Neighborhood Mechanic 

As the years start creeping by and the days go on and on, they tend
to blend into one another.  Then all of a sudden, you look back on all the
years and wonder, “Have I made a career out of this mechanic stuff?
I must have, I’ve been at this car repair thing for a long time.”
There can only be one explanation for the whole thing, it’s my job. It
really is my career. … It’s what I do, and I guess in some weird wacky
way I must enjoy it.  Week after week, year after year, I keep coming
back and grind it out till the next tomorrow.

  I’ll work all day on cars and then I like to go home.  I did mention
going home, didn’t I?  … Well that’s a subject dear to my heart; there is
absolutely no reason I’ve ever found to work till dark-thirty every night. I’m just not that dedicated to the tool box I guess.  I figure whatever it is… it will wait till tomorrow.   I’ve never been one to want to work all night.  I’ve got a home, I’ve got a family, I’ve got a life outside the shop.  Work is work, but it’s not my life’s work… life itself is a career.

One thing that some people find odd about my career choice is that I don’t spend my weekends building a race car or tinkering on some old restoration project.  Seriously, I get enough bolt turning, knuckle busting, and grease under my fingernails during the normal work hours. I just can’t get all that thrilled to do the same thing when I get home. (It might be OK for some guys, but not for me… I’ll leave the grease and grime at the shop.) But, there are times when my career choice does come in handy at home or in the neighborhood.  Sometimes, it’s just to answer a technical question, sometimes it’s to check out their latest purchases.  Then other times, I see something going on and the “mechanic in me” just can’t ignore it… I’ve got to get involved.

Many years ago I was living in a small town and I noticed an old import car sitting in the neighbor’s driveway.  Every now and then I would see a couple of guys under the hood doing some work on it, but the car never moved or started. Then one day I was out in my garage and I noticed another pair of “do-gooders” was working on it.  I could hear the starter cranking away, and from the sound that the engine was making I had a pretty good idea what was wrong with it.  I was busy with my own home chores, mowing the lawn, edging the driveway, that sort of thing and getting involved wasn’t part of my weekend’s plans.  Besides, I didn’t want to start any “home repairs” in front of my own house… that’s what the shop is for.

After about an hour or so I was done with my projects, and the two guys were still cranking the starter on the old car.  I couldn’t stay away any longer, so I walked on over.  Typically, the neighbor had full confidence in his two mechanics, and a nosey neighbor like me couldn’t do much more than get in the way of his “experts”.  At least I was going to try before they burnt out the starter motor.

“Having car troubles?” I asked them.

“Yea, it’s not getting gas right, going to pull the carburetor off and rebuild it because it’s not keeping the gas in the engine.  It keeps spitting it out,” the first grease covered guy told me. (I think I know what kind of mechanic I’m staring at… with an answer like that I knew these guys didn’t have a clue what they were doing.)

“You mind if I try something?” I said.

It was an early 80’s import with a small 4 cyl. engine under the hood.  I reached down and grabbed the crank pulley and gave it a little twist.  I turned it over by hand a little bit when I felt the crankshaft keyway fall back into place.

“Try it now,” I told the second so called mechanic.

VROOM! It started right up.

   Of course these two guys were totally amazed.  You could see the look on their shocked faces. Both of them were trying to figure out how some guy could walk across the street, reach, grab the crankshaft, give it a twist and the car magically starts.
“I could hear it was out of time from across the street.  I thought it had slipped the timing belt, but when I turned the crankshaft I could feel that it was actually the crankshaft keyway had broken off, and that was throwing it out of time.  I just aligned it up long enough to start it,” I told the two ace mechanics. “As soon as you shut it off the crank and camshaft will spin out of time again, and the only way it will restart is if I realign the keyway one more time.”

By now, the neighbor was helping the two “grease trackers” pick up their tools, and had their tool boxes already in the back of their truck before he even asked me if I would fix it for him.  (Too funny)

Later that afternoon, the neighbor and I pulled the timing belt and crankshaft pulley off and installed a new keyway.  So much for leaving it at the shop….  I’ve got to admit, this is was not a normal occurrence. I try not to even keep any tools at the house, and I try to make the excuse that I can’t work on anything at home because all my tools are at the shop.  (But they still ask.)

I’m very proud of what I do for a living, I’m very proud of my career choice.  It may not be for everyone, but it suits me just fine.  The only thing is I wish more people would take the time to recognize what it takes to become proficient at this job.  It takes years of experience to be good at it, and yes, I do believe there is bit of that “given-talent” you need to have too.  Some of us are born to be mechanics and technicians… and some… shouldn’t be allowed near a tool box.  But I still like to leave my job at the job and not at home.

   If you think about it, everyone has several careers, one you get paid to do and the others you do because you like to do them.  When I’m home, I don’t mind too much mingling careers together, but I’d rather just be another good neighbor… and not the neighborhood mechanic.