03 April, 2013

The New Guy

The "New Guy" at work isn't going to make it in this line of work.  He went to a tech school, albeit a government funded "school to jobs" thing and, by his own admission, spent a lot of the time high or not paying attention.  He went to school (got a tool kit too) on our tax dollars.  He wasted our money.  He's been with us for a year now and has shown improvement, but he isn't going to cut it in the end.  He has a severe lack of problem solving ability.  He's the kind of person that did poorly in the comprehension part of those lovely standardized tests the public schools use.  He's also lazy and selfish.  I thought I was a selfish bastard, but I look like a martyr compared to this guy.  Some examples.  He'll drive a truck up to a shop door, honk the horn and then wait for someone to open the door.  All the while there's a walk-in door not fifteen feet away.  Whoever is inside has to stop what they're doing, walk over, push a button to open the door, wait for lazy-ass to drive in, close the door and then get back to what they were doing.  I explain to him that certain doors are close enough to walk-in doors that it's more efficient for everyone if he simply opens the door for himself.  The new guy also seems to give up frequently when the going gets rough.  Just last night he had to put a treadle valve in a spotter for one of our best customers.  First problem is that a treadle valve has more than two air lines.  Not good because, as I just mentioned, he doesn't have problem solving skills.  Problem number two was the replacement valve was a different brand and had a different port layout than the original.  Problem three, he expected me to take him parts all the time.  As with the door thing, he doesn't even consider that other people might just happen to be busy doing other work.  I was busy getting things done in the shop because I knew he wouldn't be done with the treadle valve for a long time.  Still, he got frustrated and kept calling with stupid questions that he already knew the answer to.  It seems that the moment something doesn't go according to plan, his brain goes into screensaver mode.  One of the times he called me last night, he somehow had the idea that I knew exactly what he was looking at and what needed to be done.  "Uh, dude, I don't know how a treadle valve works.  I don't know how the old and new parts compare and I can't read your mind."  Not wanting to discourage him further I said "I'll find some literature and bring it over to you."  I looked up an air system diagram for the truck he was working on, a diagram for the old treadle valve (ports weren't labeled, which they should be) and took it over to him.  It took me two minutes of looking at this information to figure out how the new valve would probably need to be plumbed.  Staying there would only reinforce his belief that someone will always come to bail him out and trying to explain things to him would be wasted time on my part.  So, I left.  He's a big boy now.  He's working in the real world, in a real truck shop.  He needs to learn that it's up to him whether he sinks or learns to swim.  He's going to get thrown into the after hours service call rotation in the near future and it's going to be a rude awakening for him.  He's gone a year without being in the rotation.  The rest of us had, at the most, six months before we were thrown to the wolves.  I was in the rotation three months after starting at this shop!    Anyway, I got the current job I was working on finished and was getting ready to go get the next one when the new guy calls yet again.  "The brakes work but the air gauge, air seat and fifth wheel release don't work.  I can't mount the valve because of the air lines.  The cab is stuck in the air, the switch is bad.  I'm done.  I'm packing up and coming back.  Somebody can finish it tomorrow."  Oh, I can't tell you how pissed off I was.  I hung up on him because if I didn't, I would have been screaming at him.  I put my tools away, got in my service truck and went to clean up his mess.  Again.  You see, this isn't the first time he's done something like this.  I arrived to find the spotter, cab sticking up in the air, batteries disconnected, treadle valve dangling by the air lines, parts and a couple of tools laying on the ground...  I was livid.  I diagnosed and fixed the cab issue (lift motor solenoid was stuck).  I figured out a way to bolt the treadle valve down.  I disconnected all the air lines and plumbed the valve so the brakes and air accessories worked.  The brake lights stayed on but I was still too pissed, too tired and too cold to fuck with that.  I pulled the circuit breaker for the brake lights and left it.  But, the spotter was usable for our customer when morning came.  The new guy needs to get it through his thick head that even though the hours suck and some jobs are going to kick his butt, he still needs to get things done.  The rest of the guys in the shop know this and we'll all help each other as much as possible because we know we can count on each other to get shit done.  I can't count on the new guy.  As I've said, this isn't the career for him.  I always get stuck with the new guys on night shift.  The fifth mechanic position is a revolving door.  For some reason it's a hard spot to fill.  It's been years since I've had an experienced coworker on night shift. 

To be a mechanic requires the right mind.  Tech school is important, but a person without the proper head for it isn't going to become any better from school or experience.  Example, "Jimmy" came to us after getting kicked out of college.  "Jimmy" is the son of another employee and worked in the office.  Filing, billing, stuffing envelopes, going on parts runs etc.  He tinkered with his motorcycle some, but had no formal education as far as trucks or cars.  After a little over a year in the office, he decided he wanted to work out in the shop.  We all told him he was crazy for wanting to work in the shop.  "You'll be sorry!" we said.  I'm happy to say we were all wrong about Jimmy.  He's been in the shop just a few years and he's one of the best mechanics we have.  He's done well because he has the right tools in his head.  Hell, he had never used a welder and asked me to show him how to weld.  I gave Jimmy the basic "Here's how to turn it on, this adjusts wire speed, this adjusts voltage, you need a spotless ground..." I showed him some basic techniques for welding vertically, horizontally and overhead.  Showed him what under penetration and over penetration looked like.  Showed him a lap joint, butt joint, fillet.  Had him try the welds that we had just covered, let him practice a little more and that was it.  It took 90 minutes and he pretty much had it down. 

As for me, I don't like my job but I've come to accept that I'm pretty good at it and it's the kind of thing I was meant to do.  I don't like working twelve hour shifts having to babysit the new guy.  I don't like knowing that I'll probably get yelled at the next day for not getting more done instead of getting some praise for saving the day after the new guy gave up and left a mess behind.  But, deep down I love the challenges.  I also get satisfaction from knowing the boss can depend on me and trusts me enough to run the shop at night.  The boss knows that I know what needs to be done, and how he wants things done. 

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