One More Busted Knuckle
It's the grease, the grime, the clank of a
loose rod bearing, or the snap of a fuse that
is familiar to anyone who has ever worked on
cars. But, along with the noises and smells of
the business there are the scrapes and bruises.
Working with machinery, moving parts, and
numerous sharp objects there’s bound to be
a few personal injuries involved. Sometimes
I can go an entire week without cutting myself
or jamming a finger, but then there are those
days… the ones where I have to make a mad
dash for the First Aid kit. It just adds to the challenges of the job.
Have you ever been complacent while working on a car? You know... just lost your concentration for a moment and did something stupid? I know I have. Like the time I hit the trigger on my new high torque air ratchet with the wrong size socket on it. As the ratchet spun, it took me for an unsuspected ride as it slammed up against the car’s engine with a couple of my fingers jammed in between. Man, did that hurt! Good thing for rubber gloves, especially the black neoprene ones. (They don't show blood stains as well, and they tend to hold everything together long enough for you to find the First Aid kit and check for damage.) Like a lot of technicians I've got scars, a couple of broken fingers, and a few swollen joints from working on cars all these years. The older I get the more war wounds I seem to collect. “With age comes wisdom”. I sometimes have my doubts about that. I sure feel pretty stupid when I get that next bruised or busted knuckle. Age sure doesn’t help with the eye sight, or the knees, oh and don’t forget about that aching back! Let's face it, working on cars and trucks is a physically demanding job, as well as a mental workout.
I can remember a time back in my youth, when I would bench press a tranny up into the car while lying on a dirt floor. I don’t think I’ll try that these days. I've grown out of that macho style of auto repair. You know, always trying to prove I can tackle a big job by myself. (Hint, hint… for you younger techs) I'm much older now. Proving my testosterone level by doing some Herculean feat, which only ends up with another scar for my efforts, is no way to end the day. Sure wish I would have understood that back then, might have saved me from a few bumps and bruises. You could say; “Chalk it up to experience” or “Been there-done that-Know better now”, kind of thinking.
With blisters, sores, aching muscles, dirt under the finger nails, and the ever present grease stains deep in the grooves of my palms, there's no denying what I do for a living.. Yep, that’s right… I'm a mechanic. Those bumps and bruises are all part of the job, even though I don’t remember anyone I ever trained with mentioning that. (Should’ve been a course in tech school on proper bandage installation and application; after what I’ve been through, I could ace that class.) Like a lot of techs, I only get paid for what I accomplish. Even if this means putting on an extra bandage, and if capable... get back to work. On one particular day I was changing the U-joints on a truck. The customer had dropped it off early that morning, and I said I could have it done by lunch time. The joints weren't that hard to change, but getting the drive shaft off was. Three of the four rear yoke bolts came off with no problem, but the fourth one... I wasn't so lucky. The wrench slipped off, and with the force I had on the bolt my whole arm shot skyward. A sliver of MIG welding wire was still on the joint where the rear yoke housing is welded to the actual drive shaft pipe from the factory. This made for a perfect slice and dice on my forearm as it passed by. By the time the customer picked the truck up that afternoon I had most of my forearm wrapped up. “What ya do to that arm?” he asked. I told him how it happened in all the gory details. I'd like to say he was concerned. He was… just not with my arm. Oh heck no... He was more concerned with his truck. “So you still got the U-joints changed?” he said with a questioning gesture. Yea, thanks for caring, Mr. Customer… I appreciate your thoughts and concerns. Trucks fine, U-joints are fine, I’m fine… life goes on…. Ok, it wasn't that big of a deal... minor cut... no biggie. (My wife just rolls her eyes when I come home with a new bandage on. I think she enjoys tormenting me, while she cleans up my newest altercation with an inanimate object. Gee… Lucky me....). The customer wanted to make sure I removed that hunk of MIG wire, so that no one else would get hurt in the future. Oh don’t worry, I did, and I'll have to admit, I removed that little piece of wire as if I had a personal vendetta against it ... Yea, it ain’t going to do that to anyone else... EVER again! Outside the daily workings of the shop I'm asked to speak at different functions, or invited to some event where I'll be shaking a few hands. I used to worry about the roughness of my hands, especially when I was in a room of businessmen and women who had no concept of manual labor work in their daily vocations. It was a concern of mine, and at times maybe even a bit embarrassing. But, you know, I've come to realize, I should be proud of what I do, and those scars and callouses I've collected throughout my working years are like my own personal business card. It's who I am... it's what I am...it's the way I am… a mechanic. I'm proud of what I do… we all should be proud of what we do. There aren’t a lot of people who can do this job. Putting your arm into a blind or tight spot, while trying to turn a bolt or nut with nothing more than their fingertips, isn’t for everyone. As a technician you do it, and don't even think about that sharp jagged piece of metal you’re wedged up against... you just do it anyway. Even with a few extra scrapes and scars I'm still going back to this job tomorrow. I don't plan on gouging a test light into my hand while reaching down into an engine bay, but you know… it’ll happen... maybe not today, but it will.
Best of luck to all the ratchet spinnin', wrench turnin', hardworking techs out there. Stay safe... work smart... and keep the First Aid kit well stocked. There’s always tomorrow, and tomorrow is just one more busted knuckle away.