evolved out of the picture. But, you can be sure one thing… there will still be a need for a mechanic. View full article
  3. BTW, the wooden car... it's one of the many models I have built over the years. Built from scratch too.
  4. Car and Driver The technical changes most everyone is familiar with have more to do with emissions or performance issues. But, let’s step back a bit and look at the whole thing from the occupant’s vantage point. You know, what changes has the driver had to endure? When the horse and buggy were still rulers of the open road, cars were just a tinkerers dream. Actually those open roads were more like uneven ditches with wagon wheel ruts, but a road none the less. The first cars had to adapt to those rutted roads and of course, and the driver had take his fair share of bumps and bruises just to prove his new horseless carriage was up to the task. It wasn’t long before a confrontation between the staunch horse and buggy drivers and the scarf wearing, goggle protected new-fangled automobile occupants came to a cross road. Laws were enacted that a man had to walk at least 50 paces in front of the car holding a raised red flag to warn fellow travelers (mainly the horses) to be aware of this metal contraption belching noxious fumes while sputtering along at the amazing speed of 7 mph. Later, it was the horse and buggies turn to have a red flag warning assistant in front of them as the roles of were reversed. Before long, a horn was mounted to the side of the car creating this obnoxious sound that not only scared the remaining horses but annoyed every passerby as well. The model T has always been considered the father of the new age of automobiles. But, there were a lot of improvements other than the assembly line that came along around the same time period. Later, enclosed cabs were added into the latest designs with retractable windows and a hard top. Heating systems were incorporated along with other creature comforts. All of these changes made the ride that much more enjoyable, and of course, sold a lot more cars. Eventually the pedals of the model T were replaced with the standard three pedal design, which made operating the car a bit more “driver-friendly”. Changing gears was made easier with a shift lever instead mashing down the pedal for low and up for high as in the model T. Cold starting a car was still an issue, but instead of getting out of the car and raising the hood, a lever on the dash could be pulled out for cold starts and in when the engine warmed up. The electric “automatic” choke followed years later which meant one less chore the driver had to accomplish. Hand starting your car was the norm. Even with careful instructions there was still the potential of a few wrench elbows and a couple of broken bones from simply trying to get the car started for that weekend jaunt around the country side. An electric starter was the answer. Now all the driver had to do was mash a pedal on the floor to accomplish the same task. When the automatic transmission made its debut a person’s strength or ability to shift correctly wasn’t important in operating a vehicle. The car was becoming even more user friendly. The huge steering wheels could now be replaced with a much smaller version incorporated with power steering. Brakes, wipers, suspension, steering, lighting, heating, and air conditioning improvements meant less effort and far less exertion on the driver’s part to control the vehicle while being enclosed in their very own micro climate controlled environment. The car was becoming what some said in the 50’s as ‘futuristic’. True, yes… but Oh, if they only knew what was coming off those assembly lines just a few decades later. Thoughts changed to emission controls and safety issues during the 60’s and 70’s. Speed limits, bumper heights, seat belts, safety glass, were required from all the manufacturers. Those creature comforts were not forgotten about either. Smoother rides, better tires, and lush interiors were on the minds of every manufacturer. But, it was only the beginning of things to come. We’ve zoomed through the jet set age, moon landings, and the smog, to come face to face with the electronic age or what some would call the computer age. Cars aren’t wired together with bulky switches, relays, and mechanical linkages anymore, most everything is data signals, sensors and plastic. Not only is the modern car a rolling computer controlling all aspects of the emissions and passenger comfort it is also can be seen, controlled, and monitored by outside sources. Let’s face it, the days of you holding your hand out of the window to signal or move that seldom used device on the side of the steering column to tell other drivers of your intentions of a right turn may be entirely left up to a computer and not yourself. The car will soon talk to the other cars on the road and they’ll all know what your destination is, and the route you’re taking. All you need to do is tell the car to ‘Go’. In the near future, the only requirement to “drive” a car is to be able to push ‘enter’. Traffic lights, R&R crossings, and highway congestion can all be controlled by a system of checks and balances. You won’t need to know how to shift the transmission, how to use a road map, decide which wiper speed to use, signal for a turn, judge when the high beams need to be dimmed, or control your traveling speed. You won’t have to do a thing except to be patient and wait in the comfort of your car while you arrive at your destination safe and sound. When that day comes, you won’t need a steering wheel, pedals, or even a horn. Today’s standard safety features such as air bags, have saved countless lives, but it’s possible that a new and far more advanced crash avoidance system may even make the air bag system as obsolete as the guy with the red flag. Multiple position seating with heat, massage, and air conditioning, automatic tinted windows, premium sound systems, navigation, active cruise control, parking assist, touch screen commands, voice recognition, and an endless variety of other creature comforts are available. Honestly, some of these creature comforts are far better than what I have at home! But, it’s our car, our transportation, something we spend several hours in and of course, we want it to be just the way we like it. It’s no wonder you hear that today’s generation can’t drive a stick shift, or how they’ve never heard of “three on the tree”, let alone understand the three pedals on a model T. Those technologies are from a different time, a different era, and are not part of the modern world. In fact, most new cars don’t even have a shifter of any sort. Everything is done by the push of a button. Talk about occupant evolution! What do you think the next generation of drivers are ‘not’ going to need to know that you need to know today? It’s very possible that an ignition key will only be found in a museum, and I’ll bet they probably won’t understand what a door key was used for. Soon, those automatous cars won’t be something we’ve heard about, but will be the average-everyday car on the road. Now, the only reason to have a guy holding a red flag is to keep the crowd back from the cars on display at the weekend car show. But, through all the evolutionary changes for the car and driver, one thing has remained a constant. The seldom appreciated, hardly thanked, and least likely to be respected by the hustling-bustling-fast paced money-chasing drivers of these new-fangled contraptions… the person we couldn’t do without… the mechanic. As long as they make some form of transportation, and continually make it more complicated the more we need the educated and highly skilled technician to keep things in tip top shape. Today’s average driver knows far less about their cars than the previous generation. Although the mechanic needs to know quite a bit more than their predecessors. Before a driver was responsible for nearly every function of the car, but those functions have been passed onto computer signals. The responsibility of keeping those computer signals flowing has fallen onto the mechanic. So, if you like all of your cars bells and whistles, thank a design engineer. If you’d like to keep all those bells and whistles working…thank a mechanic. There may not be a ‘driver’ for every car in the future, unfortunately, they’ve been evolved out of the picture. But, you can be sure one thing… there will still be a need for a mechanic.
  5. Vision KC

    Haven't missed Vision for over 15 years. I'll be there.
  6. thank you for all your comments. Sarge, like many of our customers, became more than a customer. Over the years we shared a lot of laughs , stories of our families, our time in service, and life in general with each other. To this day I can still hear his drill instructor growl that he would blare out as he would come into my shop with his TEN HUT greeting. Old Sarge, well, in the big world, he's just another face in the crowd. But, to me he's a king, and I'd like to think my little story about him will live on in his memory for years to come. I'm sure he'd be proud of it. Because people like Sarge are not just a veteran, they're our friends, neighbors, brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers. But most of all they're people that took an oath to uphold the values of this great country with their very own life if needed. That's what makes them stand out in a crowd and king in my book. Never forget a Vet!
  7. Old Sarge I met this great man through his son, who happened to be the driver of that Chevy van from the furniture store that was my very first customer. Sarge isn’t his real name, but that’s what I called him. He was a retired Marine Corps cook. I met him one day when he came in with a sick Cadillac. The old Cadillac hardly had any power at all; just as slow and lazy as a snail. I was only in business for a few months, and didn’t know anybody. I didn’t have any work to speak of, so even though it wasn’t an electrical problem (as he originally thought), I jumped right in and found the problem. It was a clogged catalytic converter. Unbelievably, it wasn’t even welded in place. I could take off the clamps, and remove it without much hassle. Back then I didn’t have a lift to put the car in the air, so I had to do the whole job on the ground. Well, old Sarge just sat there and watched me do the whole thing. I think he was a little suspicious of this skinny little white kid who was hacking away at his car, but he patiently waited, being the good man he was. We got to talking about things, and it wasn’t long before he found out that I was also in Marine Corps. Now we had some common ground. We were buds for life, always cutting up with each other. One hot August afternoon Sarge brought in one of his other cars to get some work done. I had the back door to the shop open, and Sarge steps outside for a little fresh air. I thought I could hear the guy crying or mumbling something, couldn’t tell which it was. I stuck my head around the corner, “Sarge, ah …. you ok, buddy?” I asked. He proceeded to tell me how the house he grew up in was close by, before it became a shopping center. He talked about his dad and family, and how he hunted rabbits right where we were standing. It was during the Depression. Hard times, and things were scarce in those days. How his dad hid a pig in a pit, not too far from here. Where they kept the corn mash for making moon shine. I sat and listened to this hardened Marine tell me his life’s story that day, from his first car to how he ended up in the Corps. I didn’t answer the phone, or go up front to see if anyone came in. I just sat out there in that August heat, drenched in sweat, listening to this fella tell me his life story. I’ll never forget that afternoon. I’ll also never forget how every time he came to my shop over the next 25 years he would sneak up on me, and yell in a drill instructor voice, “TEN HUT!” I would snap to attention just like a good Marine should. Sometimes, just to get a rise out of Sarge I would purposely hit my head on the hood of the car I was working on. He got a kick out of it every time. Sarge passed away a couple years back. I still think about him now and then. I hope he’s up there hunting rabbits, or something. Maybe he’s guarding the gates like every Marine hopes to be doing when their time comes. Or, he could be just waiting there to try and surprise me with one more “TEN HUT” when I show up. Sarge, I miss having you around the shop. Semper Fi View full article
  8. Old Sarge I met this great man through his son, who happened to be the driver of that Chevy van from the furniture store that was my very first customer. Sarge isn’t his real name, but that’s what I called him. He was a retired Marine Corps cook. I met him one day when he came in with a sick Cadillac. The old Cadillac hardly had any power at all; just as slow and lazy as a snail. I was only in business for a few months, and didn’t know anybody. I didn’t have any work to speak of, so even though it wasn’t an electrical problem (as he originally thought), I jumped right in and found the problem. It was a clogged catalytic converter. Unbelievably, it wasn’t even welded in place. I could take off the clamps, and remove it without much hassle. Back then I didn’t have a lift to put the car in the air, so I had to do the whole job on the ground. Well, old Sarge just sat there and watched me do the whole thing. I think he was a little suspicious of this skinny little white kid who was hacking away at his car, but he patiently waited, being the good man he was. We got to talking about things, and it wasn’t long before he found out that I was also in Marine Corps. Now we had some common ground. We were buds for life, always cutting up with each other. One hot August afternoon Sarge brought in one of his other cars to get some work done. I had the back door to the shop open, and Sarge steps outside for a little fresh air. I thought I could hear the guy crying or mumbling something, couldn’t tell which it was. I stuck my head around the corner, “Sarge, ah …. you ok, buddy?” I asked. He proceeded to tell me how the house he grew up in was close by, before it became a shopping center. He talked about his dad and family, and how he hunted rabbits right where we were standing. It was during the Depression. Hard times, and things were scarce in those days. How his dad hid a pig in a pit, not too far from here. Where they kept the corn mash for making moon shine. I sat and listened to this hardened Marine tell me his life’s story that day, from his first car to how he ended up in the Corps. I didn’t answer the phone, or go up front to see if anyone came in. I just sat out there in that August heat, drenched in sweat, listening to this fella tell me his life story. I’ll never forget that afternoon. I’ll also never forget how every time he came to my shop over the next 25 years he would sneak up on me, and yell in a drill instructor voice, “TEN HUT!” I would snap to attention just like a good Marine should. Sometimes, just to get a rise out of Sarge I would purposely hit my head on the hood of the car I was working on. He got a kick out of it every time. Sarge passed away a couple years back. I still think about him now and then. I hope he’s up there hunting rabbits, or something. Maybe he’s guarding the gates like every Marine hopes to be doing when their time comes. Or, he could be just waiting there to try and surprise me with one more “TEN HUT” when I show up. Sarge, I miss having you around the shop. Semper Fi
  9. Yep, at least he paid for the job. LOL. Unlike some of the BMW/MBenz folks that call and won't spend a penny on diag. time. NOW, those guys really waste my time. I've got better things to do than to explain diag. fees to someone who has no intention of ever spending any cash on a car they can't afford to drive ... let alone repair. Where's that sand and beach at!?
  10. One Penny at a Time One year I thought I’d try something to drum up some new business. I’ll try a cash discount for large jobs. Maybe this will bring in those new customers. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but as they say, “The best laid plans of mice and men….” certainly got involved on this little adventure. The cash discount was going to run for a month, just to see if it was going to work. All expectations looked promising. Jobs from a few weeks earlier had been contacted and informed of the new promotion to see if they’d like to reschedule that big job they were putting off. Almost all of them set an appointment before the promotion deadline. Soon, the shop was bustling with new activity and jobs were getting stacked up waiting for an open service bay. Unfortunately, as usual, there’s always one sourpuss who has to ruin all the fun for everyone else. Mr. Gripey came to the shop for an engine swap. He was your typical bargain hunter/never going to be a regular/always had a complaint type customer. As he put it, “I’m going to be your number 1 customer, if you can get me done on time.” I assured Mr. Gripey that everyone is our number 1 customer here and we would do everything we could to get him done, within reason, in a timely manner. It was just another Ford Ranger V6 engine swap. Nothing different from any other V6 Ranger we’ve done. That is except for Mr. Gripey, of course. His periodic snooping and interrogating questioning of the mechanic (and his mentor) about the job was relentless. It never fails, you get a snoopy-arrogant person barging in on the work the outcome is the same. It spells d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r every time something like this happens. I was prepared for the inevitable and personally took on the job of double checking every part, every fastener, and every existing blemish on the vehicle just to be sure there was nothing Mr. Gripey could question once the job was completed. The engine slipped back in place without a hitch, and every nut and bolt was torqued down to specs. Everything was going as planned, except for one small detail. The promised date of delivery. Because of the work load and the arrival of the replacement engine, we missed his scheduled time of departure from the service bay by one whole day. This was all the fodder Mr. Gripey needed to begin his wrath of expletives and insults as to how awful we’ve made the entire experience. Was I surprised? No, not at all. Now he wanted an even bigger discount than what the promotion had offered. I offered my condolences and gave a bit more off the top of the cost of the job. That wasn’t good enough. He wanted it for free now. Of course, that’s not going to happen. Now, he has decided to refuse to pay for the job. Several days passed between unanswered phone calls and messages left for Mr. Gripey to return for his vehicle. The daily reconnoitering of the service bay when his truck was being serviced came to an end too. The mechanic and his apprentice mentor were relieved to move onto the next project. Me, I was still stuck with the task of collecting the balance on the job. Which, is usually a rather pleasant experience filled with smiles and thank yous followed by a check, credit card, or cash. But, not this time. A week has gone by and Mr. Gripey hasn’t made an entrance yet. Time for one more phone call, but this time with a little added incentive. Mr. Gripey is going to be informed about storage charges for keeping his little pickup behind locked doors and that the charges would keep adding up until he showed up. He was given a grace period until the end of the week, and if we didn’t hear from him by then… the storage charges would start from the day of this phone call. It’s no surprise, Mr. Gripey managed to show up at the shop that very afternoon. “I’m here to pay my bill and get my truck out of your $&^#*!!! shop,” he said, in a very disgruntled manner. I gave him the total and said, “That’ll be cash, sir.” I wasn’t about to give this guy a chance to walk out with the keys with anything less than a paid in full with good ol' “American currency” and a completed repair singed off. Mr. Gripey turned around and went out to his car and returned with three large bank bags. He tossed the bags onto the counter and said, “Here ya go. Count it if you feel like it.” The bags were full of good old American currency alright, all of it … … … entirely pennies. “I’ll take my truck now. If you don’t mind,” Mr. Gripey said. I looked at the pile of coins starting to pour slowly out of the split open bag and looked back up at Mr. Gripey, “Uhm, sir, this is legal tender alright, but this is no way to pay your bill. But, in your case I’ll accept the payment only after it has been fully counted,” I said to him, trying to stare down his angry gaze, “So, just have a seat and I’ll get this counted and when it has been counted I’ll gladly hand the keys over to you.” Mr. Gripey hadn’t planned his little caper out as well as he had thought. He thought I was just going to hand the keys over and I’d be stuck with several hours of counting pennies while he was long gone with a smirk on his face thinking he just pulled a fast one on a repair shop. The fact is, he wasn't getting the keys until I had every last penny was counted. With some help from the crew, we sat in the front office counting each and every penny one after another. And no, I wasn’t about to give the guy the satisfaction of taking the bags to the bank and have them counted. I wanted him to sit there waiting the hours it took to have it all hand counted. It was by far the best bonding time I had with the crew. As we counted we talked about jobs in the shop, what was coming up next, tools, where we wanted to be in the next few years, our families, kids, and pastimes. Indirectly, Mr. Gripey did us all a huge favor by allowing us all to have a few hours of time together away from the wrenches. We kept at it until we finished and never once did we remain quiet or stop for breaks. By the time the last penny was counted we were all tired of stacking pennies. We could finally get up from our chore and get Mr. Gripey out the door with his truck and warranty paper work. His warranty has expired a long time ago and if it was no surprise, he never did come back for even an oil change. I’ve been paid with all kinds of things over the years. From a stack of Susan B Anthony coins to a case of beer. But, this was the first time anyone paid for an entire job with sacks full of pennies. Just for the record, if there is a next time… I’m not counting all those pennies again. I’ll let the bank to do it and make the guy come back the next day. Just don’t tell Mr. Gripey that. He still may need another lesson or two on how to act civil at a repair shop. Even if it is one penny at a time. View full article
  11. One Penny at a Time One year I thought I’d try something to drum up some new business. I’ll try a cash discount for large jobs. Maybe this will bring in those new customers. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but as they say, “The best laid plans of mice and men….” certainly got involved on this little adventure. The cash discount was going to run for a month, just to see if it was going to work. All expectations looked promising. Jobs from a few weeks earlier had been contacted and informed of the new promotion to see if they’d like to reschedule that big job they were putting off. Almost all of them set an appointment before the promotion deadline. Soon, the shop was bustling with new activity and jobs were getting stacked up waiting for an open service bay. Unfortunately, as usual, there’s always one sourpuss who has to ruin all the fun for everyone else. Mr. Gripey came to the shop for an engine swap. He was your typical bargain hunter/never going to be a regular/always had a complaint type customer. As he put it, “I’m going to be your number 1 customer, if you can get me done on time.” I assured Mr. Gripey that everyone is our number 1 customer here and we would do everything we could to get him done, within reason, in a timely manner. It was just another Ford Ranger V6 engine swap. Nothing different from any other V6 Ranger we’ve done. That is except for Mr. Gripey, of course. His periodic snooping and interrogating questioning of the mechanic (and his mentor) about the job was relentless. It never fails, you get a snoopy-arrogant person barging in on the work the outcome is the same. It spells d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r every time something like this happens. I was prepared for the inevitable and personally took on the job of double checking every part, every fastener, and every existing blemish on the vehicle just to be sure there was nothing Mr. Gripey could question once the job was completed. The engine slipped back in place without a hitch, and every nut and bolt was torqued down to specs. Everything was going as planned, except for one small detail. The promised date of delivery. Because of the work load and the arrival of the replacement engine, we missed his scheduled time of departure from the service bay by one whole day. This was all the fodder Mr. Gripey needed to begin his wrath of expletives and insults as to how awful we’ve made the entire experience. Was I surprised? No, not at all. Now he wanted an even bigger discount than what the promotion had offered. I offered my condolences and gave a bit more off the top of the cost of the job. That wasn’t good enough. He wanted it for free now. Of course, that’s not going to happen. Now, he has decided to refuse to pay for the job. Several days passed between unanswered phone calls and messages left for Mr. Gripey to return for his vehicle. The daily reconnoitering of the service bay when his truck was being serviced came to an end too. The mechanic and his apprentice mentor were relieved to move onto the next project. Me, I was still stuck with the task of collecting the balance on the job. Which, is usually a rather pleasant experience filled with smiles and thank yous followed by a check, credit card, or cash. But, not this time. A week has gone by and Mr. Gripey hasn’t made an entrance yet. Time for one more phone call, but this time with a little added incentive. Mr. Gripey is going to be informed about storage charges for keeping his little pickup behind locked doors and that the charges would keep adding up until he showed up. He was given a grace period until the end of the week, and if we didn’t hear from him by then… the storage charges would start from the day of this phone call. It’s no surprise, Mr. Gripey managed to show up at the shop that very afternoon. “I’m here to pay my bill and get my truck out of your $&^#*!!! shop,” he said, in a very disgruntled manner. I gave him the total and said, “That’ll be cash, sir.” I wasn’t about to give this guy a chance to walk out with the keys with anything less than a paid in full with good ol' “American currency” and a completed repair singed off. Mr. Gripey turned around and went out to his car and returned with three large bank bags. He tossed the bags onto the counter and said, “Here ya go. Count it if you feel like it.” The bags were full of good old American currency alright, all of it … … … entirely pennies. “I’ll take my truck now. If you don’t mind,” Mr. Gripey said. I looked at the pile of coins starting to pour slowly out of the split open bag and looked back up at Mr. Gripey, “Uhm, sir, this is legal tender alright, but this is no way to pay your bill. But, in your case I’ll accept the payment only after it has been fully counted,” I said to him, trying to stare down his angry gaze, “So, just have a seat and I’ll get this counted and when it has been counted I’ll gladly hand the keys over to you.” Mr. Gripey hadn’t planned his little caper out as well as he had thought. He thought I was just going to hand the keys over and I’d be stuck with several hours of counting pennies while he was long gone with a smirk on his face thinking he just pulled a fast one on a repair shop. The fact is, he wasn't getting the keys until I had every last penny was counted. With some help from the crew, we sat in the front office counting each and every penny one after another. And no, I wasn’t about to give the guy the satisfaction of taking the bags to the bank and have them counted. I wanted him to sit there waiting the hours it took to have it all hand counted. It was by far the best bonding time I had with the crew. As we counted we talked about jobs in the shop, what was coming up next, tools, where we wanted to be in the next few years, our families, kids, and pastimes. Indirectly, Mr. Gripey did us all a huge favor by allowing us all to have a few hours of time together away from the wrenches. We kept at it until we finished and never once did we remain quiet or stop for breaks. By the time the last penny was counted we were all tired of stacking pennies. We could finally get up from our chore and get Mr. Gripey out the door with his truck and warranty paper work. His warranty has expired a long time ago and if it was no surprise, he never did come back for even an oil change. I’ve been paid with all kinds of things over the years. From a stack of Susan B Anthony coins to a case of beer. But, this was the first time anyone paid for an entire job with sacks full of pennies. Just for the record, if there is a next time… I’m not counting all those pennies again. I’ll let the bank to do it and make the guy come back the next day. Just don’t tell Mr. Gripey that. He still may need another lesson or two on how to act civil at a repair shop. Even if it is one penny at a time.
  12. Hi Y'all...from the Volunteer State!

    Welcome! Great place to get an idea of how the business of fixing cars really works in the real world. Good luck with your body shop... all the best!
  13. Looking for Some Guy Have ya ever noticed that a lot of work shows up at the shop with some sort of story attached and the customer almost always knows who sent them to you or what the last tech has done to their car? It’s pretty common at my shop. This other mechanic seems to always be busy, sometimes too busy to finish the customer’s job completely. I don’t know who this dude is but, he gets all the work in town. I’ve never met this wrench jockey; I don’t even know where his shop is… in fact I don’t even know what he charges or what his expertise is. But, I do know his name… oh yea, I know his name, his reputation is well known, and his never ending automotive repair skills are known far and wide. Who is this genius of the auto repair world? You know him, he’s that “regular mechanic” you always hear about. I don’t know whether he is some super tech out there or just the best salesman in the business. What’s his name you ask, well; it’s none other than…“Sum Guy”. that’s the dude, that’s him… his name comes up in conversations all the time… something like this; “I had my car to Sum Guy the other day… he said my problem was this, and said you would know how to fix it.” Or when you ask, “Where did you have your car at ma’am?” and the usual answer ... “Oh, I had it at Sum Guy for a while till he gave up and said he couldn’t take care of it, I don’t think he knows what he’s doing.” And, of course my all time favorite… “Sum Guy already looked at it so I already know what’s wrong.” Now I don’t know about you but Sum Guy seems to get around a lot. One of these days I’d like to meet him. I’ve got a few words for him for sure. He either works the customer into an all out frenzy or they come into the shop with a chip on their shoulder as if they just cured cancer. Ya never know which way it’s going to go with Sum Guy around. He can be your friend or he can be your enemy it’s all a gamble at this point. Listening in on conversations at the front counter and sooner or later good ol’ Sum Guy will get his name mentioned. “I had Sum Guy change my brakes last week but he didn’t want to mess with the ABS system.” “The other day my wife and I were out in town when we ran across Sum Guy, he said he knew you.” Man, this dude gets around, how do ya keep up with him? He’s everywhere! I’m going to put an ad in the paper one of these days… it should say something like; “Looking for Sum Guy who can fix cars and impress customers more than I can. Sum Guy who has all the correct tools and diagnostic equipment that I don’t have. Sum Guy with the smarts of a rocket scientist and the strength of a gorilla. Sum Guy who can be in two places at once and never-ever makes a mistake. Sum Guy that can keep a customer happy even in the worst of conditions and knows just what to say to calm them down. And, most of all Sum Guy who can do all of this and still show up to work on time. I doubt he’ll answer the ad, I think he doesn’t want the rest of the automotive industry to know about him. I think he likes to stay in the shadows away from the lime light and keep in close touch with all his customers. He’s a credit to himself… that guy… he’s Some Guy… View full article
  14. Looking for Some Guy Have ya ever noticed that a lot of work shows up at the shop with some sort of story attached and the customer almost always knows who sent them to you or what the last tech has done to their car? It’s pretty common at my shop. This other mechanic seems to always be busy, sometimes too busy to finish the customer’s job completely. I don’t know who this dude is but, he gets all the work in town. I’ve never met this wrench jockey; I don’t even know where his shop is… in fact I don’t even know what he charges or what his expertise is. But, I do know his name… oh yea, I know his name, his reputation is well known, and his never ending automotive repair skills are known far and wide. Who is this genius of the auto repair world? You know him, he’s that “regular mechanic” you always hear about. I don’t know whether he is some super tech out there or just the best salesman in the business. What’s his name you ask, well; it’s none other than…“Sum Guy”. that’s the dude, that’s him… his name comes up in conversations all the time… something like this; “I had my car to Sum Guy the other day… he said my problem was this, and said you would know how to fix it.” Or when you ask, “Where did you have your car at ma’am?” and the usual answer ... “Oh, I had it at Sum Guy for a while till he gave up and said he couldn’t take care of it, I don’t think he knows what he’s doing.” And, of course my all time favorite… “Sum Guy already looked at it so I already know what’s wrong.” Now I don’t know about you but Sum Guy seems to get around a lot. One of these days I’d like to meet him. I’ve got a few words for him for sure. He either works the customer into an all out frenzy or they come into the shop with a chip on their shoulder as if they just cured cancer. Ya never know which way it’s going to go with Sum Guy around. He can be your friend or he can be your enemy it’s all a gamble at this point. Listening in on conversations at the front counter and sooner or later good ol’ Sum Guy will get his name mentioned. “I had Sum Guy change my brakes last week but he didn’t want to mess with the ABS system.” “The other day my wife and I were out in town when we ran across Sum Guy, he said he knew you.” Man, this dude gets around, how do ya keep up with him? He’s everywhere! I’m going to put an ad in the paper one of these days… it should say something like; “Looking for Sum Guy who can fix cars and impress customers more than I can. Sum Guy who has all the correct tools and diagnostic equipment that I don’t have. Sum Guy with the smarts of a rocket scientist and the strength of a gorilla. Sum Guy who can be in two places at once and never-ever makes a mistake. Sum Guy that can keep a customer happy even in the worst of conditions and knows just what to say to calm them down. And, most of all Sum Guy who can do all of this and still show up to work on time. I doubt he’ll answer the ad, I think he doesn’t want the rest of the automotive industry to know about him. I think he likes to stay in the shadows away from the lime light and keep in close touch with all his customers. He’s a credit to himself… that guy… he’s Some Guy…
  15. Joke of the Day

    This guys wife is having an affair when her young son comes home early. The boy hides out in the closet to catch what was going on, when the husband arrives home early too. The would be affair is halted and the lover hides out in the same closet as the boy. The boy says, "Hey, it's dark in here." The lover answers, "Yep" The boy replies, "I got a baseball, I'll sell to you. That way I won't say a thing to my daddy." The lover says, "How much?" The young lad says to the lover, "250 bucks" The lover pays the kid and when the coast is clear he sneaks out of the house. A week later the same thing happens. The boy says, "Hey, it's dark in here. I've got a baseball mitt for sale now." The lover reluctantly asks, "How much this time?" The boy says, "750 bucks." Again the lover waits for the coast to clear and makes his escape. Another week goes by and good old dad asks the son if he'd like to go play catch. The son tells him he sold his ball and glove for a 1000 bucks. Dad, being a bit of a prude, tells the boy that he needs to go straight to confession because that was way to much to sell his old ball and mitt for. The boy heads to the confessional, he steps inside and says, "Hey, it's dark in here." the voice from the other side says, "NOW Don't start that crap AGAIN!"
  16. I think I can safely summarize a bit of first hand knowledge to all of this, since I'm seeing the industry from two different ends these days. Meaning, I'm still a shop owner but also a teacher these days, as well as a technical manual writer and a contributing editor, so I may have an insight on to what it is about these new techs or the lack of solid techs showing up looking for work. First off, it's the industries previous connotations. Let's face it, way back when mechanics were simply grease gods in jump suits, dirt floor barns and a greasy rag hanging out of their back pockets. We all know that's NOT the mechanic world of today, but for some reason that stigma follows us all. Secondly, the caliber of people coming into the trade at the technical schools is varied. Some are there because of a GI bill paid tuition, others are there because somebody felt sorry for them and is paying their school fees either to avoid jail time or to avoid the wrath of their parents for not finding a decent job or career to get started in. But, a few are there on their own dollar and are more than willing to grind it out and learn this trade. Third, the pay, the investment and the shop environment. You're not much of a technician if you don't have the right tools, even if you do have some background in the inner workings of the modern car. The initial investment can be minimized by not buying the latest and greatest, however, if the pay isn't up to par with the skill sets needed I'd find it hard for anyone to stay at the trade ... starting from the bottom and working up. A good tech is worth his weight, a newbee ...well... if you've got the time to wait for one to become an awesome tech, that's fantastic... now pay him what he is worth, before another shop strikes a deal with him. Obviously, the shop environment has to go along with the skill, the tools, the knowledge, the clients, and the rest of the shop helps attitude, not to mention the pay. In a nut shell, those are the three things I believe leads to the shortage of good techs. Some will have a difference of opinion, but that's what I see these days looking at it from different angles.
  17. An old story ... but a goody. Let's see who remembers this one. LOL
  18. I Just Don’t Get It Help me out here. There’s something I just don’t get. How in the world do people leave their pride and joy, the family truckster, the old jalopy, or whatever they want to call it at a repair shop for an extended amount of time? Every day while driving to work I’ll pass numerous little shops, and a few big shops that seem to have the same cars sitting in front of their bays. They move them around a bit, you know, kind of like shuffling chess pieces or something, but they never seem to leave. What’s going on? Then, every once in a while I’ll get someone that comes into my shop with this same old story, “I had my car over at this other shop for the past month and they still haven’t found out what’s wrong with it. So, I got tired of waiting and had it dragged over to you.” Usually after they’ve finally decided that leaving their car at one of these phantom repair places wasn’t a good idea. Sound familiar? Well, if you’re a shop owner you’ve heard it before. What’s surprising is that it happens a lot more than most people realize, and what really surprises me is how somebody could be without their car for such a long time, then finally decide to pull it to another shop. I mean seriously, what did you buy the car for? Was your goal just to make the payments while it sat in front of this obscure repair shop rusting away? I just don’t get it. How’s this possible? I mean, does this shop have some sort of charismatic charm that convinces someone to leave their car there for months on end without ever getting it repaired? Or is it one of those, “I’m in no hurry. Take your time with it.” stories? For me, it seems every time somebody tells me they’re not in a hurry is when they call back in an hour or show up the next day wanting to know what I’ve found wrong. I’ve never dealt with anyone who has just left their car for me to casually work on it whenever I feel like working on it. Oh, they’ll tell me to take my time but, they really don’t mean it. I have the time. I’m in the business of repairing cars. I’ll make the time or I’ll hire more help, whichever or whatever way it takes to keep the customer happy. At my shop, the norm is that everyone is in a hurry and can’t wait even a few hours for me to get to their repairs, which seems to be the complete opposite at these main street rest stops that call themselves “repair shops”. Now, if all these shops are doing is providing a free space for an extended stay at the “Shady Rust Hotel”, well, that’s not what I’d call a really smart business decision. Maybe keeping the parking lot full is just their way of showing off how many cars they have to work on, or should I say… trying to work on? I’ve often wondered about the true status of those cars at these repair shops. I’m pretty convinced that it’s not because these stationary cars all have some sort of exotic part that has to be shipped in by a row boat from some far off island country. I really think the reason these cars are spending their day taking up valuable space in front of these shops is because the mechanics at these shops don’t have a clue how to fix them. Let’s face it, if they’re in the business to repair problems on customer’s cars (just like I am) then by all rights fix it! Make room for the next one! As one good ol’ boy mechanic from one of these “We’re always busy” shops stated to me the other day, “Well, I just keep trying different parts until I get’r runnin’. If’n I run out of idears I let er’ sit until I think of somethin’ else ta do. I’m only bringin’ ya this here car cause the owner was getting a bit riled up over it takin’ so long.” Seems like a poor way of diagnosing problems and even poorer way of taking care of their customers if you ask me. But, we should also look at it from the other side of the coin, the customer side that is. They’re just as much to blame for all this waiting around for a repair that probably ain’t going to happen. Obviously it’s not time that worries them, so it must be the cost factor they’re concerned about. Talking with one customer who had their car at another shop for so long that cobwebs had spread across the motor told me, “Well, he’s good and cheap. That’s why I left it there for him to give it a try.” I can believe the cheap part, but good... I don’t think so. When are they going to wise up about it all? That is, the shop that doesn’t have the skills to repair the car properly and uses whatever charm or magic they have over the customer to leave the car at their shop for so long. Along with the car owners who simply pinch pennies on their car repairs and aren’t concerned with quality. But, they’re willing to put their own kids in their family truckster that was repaired by somebody with questionable knowledge and skills. This car repair stuff isn’t some kind of kid’s game or something that should be left to chance. It’s a highly skilled trade with highly skilled individuals who dedicate their life to performing intricate diagnostics and repairs to their customer’s cars with sophisticated equipment and continual education on the latest systems being developed. Of course, I’m leaving out those parking lots that claim to be repair shops. For something that has evolved into a computerized and mechanical machine that is rarely understood by the average owner, and something that nearly every person owns, has been left to the whims of an unregulated and unlicensed repair industry. It just completely boggles my mechanical mind. It’s a wonder anything ever gets accomplished, or that good mechanics stay in the business and further their education to do even higher quality work than before. I mean seriously, you’ve got to have a license to sling plumbing pipe or cut hair, but hardly any kind of quality check for the person doing the repairs on your family jalopy that zooms down the road at 75mph. I just don’t get it. View full article
  19. I Just Don’t Get It Help me out here. There’s something I just don’t get. How in the world do people leave their pride and joy, the family truckster, the old jalopy, or whatever they want to call it at a repair shop for an extended amount of time? Every day while driving to work I’ll pass numerous little shops, and a few big shops that seem to have the same cars sitting in front of their bays. They move them around a bit, you know, kind of like shuffling chess pieces or something, but they never seem to leave. What’s going on? Then, every once in a while I’ll get someone that comes into my shop with this same old story, “I had my car over at this other shop for the past month and they still haven’t found out what’s wrong with it. So, I got tired of waiting and had it dragged over to you.” Usually after they’ve finally decided that leaving their car at one of these phantom repair places wasn’t a good idea. Sound familiar? Well, if you’re a shop owner you’ve heard it before. What’s surprising is that it happens a lot more than most people realize, and what really surprises me is how somebody could be without their car for such a long time, then finally decide to pull it to another shop. I mean seriously, what did you buy the car for? Was your goal just to make the payments while it sat in front of this obscure repair shop rusting away? I just don’t get it. How’s this possible? I mean, does this shop have some sort of charismatic charm that convinces someone to leave their car there for months on end without ever getting it repaired? Or is it one of those, “I’m in no hurry. Take your time with it.” stories? For me, it seems every time somebody tells me they’re not in a hurry is when they call back in an hour or show up the next day wanting to know what I’ve found wrong. I’ve never dealt with anyone who has just left their car for me to casually work on it whenever I feel like working on it. Oh, they’ll tell me to take my time but, they really don’t mean it. I have the time. I’m in the business of repairing cars. I’ll make the time or I’ll hire more help, whichever or whatever way it takes to keep the customer happy. At my shop, the norm is that everyone is in a hurry and can’t wait even a few hours for me to get to their repairs, which seems to be the complete opposite at these main street rest stops that call themselves “repair shops”. Now, if all these shops are doing is providing a free space for an extended stay at the “Shady Rust Hotel”, well, that’s not what I’d call a really smart business decision. Maybe keeping the parking lot full is just their way of showing off how many cars they have to work on, or should I say… trying to work on? I’ve often wondered about the true status of those cars at these repair shops. I’m pretty convinced that it’s not because these stationary cars all have some sort of exotic part that has to be shipped in by a row boat from some far off island country. I really think the reason these cars are spending their day taking up valuable space in front of these shops is because the mechanics at these shops don’t have a clue how to fix them. Let’s face it, if they’re in the business to repair problems on customer’s cars (just like I am) then by all rights fix it! Make room for the next one! As one good ol’ boy mechanic from one of these “We’re always busy” shops stated to me the other day, “Well, I just keep trying different parts until I get’r runnin’. If’n I run out of idears I let er’ sit until I think of somethin’ else ta do. I’m only bringin’ ya this here car cause the owner was getting a bit riled up over it takin’ so long.” Seems like a poor way of diagnosing problems and even poorer way of taking care of their customers if you ask me. But, we should also look at it from the other side of the coin, the customer side that is. They’re just as much to blame for all this waiting around for a repair that probably ain’t going to happen. Obviously it’s not time that worries them, so it must be the cost factor they’re concerned about. Talking with one customer who had their car at another shop for so long that cobwebs had spread across the motor told me, “Well, he’s good and cheap. That’s why I left it there for him to give it a try.” I can believe the cheap part, but good... I don’t think so. When are they going to wise up about it all? That is, the shop that doesn’t have the skills to repair the car properly and uses whatever charm or magic they have over the customer to leave the car at their shop for so long. Along with the car owners who simply pinch pennies on their car repairs and aren’t concerned with quality. But, they’re willing to put their own kids in their family truckster that was repaired by somebody with questionable knowledge and skills. This car repair stuff isn’t some kind of kid’s game or something that should be left to chance. It’s a highly skilled trade with highly skilled individuals who dedicate their life to performing intricate diagnostics and repairs to their customer’s cars with sophisticated equipment and continual education on the latest systems being developed. Of course, I’m leaving out those parking lots that claim to be repair shops. For something that has evolved into a computerized and mechanical machine that is rarely understood by the average owner, and something that nearly every person owns, has been left to the whims of an unregulated and unlicensed repair industry. It just completely boggles my mechanical mind. It’s a wonder anything ever gets accomplished, or that good mechanics stay in the business and further their education to do even higher quality work than before. I mean seriously, you’ve got to have a license to sling plumbing pipe or cut hair, but hardly any kind of quality check for the person doing the repairs on your family jalopy that zooms down the road at 75mph. I just don’t get it.
  20. Rock bottom you say... hmmm, well the way I look at it if you're at rock bottom now, it's a great place to start a new foundation. Working up from there is all you have to do.
  21. OHS – Open Heart Surgery – My story “Being a mechanic, shop owner, writer, lecturer, and teacher I tend to ‘think’ I’m capable of answering any question, take on any challenge, and solve any problem that comes my way. This… is one time, I wasn’t able to do so.” Gonzo How it all started Leading up to my zipper (which is slang for open heart surgery) I thought I was just getting old and tired. For two years or so, I had a very slight off and on chest pain that didn’t last longer than a few minutes. It hurt, but I wasn’t concerned. As soon as the pain dissipated I forgot all about it. Most of the time I would have months between incidences, but that gradually changed to an all-out crushing pressure that lingered longer and longer between no pain and intense pain. The increasing occurrences went from once in a while, to once a month, to too often to consider it something other than what it was… a heart attack. Things that I used to do in a few minutes seemed to take hours. I’ve always been a hands on and very physical type of guy. Never one to pass on heavy lifting or something that was physically demanding, but this “slowing down” stuff was just the something that you couldn’t ignore. It was time to see a doctor. An appointment was made, but as usual the pain subsided and I was busy at the shop, so on I went back at it as hard as I normally went at it. Thinking as usual, that I was as tough as a grizzly and could solve this like any other problem I’ve encountered. There were a lot of signs leading up to my eventual heart attacks, (yes plural…as in several), but as with most boldly-go-where-no-man-has-gone-pig headed “A” personality-types with the personal drive of a MAC truck, and someone who still thinks he can keep up with the twenty something crowd (speaking of myself, of course) – and one who doesn’t listen to their own body or loved ones about your own demise, I ignored the signs. You fall into the trap of misdiagnosing yourself and possibly ending your career and family life all in one fatal swoop. If that’s you, then you’re bound to end up on the floor in the fetal position clutching your chest in extreme agony. (Been there…done that). The ER So, it’s no surprise I ended up in the ER with my son trying to carry his old man through the doors, while my wife is frantically making hand gestures seeking help from the nursing staff. It wasn’t long before I was zipped (Gotta love that word, ya know) off into an awaiting curtained off room. A few quick tests confirmed that this old guy wasn’t heading home any time soon. Even the doctor who first examined me was in shock. He said, “Most everyone I see this bad off are downstairs … with the sheet over their face … if ya get my drift.” He went as far as pulling up the blanket and resting his arm alongside of my leg to show the color differences. Wow, now I’m shocked. All of this led to more tests, and more tests. By now all of my kids have flown into town to be at my side. Stents were tried, but that didn’t work. All that did was give me a few jolts with the paddles and a few burn marks to show for their efforts. (Nice mementos don’t ya think.) Anyway, this all led to even more tests and a trip to another hospital to be put on the schedule for my eventual zipper club initiation ceremony. In other words, an open heart surgery. The first encounter with reality After my ride in the ambulance on my first day at the “new” hospital I was sitting there in my room, in between one monitoring device and another with my two grown daughters holding each hand, I started to feel something wasn’t right. I’m still a bit groggy from the stent debacle from the last hospital, but I could tell the medication was wearing off. Just then, another massive heart attack decided to invite itself. My only thought was… “Don’t you die with both your daughters holding your hands, ya old fart… pull yourself together!” The wife was already out of the room looking for the nurse. The nurse, quite calmly hit the code button, and methodically, as to not bring on any more chaos from the scene which was already happening, carried in a nitro pill for me. In just a few seconds the pill dissolved under my tongue and I could feel the pain and pressure lifting away. Waiting on surgery day A few days passed, I’ve been poked and prodded, medicated and subdued by so many different IV’s and pills that I’m feeling like a new guy already. Even though the actual surgery is still days away. Friends and family called or stopped by on a regular basis. Physically, you can deal with this, emotionally, I don’t know how to put it all into words. At best, all I can say is that nearly everything you do, hear, or read about has a higher emotional connotation than ever before. You’ll have no idea how much your emotional state is brought to the surface while going through all of this. I’ve never been one to cry at the drop of a tissue, but I found myself in these uncontrollable moments over some of the silliest things. I was later told it’s the medication, then I was told… it’s your heart speaking out, I’m not sure what it is… but it certainly is a change from the norm. (For anyone who has been through this you know exactly what I mean) Big John The night before the actual operation my usual nursing staff was in for a bit of a change. The typical female nurse was replaced with BIG John. Oh yes, I mean big too. 6’5” and towering over everyone and anything. His job was to get me prepped for the operation. Now, I’m not a little guy myself. I’m no 6’5” but I’m not a frail little guy by any means. Big John comes into my room carrying several items. First there was the bacterial wash. “Use this entire bottle and don’t miss a spot,” John tells me. Then, there were these two pill cups. John presses the cups in my direction. “OK, these you take orally, and this one goes knuckle deep, and I’ve got to make sure you’ve done both.” The realization of why “Big John” was here on this special occasion has become apparent. If I don’t get this done myself… I’m pretty sure he will. Obviously, modesty has left the building quite some time ago, so it wasn’t a stretch to be in the same room with this mammoth individual while I made the knuckle deep insertion. Although, he wasn’t present for the eventual outcome he was well aware of the results. I don’t know what they put in those, but a toilet seat belt and ceiling padding would have been appropriate. The CABG The surgery itself (as I was told, because even though I was there…what the heck could I tell you about it) had a few difficulties, but as if it’s not noticeable by now I made it through with my heart beat intact. The surgeon performs an operation called a CABG (Coronary Artery Bypass Graft). Mine was a double, meaning two grafts were made. One graft was taken from the left side of the chest and one was taken from behind the left knee. A heart pump is used during the operation to ensure a steady flow while the heart is being worked on. Believe me, you (the patient) have no idea what is going on until you’re told later on. Hopefully, when the medication wears off and you’re coherent. For me, the wife had to retell and retell the whole thing to me, because I wasn’t comprehending much of anything for quite some time. The ICU The ICU (Intensive care unit) is a whole new experience. The first thing is the introduction prior to the surgery. I was wheeled into the adjacent room to the operating room where I would be monitored and was told what to expect when I first woke up from the surgery. The big thing the nurse kept stressing was that I would feel some discomfort from the breathing tube and not to make any attempts to pull it out. Besides I would be strapped down to the table for my own safety. I remember waking up and hearing the nurses talking to each other, “He’s coming to, be ready.” “OK sir, don’t pull it out…Don’t pull it out!” I realized where and what was going on and understood her commands. To me it was just seconds ago that she had told me to not try to pull out the breathing tube, but in reality it was about five or six hours later. However, the “minor discomfort” was over shadowed by the fact you’re trying to breathe through a drinking straw. That I wasn’t expecting at all. Yea, Uhm Ms. Nurse… you forgot to mention that part. My night nurse for ICU was the most anal retentive-OCD person I’ve ever met. The guy spent every waking hour neatly aligning all of the monitors, bottles, tubes, and me over and over again as if we were about to have the commanding general stop by for an inspection. Although, when the day came for me to be wheeled back into a regular room a new nurse was assigned the task. My OCD nurse was sent off to another patients ICU room to straighten up their hoses and IV units. The new nurse on the other hand, starting grabbing monitors, IV’s and whatever else needed to go, or that was still attached, and flung them on or around me while I was seated in an oversized recliner. At one point she said to me as monitors were being tossed about, “Hold this…and this… and this.” and before long I’m being wheeled down the hallway at record setting speeds, as if it’s the Indy 500, only slowing down to make the corners or to change elevators. The overhead florescent lights were moving by so fast I thought they were camera flashes. I’m not sure the reason for the mad dash down the hallways, but it sure was the quickest sprint I’ve ever been on in a recliner race. Sleeping in at the hospital Not that I hate hospitals, OK… I’m not their no#1 fan, but a hospital is not the place to get any sleep. It seemed at exactly 5 minutes past the hour-every hour-day or night somebody was going to come into the room. 7 o’clock was the worst. That was shift change and it never failed that somebody didn’t tell somebody about what somebody was to do or not do, which meant even more trips in and out of the room. I learned very quickly that the best way to avoid the ever present knock on the door was to just leave the door open….at least that way they didn’t knock, and if you were just about to doze off you might actually catch a bit of shut eye before the next round of visitors, and if you’re really lucky you could avoid the guy coming in to check the serial number on the IV for the UPTEENTH time. It was always the same guy at least twice a day from the inventory department. I told him, “Dude, look around, I’m stuck in this room with this IV monitor and I assure you if anybody comes in here and steals it, replaces it with one that looks just like it, I guarantee I’ll call you and let you know. With all these interruptions I’m awake 24-7 which means me and this IV have become the best of friends. I’m dammed sure this is the same IV unit that was here yesterday! So why in the world do you need to come in and scan the serial number twice a day?!” I don’t think I came off as his next best pal by a long shot. Eventually, the day came to get out of the hospital. One the happiest days of my new life. Me and my IV had to part ways, and no, I didn’t tell the inventory guy. Home at last When you finally get to be home, start your rehab schedule, and try to reassemble your now broken apart life, you begin to reevaluate what is most important for your future. Walking is your foremost concern. I had a routine I would do and set a goal each day a bit farther than the previous day. Oh, I’d push it too far, and the wife or my son would have to come haul the emotionally incoherent old guy off of our hilly driveway more than once. It does get better, but it does take time. You soon learn new routines, things like coughing and sneezing should only be done if your heart pillow or Teddy bear are close by. Squeezing the pillow (or bear) against your chest prevents you from popping your sternum open. You also learn how to stand up and roll over without using your upper body as much as you previously did. Sleeping in a bed is out, at least for a month or so (if not longer) you’ll have to learn how to be comfortable in a recliner 24-7. Breathing, talking, walking, and bathing, etc… all their problems that you’ll need to overcome. And, probably the most important thing or the most annoying... (Your interpretation may vary) is the now-and-for-ever-more medications you’ll be on. Family and friends take precedence over work and bills. The realization that life is all about a beginning and an end and that you’ve been given a chance to change your life’s conclusion differently than what it could have been. Not that you need a lightning bolt to drop out of the sky to tell you to change your life…but a heart attack and open heart surgery is close enough to the same thing. So heed the warning, do yourself a favor. Except it for what it is, and discover what is more important. Not a lot of people get this second chance. For some, it’s as sudden and as unexpected as a car crash. I feel there’s reason for every action and reaction. It’s how you cope and/or do with those actions and reactions that make a difference. Putting it all into perspective Life is what you make of it. There is no perfect solution, there is no golden key, it’s up to you to make it a difference. It’s not money or fame… just you. As we’ve all heard before, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have much at all.” True to some extent, but not always true and not always is your health something that you can have the way you’d like it to be. What is possible is living life to the fullest no matter what the odds. I for one, love to hear stories of people who have found out they have some sort of rare disease and decided to fill their bucket list of personal accomplishments until their time has expired. I commend them and hope I can do the same. So even though my stamina and strength may not be equal to what it was of years past, I’m still able to experience all there is out there. For me, I’d like to think I still can try. Maybe it’s not all about the challenges, maybe it’s not all about solutions, perhaps it’s just about the adventure. Becoming a member of the Zipper Club isn’t the end… it’s a new beginning. View full article
  22. Not a story about cars, or the shop, or tools, or parts, but a story about the other side of the counter..... life in general. Hope you like the story. Thanx in advance for reading it.
  23. OHS – Open Heart Surgery – My story “Being a mechanic, shop owner, writer, lecturer, and teacher I tend to ‘think’ I’m capable of answering any question, take on any challenge, and solve any problem that comes my way. This… is one time, I wasn’t able to do so.” Gonzo How it all started Leading up to my zipper (which is slang for open heart surgery) I thought I was just getting old and tired. For two years or so, I had a very slight off and on chest pain that didn’t last longer than a few minutes. It hurt, but I wasn’t concerned. As soon as the pain dissipated I forgot all about it. Most of the time I would have months between incidences, but that gradually changed to an all-out crushing pressure that lingered longer and longer between no pain and intense pain. The increasing occurrences went from once in a while, to once a month, to too often to consider it something other than what it was… a heart attack. Things that I used to do in a few minutes seemed to take hours. I’ve always been a hands on and very physical type of guy. Never one to pass on heavy lifting or something that was physically demanding, but this “slowing down” stuff was just the something that you couldn’t ignore. It was time to see a doctor. An appointment was made, but as usual the pain subsided and I was busy at the shop, so on I went back at it as hard as I normally went at it. Thinking as usual, that I was as tough as a grizzly and could solve this like any other problem I’ve encountered. There were a lot of signs leading up to my eventual heart attacks, (yes plural…as in several), but as with most boldly-go-where-no-man-has-gone-pig headed “A” personality-types with the personal drive of a MAC truck, and someone who still thinks he can keep up with the twenty something crowd (speaking of myself, of course) – and one who doesn’t listen to their own body or loved ones about your own demise, I ignored the signs. You fall into the trap of misdiagnosing yourself and possibly ending your career and family life all in one fatal swoop. If that’s you, then you’re bound to end up on the floor in the fetal position clutching your chest in extreme agony. (Been there…done that). The ER So, it’s no surprise I ended up in the ER with my son trying to carry his old man through the doors, while my wife is frantically making hand gestures seeking help from the nursing staff. It wasn’t long before I was zipped (Gotta love that word, ya know) off into an awaiting curtained off room. A few quick tests confirmed that this old guy wasn’t heading home any time soon. Even the doctor who first examined me was in shock. He said, “Most everyone I see this bad off are downstairs … with the sheet over their face … if ya get my drift.” He went as far as pulling up the blanket and resting his arm alongside of my leg to show the color differences. Wow, now I’m shocked. All of this led to more tests, and more tests. By now all of my kids have flown into town to be at my side. Stents were tried, but that didn’t work. All that did was give me a few jolts with the paddles and a few burn marks to show for their efforts. (Nice mementos don’t ya think.) Anyway, this all led to even more tests and a trip to another hospital to be put on the schedule for my eventual zipper club initiation ceremony. In other words, an open heart surgery. The first encounter with reality After my ride in the ambulance on my first day at the “new” hospital I was sitting there in my room, in between one monitoring device and another with my two grown daughters holding each hand, I started to feel something wasn’t right. I’m still a bit groggy from the stent debacle from the last hospital, but I could tell the medication was wearing off. Just then, another massive heart attack decided to invite itself. My only thought was… “Don’t you die with both your daughters holding your hands, ya old fart… pull yourself together!” The wife was already out of the room looking for the nurse. The nurse, quite calmly hit the code button, and methodically, as to not bring on any more chaos from the scene which was already happening, carried in a nitro pill for me. In just a few seconds the pill dissolved under my tongue and I could feel the pain and pressure lifting away. Waiting on surgery day A few days passed, I’ve been poked and prodded, medicated and subdued by so many different IV’s and pills that I’m feeling like a new guy already. Even though the actual surgery is still days away. Friends and family called or stopped by on a regular basis. Physically, you can deal with this, emotionally, I don’t know how to put it all into words. At best, all I can say is that nearly everything you do, hear, or read about has a higher emotional connotation than ever before. You’ll have no idea how much your emotional state is brought to the surface while going through all of this. I’ve never been one to cry at the drop of a tissue, but I found myself in these uncontrollable moments over some of the silliest things. I was later told it’s the medication, then I was told… it’s your heart speaking out, I’m not sure what it is… but it certainly is a change from the norm. (For anyone who has been through this you know exactly what I mean) Big John The night before the actual operation my usual nursing staff was in for a bit of a change. The typical female nurse was replaced with BIG John. Oh yes, I mean big too. 6’5” and towering over everyone and anything. His job was to get me prepped for the operation. Now, I’m not a little guy myself. I’m no 6’5” but I’m not a frail little guy by any means. Big John comes into my room carrying several items. First there was the bacterial wash. “Use this entire bottle and don’t miss a spot,” John tells me. Then, there were these two pill cups. John presses the cups in my direction. “OK, these you take orally, and this one goes knuckle deep, and I’ve got to make sure you’ve done both.” The realization of why “Big John” was here on this special occasion has become apparent. If I don’t get this done myself… I’m pretty sure he will. Obviously, modesty has left the building quite some time ago, so it wasn’t a stretch to be in the same room with this mammoth individual while I made the knuckle deep insertion. Although, he wasn’t present for the eventual outcome he was well aware of the results. I don’t know what they put in those, but a toilet seat belt and ceiling padding would have been appropriate. The CABG The surgery itself (as I was told, because even though I was there…what the heck could I tell you about it) had a few difficulties, but as if it’s not noticeable by now I made it through with my heart beat intact. The surgeon performs an operation called a CABG (Coronary Artery Bypass Graft). Mine was a double, meaning two grafts were made. One graft was taken from the left side of the chest and one was taken from behind the left knee. A heart pump is used during the operation to ensure a steady flow while the heart is being worked on. Believe me, you (the patient) have no idea what is going on until you’re told later on. Hopefully, when the medication wears off and you’re coherent. For me, the wife had to retell and retell the whole thing to me, because I wasn’t comprehending much of anything for quite some time. The ICU The ICU (Intensive care unit) is a whole new experience. The first thing is the introduction prior to the surgery. I was wheeled into the adjacent room to the operating room where I would be monitored and was told what to expect when I first woke up from the surgery. The big thing the nurse kept stressing was that I would feel some discomfort from the breathing tube and not to make any attempts to pull it out. Besides I would be strapped down to the table for my own safety. I remember waking up and hearing the nurses talking to each other, “He’s coming to, be ready.” “OK sir, don’t pull it out…Don’t pull it out!” I realized where and what was going on and understood her commands. To me it was just seconds ago that she had told me to not try to pull out the breathing tube, but in reality it was about five or six hours later. However, the “minor discomfort” was over shadowed by the fact you’re trying to breathe through a drinking straw. That I wasn’t expecting at all. Yea, Uhm Ms. Nurse… you forgot to mention that part. My night nurse for ICU was the most anal retentive-OCD person I’ve ever met. The guy spent every waking hour neatly aligning all of the monitors, bottles, tubes, and me over and over again as if we were about to have the commanding general stop by for an inspection. Although, when the day came for me to be wheeled back into a regular room a new nurse was assigned the task. My OCD nurse was sent off to another patients ICU room to straighten up their hoses and IV units. The new nurse on the other hand, starting grabbing monitors, IV’s and whatever else needed to go, or that was still attached, and flung them on or around me while I was seated in an oversized recliner. At one point she said to me as monitors were being tossed about, “Hold this…and this… and this.” and before long I’m being wheeled down the hallway at record setting speeds, as if it’s the Indy 500, only slowing down to make the corners or to change elevators. The overhead florescent lights were moving by so fast I thought they were camera flashes. I’m not sure the reason for the mad dash down the hallways, but it sure was the quickest sprint I’ve ever been on in a recliner race. Sleeping in at the hospital Not that I hate hospitals, OK… I’m not their no#1 fan, but a hospital is not the place to get any sleep. It seemed at exactly 5 minutes past the hour-every hour-day or night somebody was going to come into the room. 7 o’clock was the worst. That was shift change and it never failed that somebody didn’t tell somebody about what somebody was to do or not do, which meant even more trips in and out of the room. I learned very quickly that the best way to avoid the ever present knock on the door was to just leave the door open….at least that way they didn’t knock, and if you were just about to doze off you might actually catch a bit of shut eye before the next round of visitors, and if you’re really lucky you could avoid the guy coming in to check the serial number on the IV for the UPTEENTH time. It was always the same guy at least twice a day from the inventory department. I told him, “Dude, look around, I’m stuck in this room with this IV monitor and I assure you if anybody comes in here and steals it, replaces it with one that looks just like it, I guarantee I’ll call you and let you know. With all these interruptions I’m awake 24-7 which means me and this IV have become the best of friends. I’m dammed sure this is the same IV unit that was here yesterday! So why in the world do you need to come in and scan the serial number twice a day?!” I don’t think I came off as his next best pal by a long shot. Eventually, the day came to get out of the hospital. One the happiest days of my new life. Me and my IV had to part ways, and no, I didn’t tell the inventory guy. Home at last When you finally get to be home, start your rehab schedule, and try to reassemble your now broken apart life, you begin to reevaluate what is most important for your future. Walking is your foremost concern. I had a routine I would do and set a goal each day a bit farther than the previous day. Oh, I’d push it too far, and the wife or my son would have to come haul the emotionally incoherent old guy off of our hilly driveway more than once. It does get better, but it does take time. You soon learn new routines, things like coughing and sneezing should only be done if your heart pillow or Teddy bear are close by. Squeezing the pillow (or bear) against your chest prevents you from popping your sternum open. You also learn how to stand up and roll over without using your upper body as much as you previously did. Sleeping in a bed is out, at least for a month or so (if not longer) you’ll have to learn how to be comfortable in a recliner 24-7. Breathing, talking, walking, and bathing, etc… all their problems that you’ll need to overcome. And, probably the most important thing or the most annoying... (Your interpretation may vary) is the now-and-for-ever-more medications you’ll be on. Family and friends take precedence over work and bills. The realization that life is all about a beginning and an end and that you’ve been given a chance to change your life’s conclusion differently than what it could have been. Not that you need a lightning bolt to drop out of the sky to tell you to change your life…but a heart attack and open heart surgery is close enough to the same thing. So heed the warning, do yourself a favor. Except it for what it is, and discover what is more important. Not a lot of people get this second chance. For some, it’s as sudden and as unexpected as a car crash. I feel there’s reason for every action and reaction. It’s how you cope and/or do with those actions and reactions that make a difference. Putting it all into perspective Life is what you make of it. There is no perfect solution, there is no golden key, it’s up to you to make it a difference. It’s not money or fame… just you. As we’ve all heard before, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have much at all.” True to some extent, but not always true and not always is your health something that you can have the way you’d like it to be. What is possible is living life to the fullest no matter what the odds. I for one, love to hear stories of people who have found out they have some sort of rare disease and decided to fill their bucket list of personal accomplishments until their time has expired. I commend them and hope I can do the same. So even though my stamina and strength may not be equal to what it was of years past, I’m still able to experience all there is out there. For me, I’d like to think I still can try. Maybe it’s not all about the challenges, maybe it’s not all about solutions, perhaps it’s just about the adventure. Becoming a member of the Zipper Club isn’t the end… it’s a new beginning.
  24. I always found that if I wanted the day to pick up the pace a bit all I had to do was start on a personal project and sure enough.... somebody was going to interrupt my leisurely-slow day with immediate work to do. Never failed.
  25. 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. View full article


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