12 November, 2016

Real Technician versus Shade Tree

Written while drunk and without the aid of proofreading.  For your pleasure...

Do you know how to spot a real technician from a "shade tree" mechanic?  Are you sure about that?  Allow me to explain the differences to you.  So, hold onto my hand, let's jump down the rabbit hole together.  If you're a regular follower here, you know what's coming.  LOL.

To start off, do you know what a shade tree mechanic is?  The term (for me) originates with the TNN series "Shadetree Mechanic" which aired in the 1990s.  It was a show geared towards the "DIY" mechanic who was working on their own stuff.  At first I found it interesting.  Then, I saw an episode where the "technicians" were going to change a turbocharger on a Dodge truck.  One of the hosts said something like "this turbo has been on for awhile so I'm going to spray some penetrating oil on the mounting nuts."  *spritz, spritz* then he puts a wrench on the nuts and *creak* they come loose.  The dude didn't even tug on the wrench.  I instantly hollered "Bullshit!".  It was a scene that left a whole lot of stuff out.  They didn't show that they sprayed the nuts with panther piss over three days or they cut out the dude using a torch to put some heat on those turbo nuts.  The show was intending to show the average person, who had no idea how their truck's engine worked, that they could repair things themselves.  Sure.  Great.  Sells advertising.  You think they gave one damn about the DIY person when they pulled on that wrench and the stud broke?  Fuck no!  Any professional tech can tell you about the jobs that come in where, obviously, some person had tried to do something themselves (like changing a turbo) and found one or two broken parts.  In the turbo situation the truck would come to us with a complaint of "exhaust leak" or "engine makes a whistling noise".  If you're one of those people, just admit that you broke the shit. We can tell.  We'll have more respect for you if you own the fuck up.  If you're not sure that you can do the job yourself or, at least, can take care of your own fuck ups, take the vehicle to a shop.  If you broke a bolt off because you actually thought WD-40 worked, be prepared to spend a lot of money.  If you would have just brought the thing to a professional you could have save a lot of money in labor by not making things worse.  You have to decide what's more important to you.  Pride or money.

Now, if you "know a guy" and mention that fact, us professionals are automatically going to give you shit or turn down the job.  You see, if I hear the words "My mechanic friend of mine told me..." I'm going to instantly stop listening to the words coming out of you pie hole.  If your mechanic friend was any good you wouldn't be talking to me.  You're just a cheapskate trying to cut corners and are now paying the price.  Neglect your vehicle and it will tell you to "Fuck off!"

Back in the day, before I became a truck tech, a typical problem was the "no start".   Invariably, the cars owned by someone who was either a do-it-yourselfer or "knew a guy"  came into the shop with one, or all, of the following.  New starter, new battery or new alternator.  Shall we break that down?  Averaging the prices of those three components (lots of guesstimation here) from, say, Autozone (the DIY-shade tree store of choice) you, probably, would have spent $300 and a 12pk. of beer and still had a car that wouldn't start.  Why would that happen?  Well, it's because the "guy you know" doesn't quite grasp how to diagnose a no-start problem.  They don't know how to quickly break the problem down into smaller categories from which to continue their diagnosis.  Oh, "it's probably fouled spark plugs."  More money down the drain.  It's not the 1960s.  There's a whole lot more that can cause a no-start than just "tune-up" shit.  Did "your guy" even bother to differentiate between no-crank-no-start and crank-no-start?  That's the first hurdle.  Or, did your "guy who knows cars" just start throwing parts at it hoping something would happen?

What about the "brake job" your "guy" did?  Chances are the shade-tree just threw new pads on and called it a "brake job".  Did he (not being sexist, it's statistics) measure the brake rotor thickness?  Did he bother to check if the rotors are warped (pulsation problem)?  Probably not.  Did you, perhaps, ignore that grinding noise for so long that the brake rotor actually broke and took out the caliper along with it?  When your pal "fixes" the brakes, and you notice the problem is still there, give you a warranty repair?  You probably got the nice, excuse driven, version of a middle finger.  "You'll have to take it to a shop because I don't have the tool for..." as he walks off with your cash.  And it's always cash.

So, despite whatever your "mechanic friend" did, or did not do, you wind up with me.  And you bitch, moan, call me a crook, tell me I'm just trying to sell you parts you don't need because "my mechanic told me..."  Here's what I have to say to you.  "Go fuck yourself."  Yes, there are crooked professionals out there.  There's crooked fuckers in every field.  Who do you trust?  Do you trust your "mechanic friend" because he somehow managed to get your car fixed with his 110 piece Craftsman "mechanic's" tool kit?  Do you believe what you read on "Just Answers" websites?  Here is what you do.

When your car does something it's not supposed to do, you'll think about the people you know and, supposedly, trust.  "Jerry is a mechanic.  He restored that '69 Chevelle..."  It's a '69 Chevelle which, most likely, doesn't run all that well.  A '69 Chevelle is nowhere near as complex as a 2011 Impala.  Ask him if he can tell you how a crank sensor works.  Did you get "Uhhh, well it... the crank..." answer?  Tell that guy that the engine missing on cylinder 4 (assuming you know that's the problem) and see what they do.  You'll probably get a new set of spark plugs and coil packs (expensive).  That "mechanic" friend probably won't even think to ask you some important questions.  When was the last time you checked the oil level?  Does the engine misfire all the time or only at certain road speeds?  Your "mechanic" probably can't even imagine that you have ignored the engine's oil level to the point it got so low you wiped out a lobe on the camshaft.  Or, perhaps, a valve spring is broken.  But, you know, when you end up at a shop full of crooks they'll say your car needs a valve job because, of course, all shops are trying to fuck you.

I see you have some new tires.  Oh, and those nice aluminum wheels are all scratched to fuck.  What's that?  The left front and right rear tires keep going flat?  Your "mechanic" just changed the tires... You think there's a nail in the two tires that are going flat...  Well, before I start work let's make a note of the wheel gouges and, if you would please, initial my comments regarding the gouges.  Why?  Because if I don't, you'll try to blame me for what your "hammer and chisel mechanic" fucked up.  When "I have a 150 piece mechanic's tool kit from Harbor Freight" mechanic changed your tires, did he even consider the corrosion on the wheel to be a problem?  Did he take the wire brush that came with his tool kit... Oh, they don't come with wire brushes... and clean off the corrosion?  Did "Shade tree" bother to spray down the beads and valve stems after the fact to verify there wasn't a leak?  No, of course he didn't.  Because that's the kind of "service" you get for parts+$50 and beer.  But it's my fault.  I'm just a thief running a "racket" to steal your money.  So, just take those leaking tires back to your "mechanic" and demand a warranty repair and/or your money (and beer) back.  See what happens.  You'll end up paying me to fix his fuck-ups.  But you saved a lot of money, right?  NOT!

Disclaimer:  If your "mechanic friend" is actually a professional, we wouldn't be having this conversation.  Professionals do side work.  Not all of us, but some do.  I have no interest in doing my day job on my own time.  When asked I quote the shop rate of my day job.  Conversation usually stops right there.  I went to tech school, I read books and trade magazines non-stop, I've worked my ass off.  Don't insult me by thinking I'll waste my precious little spare time for $20 and beer.  Fuck off.  Also, don't expect your accountant to fix your car.  There's a huge difference between a "shade tree" and a professional.  Any shade tree fucker can throw parts at a problem (and even get lucky sometimes) but it takes a professional to diagnose the problem with minimal damage.  Would you trust a doctor who says  "Well, the people on Yahoo Answers said..."?

09 October, 2016

When Mechanics Have A Bad Day

I just watched a couple of videos on YouTube where a motor mechanic/machinist/welder/foundryman reconditioned a drill press spindle for a friend.  The spindle had a Jacobs taper for mounting a chuck and just above the taper were some threads for a nut which would be used to force the chuck off.  The threads were chowdered and the taper showed signs of a slipping chuck.  The whole end of the spindle was machined down and welded up.  A fresh taper was machined and new threads cut.  This gentleman did a fine job.  When the video got to making a new nut (for forcing off the chuck) I was left scratching my head.  Though we did not see it, the original nut was surely a hex nut.  The new nut was knurled with only four puny 6mm holes for a tommy bar.  It was mentioned that when the gentleman's friend obtained a new chuck, it would be fit to perfection with some lapping compound.  Sounds like solid workmanship.  But what about the next guy?

How often have you removed a chuck from your drill press?  That's what I thought.  Unless it gets damaged, the chuck is never going to come off.  Now imagine a new chuck lapped to a perfect fit.  Think of the use a drill press receives.  Imagine decades of that chuck being force ever tighter onto that spindle by the downward pressure of drilling.  Throw in some condensation from being in an unheated garage or shed.  The next person to remove that chuck is going to be really, really pissed there's only puny 6mm holes in that nut.  There will be an attempt at using a tommy bar, there will be cursing, there will be the desperation of having to get that chuck off...  I see a pipe wrench and hammer in the chuck and spindle's future.  The current nut was ( in order) faced, turned, knurled, parted off, drilled, bored and threaded.  After that, the nut was screwed onto the spindle, mounted in a square collet block, mounted in a milling vise, center of the part found, four 6mm holes drilled.  The knurling and 6mm holes could have been skipped.  The set up could have otherwise remained the same and at least two flats machined onto the nut.  Give the next guy the ability to put an adjustable wrench on that nut and have a fighting chance.

No, I can't see the future.  I've been the poor bastard trying to disassemble things like I've described.  When something like an air dryer gets mounted in a wheel well and is hanging out in the elements and requires three M8x160mm bolts for mounting... A torx headed bolt is not the best choice.  A steel bolt passing through an aluminum air dryer into an air tank made out of shitty steel leads to a LOT of corrosion.  And you know damned well the factory isn't going to waste the time or money to put a little smear of anti-seize on those bolts.

A year or so after the truck's warranty period has ended the dryer will fail.  You know, because nobody reads the fucking owner's manual.  Especially the part about air dryer maintenance (change the cartridge every fall people).  The dryer will inevitably fail somewhere on the road and it will fail so bad that the whole rig can't be limped into a shop.  Some sorry-ass mechanic will end up out there to replace the air dryer.  He will sized up the situation and see what tools he needs to... "Fucking torx heads?  WTF!  What fucking soft-handed desk jockey is responsible for this fuck up!!  Yeah, sure, use torx heads because metal never fucking corrodes!!!"  The mechanic will spray some panther piss on the thing knowing that it isn't going to help.  He'll then put a torx bit onto a ratchet and gently try to loosen those bolts.  The torx bit will break.  The bit breaks because of many things.  Mostly because the never work in high torque situations but other factors are involved.  The recess in the bolt is too shallow because some bean counter didn't think an extra 5/10 of a cent was worth using a quality fastener, with a deep enough recess to allow good purchase of the bit in the fastener.  A plain 'ol hex head bolt would, at least, allow the mechanic to gingerly work the fastener back and forth, giving him a small chance of success.  But they didn't.  The mechanic is now so pissed off the driver has become concerned about their safety.  The mechanic grinds the bit down and tries again after putting a little heat into the parts.  *SNAP*  "FUCK!!!!!"  The mechanic is now going to drill the heads off, remove the air dryer and use vise grips to get the bolts out.  Oh, but wait.  Where in the hell is he going to get M8x160mm bolts at 02:00 on a  Sunday morning?  The longest bolts at the shop are 60mm.  "FUCK!!!"  The mechanic then discovers that there's so much other crap in the way he'll never be able to get a drill in there.  The situation just snowballs.  But, for this case, let's say the mechanic called in some favors and managed to wake up a friend who had some M8 threaded rod.  He has to go and get it, return to the broken vehicle, cut the rod, fit it, install the new air dryer and make sure it works.  Great.  It's all done and working.  Looks like a redneck did the work but at least the truck can roll. 

The bill is handed to the driver and he freaks the fuck out.  The mechanic (already tired, very pissed off and very cold because it's January in Wisconsin) has to explain all of the labor time.  Removal of shitty fasteners, the fastener supply situation, the retrieval of fasteners from far off corners of the county, billing by the hour (explained right at the first phone call but forgotten by the driver), the custom fitting...  The driver ignores the fact they ignored dryer maintenance for years so the whole thing is their fault.  The driver ignores the fact that the mechanic had to get out of bed in the wee hours on a cold January night and has been working in frigid temperatures for hours while he sits in a warm truck.  Yeah, it's all the mechanic's fault.  All mechanics are crooks (said with sarcasm). 

It all comes down to shit design and cost cutting.  I'm quite sure the person responsible for the air dryer design and mounting, while sitting in a clean, comfortable, climate controlled office, never once thought of what their choices would be like five years down the road.  No, that fucker was never going to be dodging cars on the side of an icy interstate highway so why should he care?  The bean counter doesn't care, he's only concerned with keeping costs down so the company profits remain high and many trucks will be sold.  "Fuck service!  Fuck mechanics!  Make it good enough to get through the warranty period.  Who cares after that?"  It ends at the truck's sticker price.  Trucks that are easily serviced and will last for millions of miles can be built.  You wouldn't pay for it.  The price for good design and workmanship would be so high that nobody would buy the trucks.  Think of it in tool terms.  You need a set of wrenches.  The dollar store has a set of wrenches from 1/4" to 1" for $15.  Snap-On sells a 1/4" to 1" set of wrenches for $600.  Which set do you choose?  If you chose the $15 set of wrenches, you're part of the problem.  Sure, they'll work right now and may actually fit fasteners.  They won't last long and you'll soon see why the wrench set was only $15.  The Snap-On wrenches, though initially expensive, will fit properly, will feel good in the hand and will be built so good they'll outlast you, your children and your grandchildren.  And they have a lifetime warranty. 

You need to look to the future.  As you install that exhaust manifold, put some anti-seize on the bolts.  Think of the next guy who will have to take it apart.  Those bolts will break loose, he'll see the silvery remains of anti-seize and he'll thank the mechanic who put those bolts in.  That mechanic will do the same.  It can go the other way of course.  I once was involved in a starter replacement for a dump truck that was in the middle of a muddy field.  The first guy spent two hours trying to get three starter bolts out and was only successful with one.  I came in for the day and was sent out to finish the job.  I had five hours into it and only got one more bolt out.  I had to have the shop bring me bigger tools, I had to heat the shit out of the parts...  The first guy went back the next day and finally got the last bolt out.  You know what he found?  Having been there while the sun was still providing good light, the first mechanic saw that some asshole had put green loctite (bearing retainer) on the bolt threads.  Green!!  What a dick!  It's karma.  Do something to be a little shit and it will come back to you.  If you think taking the extra time will make things easier for the next guy, do it.

12 July, 2016

You Can Do It!

Never, ever believe that you can't do something!  The only limitations you're subjected to are those of your own making.  Whatever it is that you want to learn, you can do it.  To quote Neil Peart (I'm a huge Rush fan) "Throw off those chains of reason and your prison disappears."  Examples.

When I was getting into woodworking in my early twenties, I had very basic skills.  I've written about that subject in previous articles.  I got caught in the "trap" of thinking about power tools.  I had to have a table saw, a planer, a router, a router table, a biscuit joiner, a dovetail jig for the router...  I was influenced by the resources available to me at the time.  "The New Yankee Workshop", the endless stream of magazines and such.  The internet hadn't really taken off at that point so these were my only references.  I made do with the tools I had and the tools I could afford.  It never occurred to me that I could do just as well without electricity.  The younger version of me frequently said things like "The plan calls for dovetails and cherry.  That's way beyond my skill level."  I was limiting myself.  I spent more time worrying about the jigs I would need to build for my power tools than I did making stuff.  Cutting dovetails by hand?  That was only for the masters.  Hogwash! 

As resources on the internet became more numerous I started to see new ways of doing things.  I started to go out on a limb and just try new things for the hell of it.  As far as woodworking is concerned, my watershed moments were learning how to sharpen tools and getting my first jack plane.  I bought a set of decent chisels and a No. 4 smoothing plane early on but was disappointed with those tools.  My "sharpening" was, again, limited by my own brain.  I thought I needed sharpening jigs to get accurate tool geometry.  Wrong.  Once I finally learned what "sharp" means, I never looked back.  Sure, I bought a sharpening jig, but I used sandpaper instead of stones for years.  I also didn't worry about whether I was getting 30 degrees on that chisel or 29 degrees.  I stopped myself from getting bogged down by so many unimportant details.  I learned what "sharp" actually was and then I taught myself to sharpen tools consistently.  Period.  The writings of Christopher Schwarz led me to the jack plane.  Through him I learned that I could flatten boards and/or reduce their thickness with a jack plane.  Learning about the use of jack planes led me to some other basic tools.  The marking gauge for one, winding sticks another.  Both of those simple items (easily made) worked in conjunction with a jack plane to make stock flat and true.  That exercise led into hand saws and the maintenance of hand saws.  The saws led into dovetails.  Dovetails, marking gauges and sharp chisels led into new things.  Things snow-balled.  It's to the point where I hardly use any power tools for woodworking.  I'm not crazy though.  The table saw isn't going anywhere.  But, I threw off the chains I had put on myself and just ran.  "I like that bookcase.  I'm going to make it with nothing but hand tools."  So I did. 

I've also been carving wooden spoons for a few years now.  I never thought I would have been carving spoons.  I tried it once back in the '90s while on a camping trip, but I was trying to replicate what I saw in my Mom's kitchen.  Factory produced spoons.  Not exactly the right thing for a young man with a pocket knife.  Fast forward about fifteen years and I start seeing (and following) a blog by some guy named Peter Follansbee.  I'm not going to explain Peter Follansbee here.  Google is your friend.  Anyway, I read his articles on spoon carving and it caught my interest.  "Oh, so you rough it out with a hatchet.  Makes sense.  Hook knife?  What the heck is that used for... Oh, yeah.  scooping out the spoon's bowl."  I got a couple of hatchets off Ebay but couldn't find a hook (or spoon) knife.  This was just before spoon carving gained popularity and just before the cottage tool makers sprang up.  So, I made my own hook knife.  From experience I had gained from junior high and on, I knew that I had to start with some sort of tool steel.  Something that could be hardened and would hold an edge.  I found a bunch of sharpening steels (used with kitchen knives) in a box of junk someone dumped at the shop.  Perfect material and it was free.  I had never made a knife before but I knew how to anneal steel, work it into shape and then harden it.  The first attempt didn't work, but I learned from it.  The second attempt worked so well that I still use that hook knife.  I made a couple more hook knives just to try different things.  One was good, the other not so good.  I then proceeded to make spoons.  Each spoon I made taught me different things.  I also learned that I could grab a branch that had fallen off a tree and make spoons out of it.  I gave them away as gifts.  I was not prepared for how well they were received.  People love handmade items like spoons.  Each one is different.  I've never even had another person's hand carved spoon in my hands.  I only read about the subject and then went for it.  A hatchet, a couple of knives (and a spokeshave which is easier on my aging hands than a lot of knife work) and some fallen limbs...  It's satisfying for me and it makes other people smile when I give them a spoon. 

Metalworking has been mostly the same story.  Aside from the core skills learned in school, I haven't had anyone to show me things.  It's all been from reading.  Try something new, fuck it up, try again.  Keep pushing the limits and learn new things.  There's no reason you can't do the same.  If you find something that catches your interest research it a little and then do it.  You'll fuck up often but you'll learn from those mistakes and move on.  Each time you learn something, you'll find other things you weren't aware of and that will lead you down other paths.  Just don't limit yourself.

You can build furniture with power tools, you can build furniture with hand tools or maybe mixing the two.  It doesn't matter.  Just try it.  You may fuck up and have nothing but firewood but rest assured, you're not the only one.  I have all sorts of projects that have never seen the light of day.  Just remember, there's more than one way to skin a cat.

Some woodworking resources.  Christopher Scwarz/Lost Art Press, Peter Follansbee, Paul Sellers, Roy Underhill.

Some metalworking resources. Keith Fenner, Keith Rucker, Adam Booth, Tom Lipton, MrPete222 aka Tubalcain.

24 June, 2016


A few days ago was my friend Audra's birthday.  She died years ago and, though I'm sad she's gone, her light still shines.  I met Audra not long after I met my friend Adam (and his twin Jason, and the other two brothers, their whole family...) and I was initially a little jealous that I would have to share my friend with her.  That jealousy lasted less than a week.  Once I got to know Audra I loved her (not romantically) and was glad to have her as another friend.  Adam and Jason were a little crazy, very sociable and some of the best damned people I've known outside of my own family.  I'm not sure why I hit it off with Adam and Jason but we did, and they're still my friends.  I, however, am an introvert and don't do well in social situations.  In my early twenties I was quite the bar fly and went out every weekend.  I would never have done that if I hadn't known Adam and Jason.  With them being so extroverted I could just sort of be there and meet new people without getting out of my comfort zone.  I was like the fifth Beatle (Pete Best).  Everyone knew there was another guy but could never quite remember the name.  It worked brilliantly and through them I met some more good people.  I also, mostly while drunk, learned how to be more social.  We did some seriously crazy shit back in those days and I'm a little surprised I got through it without any serious injuries.  Fire, heavy equipment, guns, booze... So many stories.  Those stories are for another time. 

However, I always was the "cautious thinker" in the group and didn't always speak my mind as it was hard to get a word in while Adam and Jason were talking.  My meticulous way of doing things, my love of music and the artistic stuff didn't really fit into the group.  I was fine with that because we had a lot of other things in common.  Personality-wise, Audra was just like me.  With her around there was always a way to take a break from the normal craziness.  When the activities of the day got to a point where I would lose interest or simply not have any part in what was going on, Audra would be there to wake my brain up.  We would talk about photography, she might ask me about woodworking (I was just starting that hobby), I would help her with her photography stuff when she was in art school.  Most of all, Audra liked me exactly as I am.  Warts and all. 

Audra and Adam eventually married and I was honored to be their best man.  The running joke was that I was the spare groom.  I kept saying that there was going to be a marriage and if Adam passed out, I was going to step into his place.  Audra was the kind of woman I want as my mate.  She married the right guy though, Adam is a much better person than I.  Houses were purchased, they adopted a child, life was good for everyone.

The dark side of this story is Audra had a form of cystic fibrosis and a heart problem.  Her Mother had the same.  We all knew Audra would probably never live long enough to be an old woman, but we never really talked about it.  We just accepted it and moved on with life.  Audra's condition worsened slowly over the years and got to the point where she was in the hospital more than she was at home.  One spring Adam called me and said I should get to the hospital to see Audra.  He didn't have to spell it out, I knew the end was near.  I went to see her that day and she was sleeping when I arrived.  I chatted with Adam and tried not to state the obvious. I just wanted to be there for him and hopefully take his mind off of things for a few minutes.  Audra woke up briefly and we shared some small talk.  As I was leaving she said something to me, her breath short, that I didn't understand.  To this day I don't know what she said.  I just waved, smiled and said something silly like "See ya around."  It still haunts me to this day that I didn't understand her and may have seemed like an ass.  I can recall that moment as if it happened yesterday.

Only a short time after I visited Audra in the hospital, Adam called me.  I had just finished a service call on that sunny afternoon.  He told me that Audra was gone.  I said something along the lines of "So that time has come.  We knew it was coming but it's still a shock."  Adam asked me to be a pallbearer.  He didn't have to ask.  The funeral was in the same church in which Audra and Adam were married.  The same church where Jason and Heidi were married.  The same church where Greg and his first wife (rest in peace, Tiffany) were married.  The same church where Adam and Jason's Father's funeral was held.  The same church where Adam and Jason's Grandmother's funeral was held.  I was at all of those events because they thought of me as part of their family.  They're good people.  At Audra's funeral I set my own feelings aside and resigned myself to supporting people.  I wanted to be the rock on that day.  Audra would have understood my intentions.  After the funeral I rode with Jason and Heidi out to the little cemetery in the country where Audra would be buried.  When it came time to pick up her casket and carry it to her grave I was in the lead spot.  It was not a conscious decision, I just happened to take that spot.  I cried a little as I was carrying my friend but did my job.  During the burial I stayed in the background, keeping an eye on everyone.  Greg's girlfriend (now wife) consoled me a couple of times and then it was back to the church for lunch.

After lunch, the family all met up and just talked about Audra.  We shared stories, pictures (I brought along some of my favorite photos of Audra) and just hung out.  The loss of Audra hadn't quite hit me as I was still in "watchman" mode.  When I got home I cried like a baby and that was it.  This year, as Audra's birthday came and went, I got to thinking about her.  On my way home from work this morning little snippets of memories flooded in and I lost it.  Audra was a good person, a good wife, a good Mother and she was my friend.  If you had asked me long ago if her death would be such a loss to me I probably wouldn't have thought so.  It didn't take long after she was gone to realize that a piece of me went with her. 

The only time I've visited Audra's grave was the day we buried her.  Each year since I've thought that I should go and put flowers on her grave, but I never do.  This year I'll actually do it.  It is going to hurt.  I feel like an ass for not having gone in past years but after so many family deaths I don't handle cemeteries well.  Audra, the woman who knew me as well as my own Mother knows me, would understand.

05 May, 2016

Another New Guy

The current shop broom pusher and parts runner is decent.  He's not so good at keeping himself busy and lacks some skills that are needed to become a mechanic.  He's young and wants to get into this crazy line of work but I don't think he's going to make it.  I'm sure you've heard the jokes pertaining to the "dumb blonde" that can't walk and chew gum at the same time, well that's the new guy.  If he's sweeping up a bay and I say something like "Make sure to turn in the keys to the shop truck before you leave."  He'll have to stop sweeping in order to reply.  Being the person who drives the shop truck the most, he's pretty good at keeping the fluids topped off and letting us know when there might be some problems that need fixing.  He's self-taught thus far and does fairly well with his own vehicles.  Last week he mentioned that the shop truck has a bad wheel bearing.  I asked him to get the front end off the ground, spin the wheels and give them a shake to determine if what he was hearing was actually a wheel bearing going bad.  Between then and now I had driven the truck and was pretty sure it was a tire noise.  The truck is four wheel drive and has some pretty aggressive tires on it.  Those tires haven't been rotated in a long time and the front tires are looking (and feeling) quite choppy.  So, today he mentioned the wheel bearing again and I asked if he had checked them yet.  He said he hadn't (after having to stop sweeping to answer my question) and I mentioned that it might be prudent to rotate the tires when he had the wheels off the ground.  A short test drive after tire rotation would either prove, or disprove my theory regarding the tires.  He said that he knew what a bad wheel bearing sounded like.  I said that I did, too.  I also said that before we go through the hassle of ordering, picking up and installing a wheel bearing that it was a good idea to eliminate the tires first.  I told him that I wasn't discounting his thinking it was a bad bearing, but a professional shop can't just throw parts at a vehicle because someone "thinks" a part is failing.  He got all riled up and I said "Yeah, it can't possibly be tire noise, or differential noise due to low fluid level, or vibration.  I don't know a damned thing."  Said with sarcasm.  I then told him, "Dude, I got into this line of work before you were even born.  I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I've learned a thing or two.  Don't forget who showed you how to repair those threads you ripped out of your Mom's van yesterday."  He became pissy and didn't speak to me the rest of his shift.

The big oaf is 21.  Young men in their early twenties just can't be wrong and the world is their oyster.  I was like that at his age.  I was full of piss and vinegar, I didn't listen to advice from the old guys... It bit me in the ass more than once and I learned from it.  I don't like being the "bossy" type, but sometimes I have to be.  It's a professional shop.  Hanging out in your buddy's garage working on your own shit is a different environment.  As foreman, I'm responsible for making sure the work gets done and is done right.  I'm constantly roaming the shop and checking in with the other mechanics.  "How is this coming along?  Need any parts?"  I'll offer some advice and then move on to the next guy.  What the broom pusher doesn't understand yet is, though throwing parts at your own vehicle is fine and dandy, it doesn't fly for customer equipment.  "Uh, yeah, I uhhh... heard a wheel bearing noise and replaced both front bearings.  The, uh, er, noise is still there but you have to pay me for the wheel bearing R&R because, uh, the noise... go talk to the foreman."  You can't do that in a professional shop.  Customers get pissed off about that sort of thing.  To appease those customers you have to do things like not making them pay for the labor (and selling the parts at your cost) for that "repair" just because someone didn't want to spend twenty minutes verifying the problem.  The goal of a business is to make money, not give stuff away.

The sweeper doesn't understand that as of yet.  He doesn't understand that we're letting him work on the company vehicles as a learning experience.  He doesn't understand that pissing off the old guys trying to teach him things isn't going to help his progression into wrench turning.  I'm not his parent, I'm not his teacher, I'm not his guidance counsellor, I don't owe him a damned thing.  I've had to deal with people like the sweeper many times.  Most of the time you just push them into the pool and say "Your so smart are ya?  Sink or swim motherfucker!"  Everyone needs an ego check every now and again.  I certainly received my share.

You new guys, listen to what the old guys are trying to teach you.  If the old guy makes a suggestion, don't automatically go into defensive mode.  Say "Thanks!" and after the old guy has left you alone, think about what he said.  Maybe his idea will work, maybe it won't.  Don't let your mouth move faster than your brain.  Think about what that old bastard has done for you.  He showed you how to sharpen a drill bit, how to drill a straight hole, how to tell the difference between wheel bearing play and king pin play, he showed you how to not get into overwhelming debt on the tool truck... Want to keep receiving little lessons like those?  Give the old guy a little respect.  Keep giving that old guy shit.  He'll cut you off and, possibly, give you incorrect information on purpose.  Just to watch you flail around and attempt to dig yourself out of the hole you just dug.  Yes, that happens.

Old Guy:  Make sure you drill that hole straight and right down the center.  If you get it crooked the tap might break off.  Here, let me show you a few tips...

New Guy: Yeah, yeah I got it.  It ain't the first hole I've drilled

OG:  Okay, just be careful.  Getting a broken tap out of that place isn't going to be fun.

NG:  Hey, can I borrow that tap?

OG:  Here ya go.  Use plenty of oil on it.

NG:  Yeah, sure.  I've done this plenty of times.

*thirty minutes later*

NG:  I need some help.

OG:  What happened?

NG:  The tap broke in that hole. *expects the OG to fix his fuck up*

OG:  I'll be over in a minute to have a look

OG:  That hole you drilled is off center and really crooked.  I assume from the coolant leak that you drilled so crooked that the water jacket got pierced.  Have fun with that one.

NG:  Will you help me with it?

OG:  Nope.  You brushed me off when I tried to give you some tips but you said that you had done this plenty of times before.  You created that problem, you have to fix it.  Sink or swim.  Make sure you get my tap replaced when the tool truck gets here.

*OG walks away*

08 March, 2016

It could have been a book.

They left out a bunch of information. Did that dude use an assault knife or just a regular knife without a high capacity blade? We need to start sending letters to our government requesting knife control and background checks for people who seek to buy these truly hideous "assault knives".

Before you start calling me an asshole, please try and put things into perspective. If this Elvis-lookin' creep had used a firearm the general public would be losing their fucking minds. "OMG we need to ban muzzle loaded smooth bore muskets right the fuck now!!" A person was killed. That's tragedy enough. The dude was messed up in the head and he was going to kill this poor girl regardless of the weapon. It could have been a Furby and Wii controller. How many people get killed because other people, possibly like yourself, are more concerned with their "smart" phone than driving? What about those assholes who get behind the wheel thinking "I only had eight beers, I'm fine"?
The US gets all riled up when some person with mental illness walks into a school and shoots people, a deranged individual sets fire to a church or a despondent person drives full throttle into an office building.  A knife, a gun, a Penske truck full of fertilizer, an airplane, a rock... Someone who is hell-bent on killing is going to kill.  Period.  Guns seem to be the only weapon that is a hot topic.  After 9-11-2001 was there a mass uprising demanding the control and/or ban of aircraft?  No.  Have you heard about the legislation calling for a ban on axes longer than 16"?  Neither have I.  Gun control and/or banning guns with certain accoutrements isn't going to accomplish a damned thing, save for pissing off a large portion of the country.  If you've watched any documentaries involving commandos, spec-ops etc., you'll realize that one person, with only a knife, can dispatch an alarmingly large number of people before the alarm is raised.  Duct tape!  Duct tape can be a weapon.  
I've had a knife pulled on me.  I've had a gun pulled on me.  I was not concerned with the weapon either time.  What terrified me was the fact that I was staring down an individual who had one goal.  That goal was to end me.  No remorse, no mercy, just hate.  Then, there are the times I almost got killed by some driver who was too busy with their "smart" phone.  It's a chilling thing when you realize that someones fucking text message is more important than your life.  
If you are anti-gun, I'm not knocking your stance.  If you're pro-gun, I ask that you don't automatically condemn the "anti-gun" people.  Before you start shouting at each other, I ask that you spend a mere 30 minutes, by yourself, and ask yourself "what is the core problem?"  
For the record, I do not support the NRA.  I did at one time, but the sheer amount of spam I received, not to mention the DVD scam they forced upon me, left a sour taste in my mouth and the strong desire to never, ever support that organization again.  
If you've made it this far before hitting the "reply" button, I will assume you're a level-headed individual.  Thank you.  For those who barely made it past the first two paragraphs before leaving a comment, I will pick you apart for not having read the whole article.  

11 February, 2016

Backwards Compatible

I was writing a letter to my Aunt and I got to thinking "I wonder how many people under 25 know how to send a letter?"  In the age of "smart" phones (a totally inappropriate name for a device that dumbs people down) people have become too dependent on these electronic devices.  I'm amazed by the people I've known whose lives seemed on the brink of destruction because their "smart" phone failed.  They depend on the phone for contact information, and when the phone fails they're dependent on the service provider for back up.  How about taking on some of the responsibility and writing that information down?  If your "smart" phone fails, will you know how to pay your bills?  And the cost of having a "smart" phone... Jesus H. Christ!  Having your ability to contact people, pay your bills, navigate in your car and access the internet all in the hands of one entity?  Are you nuts?  And then there's the TV, cell phone, home phone and internet "all in one" packages.  Insanity!  The most recent spam (in mail form) I received from the Borg stated something like "Guaranteed fixed rate for two years!"  I didn't read further but I'm sure it entailed a five year contract, wherein they bend you over and fuck you right up the ass (no lube) for three years.  The "phone" company can go fuck themselves.  Google documents, Google+, Google search engine, Google dildo supply...  They'll tell you what you want and how long you're going to like it.  And you people keep drinking the Kool-Aid.  When was the last time (if ever) you've written a letter?  When was the last time (if ever) you've received a letter?  Would you know how to address a letter?  Would you know where to buy stamps (if you even know what stamps are) if you didn't have your "smart" phone to tell you?  Could you drive to an unfamiliar place without the aid of the GPS on  your "smart" phone?  Would you even be able to know what the time is without your "smart" phone?  When was the last time you read the Sunday comics?  When was the last time you read a book that didn't require battery power?

I know I'm being harsh, but I'm doing so with purpose.  I have a cell phone (A flip phone.  Cheap.) and use it often, but I don't even have a texting plan.  I have an old iPod touch that I use frequently, mainly for the camera and alarm functions, but I don't depend on it.  I also, obviously, use some of the things Google provides.  This blog for example.  I also give money to the local phone provider for a land line and internet connection.  A slow, DSL internet connection (Cheap!).  But I'm not a slave to those things.  I have an address book, a journal, a rather large home library, a library card, a newspaper subscription and a mail box.  All of that stuff works without power.  Hell, I even have a set of encyclopedias in one of the bookcases.  I certainly enjoy modern technology, but I can get along without it just fine.  Can you?  Go write someone a letter.