New Dog, Old Tricks

“Sit! Sable, sit”, I tell the family’s new
German Shepherd pup.  When she sits, she
gets a treat.  “Good dog, Sable... good dog.”

She's only 8 months old, but she is
already turning out to be a great dog for
the family.  We've decided to make sure
she has the proper training, and not learn
any bad habits from us “novice pet parents”.
Instead we are taking her to training
classes once a week with an expert dog
handler/trainer.  We're hoping to have
Sable trained as a “companion dog” after
all the training is finished.  Although, really... the training never ends.  Every day there's a new challenge and a new skill to learn. 

At the training session all the dog handlers (Oops, I mean pet parents) are standing in a straight line waiting for our next instructions.  I’ve got the leash in hand, the dog at heel position, and I’m intent on listening for every instruction the trainer tells us.  It reminded me of those early days when I first started in the repair business.  There I was a naive, still green behind the ears young tech thinking he knew it all, only to be told to go sit.  I spent hours upon hours walking alongside another tech, observing how he solved a problem or made use of a certain tool.  I guess in a way I was just like the pup... I probably looked a lot like the dog; eager to see what was to be next, well… OK, everything except for the tail wag and the tongue hanging out, of course.  It took some time to learn this trade, but eventually I caught on how to diagnose the problems and make the repairs myself.  But, just like Sable, I learn something new each and every day. 

On occasions I'll have an intern in my shop doing their “hands-on” training.  They're just as eager to learn, watch and understand what I'm doing, just like I was back then.  They want to know how to use the variety of tools, scanners, and equipment that most of us who have been in the business for years take for granted.  I have to stop and remind myself, “These interns don't know those old school tricks.  They don't know what I know... I'm here to teach those things that can't be taught out of a book.” 

There was this one intern I had who really wanted to be involved with every repair in the shop.  He was a pretty sharp kid, he had already been through several class trainings, and did some hands on at another shop.  But, he still had a lot to learn.  His enthusiasm was contagious to say the least, which, by the way, made it a lot easier to let him be more involved with each and every repair.

One day, shortly after he started, we had a mid-90's GM come in the shop.  I pulled the car into the service bay where he was waiting.  Then I jumped out and told him, “I forgot the work order. I'll run up front and get it.  Pop the hood open, would ya.  I'll be right back”.  When I came back, there he was kneeling in front of the car peering thru the grill with a screwdriver, trying to pry the hood open. 

“What the heck are you doing?” I barked at him.

“The hood wouldn't open, so I was going to “jimmy” the latch.”

I just stood there holding my head with my hand, while looking at the floor, shaking my head back and forth. 

“Here, let me show you something,” I told him.

I reached in and pulled the latch one more time, then went out to the hood and lightly popped the hood with my fist just above the latch.  “Pop” goes the hood.  He stood there with a surprised look on his face.
“How did ya do that?” he asked. 

“Oh, a lot of these stick like that; all you have to do is give it a quick little pop and it springs open,”  I told him.

I didn't realize it at the time, but I just showed this young wrench hand a little something most techs already knew, and for the most part took for granted.  For him, this was a revelation. 

“You can put that screwdriver away, Bud,” I told him.

A few weeks later I needed an 8mm bolt for a project, and my intern... as always... was standing right next to me.  “Go over to the miscellaneous bolt bin and find me an 8mm with fine thread, if you please.”

“Going to get it right this second, Chief,” He said with a grin, and off in a flash went my energetic intern.

He seemed to be gone for quite some time, and I was getting a little concerned.  It shouldn't take that long to find a bolt.  I went back to the storage room where we kept the bolt bin, and there he was sorting bolts, still trying to find the right one.

“What's the problem?” I asked.

“I'm not sure if this one is 8mm… or this one,” he answered.

“Why don't you go over to your tool box and grab your 8mm box end wrench, and come back here.”

With that he shot out the door and was back in just a second.  He came into the storage room at full speed, and then stopped dead in his tracks just in front of me holding his wrench in his outstretched arms.
I handed him a bolt, “Here try this bolt with your wrench.”

As I expected, he went right for the hex head and tried to fit the wrench to it.  “No, no... Use the box end, and see if it fits the actual bolt.  Not the part you turn the bolt with, I'm after the actual bolt size.”

He caught on pretty fast, even though he still had a bit of a puzzled look on his face. He slid the box end of the wrench over the bolt for a perfect fit.  “See, there ya go... that's an 8mm bolt for sure,” I said with a grin.
The smile he had on his face was priceless.  Here again was another example of a new tech learning an old trick.  Eventually my young intern became quite a tech in his own right.  After graduating from his tech class, he got a job at a large shop in his home town.  I'll bet even to this day he is probably learning more old tricks, and someday he'll be the guy showing them to the next young tech who comes along.

In the mean time, my handling skills and dog training continue.  I've got a lot to learn myself.  Just like in my chosen trade the skills you learn are equal to the amount of effort you put into it.  I'm kind of the old dog these days, but I'm not afraid to learn a few new tricks myself.  But, I'll be sure to pass on my “old tricks of the trade” to the next tech in line.  Oh well, back to dog training...  “Sit, Sable, Sit!”... Good dog... good dog... Now if I could only teach her to fetch me that 8mm wrench....