Friday, September 14, 2012

Pay Day

The boss handed me $50. I asked what it was for.
"Twenty five an hour. For the work on that ignition cylinder on the Chevy Cheyenne and the alternator on the narc car. And the work on my tow truck."
Three days ago I was fired by a job that paid $10 an hour.
"If I'd known I was getting paid I would've done a better job."
The boss laughed. He once ran a corporate factory service department and I am wearing a pirate headband and my name tag is a punchpin embroidery patch that says "Econoline".

I used to hitchhike around the country with a backpack and a harmonica. Occasionally I would take the wrong ride and end up miles and miles off the highway on some deserted back road, totally rural and knew I would never get a ride. I'd wave and smile at the farmer who picked me up. Sure, thanks buddy. Then I would start to limp down the road because there was nowhere to stand next to the ranch access road. I might walk for hours before arriving at an old abandoned garage on the corner of two deserted roads intersecting in the wheat fields. The garage was once a destination, I could tell by the worn parking lot. Old remnants of a cafe and service bays. The remains of a chair, worn by a tired and dreamy mechanic in the last days of the small farm boom, before all the land was seized in Brazil and our soybeans grown there for less money. And I would think that if I had a chance to do it all over again then I would be a placid old man with a well organized tool chest who awaits your stuttering car and I'd say with a twinkle in my eye, "Looks like you got gremlins in your engine. I have a spell to cure that."
And somehow I would be content with this clockwork mechanic lifestyle, disassembling the work of Korean assembly line manufacturers and Ford plant workers to find out what is wrong with a car or truck. The fantasy seemed impossible to ever come true because I was hitchhiking with no tools and not really any repair skills. But I knew that there was some truth to the dream, that my nature was actually aligned with cars and motorcycles, and with a little bit of training and many boxes of tools I would effortlessly repair any car or small truck. Because mechanic work is about tools and preparation and procedure. If you are straining yourself in mechanics you are probably doing it wrong. I spent at least two hours researching how to take the ignition lock cylinder out of a 1992 Chevy Cheyenne. Even the mechanic next door said, "Oh, you only need a paper clip, blah blah..." advice like cows mooing in the dusk after a storm. because it was all wrong and this Chevy is a plastic piece of shit and once you break the key off in the ignition and then lock the cylinder then you must take the steering wheel off and then get a lock plate compressor tool that pushes the plate in so you can remove a Circlip that lets you remove the turn signal cam mechanism that lets you remove a bolt that holds the cylinder in. No other way on this 1992 Chevy 1500. Now I know and I know that the part costs $13 so it's basically a $15 fix if you break a key off. No big deal since most part places loan the plate compressor and the steering wheel puller if you buy the new lock cylinder.
And now I'm a blue collar mechanic on a stretch of road running toward the airport, where coal trains run day and night feeding the natural gas plant down the coast.
I like competence and since social and political settings are not my element and park guide jobs are beyond my reach, mechanics is the next best thing. I have my limits and it turns out my boss also has his limits. His tow truck broke down and he replaced the crank case position sensor and then I spent 3 hours assembling the wires and filters (without the benefit of watching him disassemble it all) and it still doesn't work. That's a lot of time wasted on a hunch. He now wants to replace the computer control module. So, even a master doesn't know everything but I've started on pulling steering wheels and now I can cross that off the list because once I know then I know.
The profits go toward the Ibanez bass guitar I've had my eye on. $600 and counting. No more living on the street. I park in the repair yard next to the Dodge that needs upper ball joints. And with internet access on site I don't need to visit the local Mcdonalds. I shower under the scorpius constellation, my old friend from the Merchant Marine night shift.

If I had written down a description of what I wanted it would be a mechanic position where I was supplied every tool under the sun, from radiator pressure testers to brake line flaring tools, and a repair bay with lifts and a place to park my van that was private with water access and electricity and an internet connection and a piano**. If you want to pay me then that would be even better. And my boss should be an easy going man with more experience than god who doesn't mind giving me instruction.
I called the Ball joints a "kingpin".
He said, "You mean Ball Joints?"
I said, "Ok."
My van doesn't have ball joints because it is from 1969.
I also couldn't find the fuse box on the Chevy but I was too embarrassed to ask where it was so I kept honking the horn as I worked on the steering column and was too lazy to disconnect the battery.
If you break down in Corpus then I'll come tow your car and get you running again. That was my dream. That's my job.

* If you buy a car from a car auction then you must keep your bid low because you will be buying total garbage. If you buy your car from a used car lot then keep your prices even lower because the car lot bought their car from the car auction and these cars are total junk. In fact, only buy a car from an auction if you are going to immediately sell it (which means you must have a dealer's license) and never buy from a used car lot. This Chevy 1500 is built like a plastic toy Tonka truck.

** I'm working on the piano.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.