Let’s Hear It for the Mechanics…

I have always enjoyed tinkering with things. Things that rely on gasoline, diesel fuel or electricity to operate have always fascinated me. Unfortunately, my aptitude with these things is alarmingly low, thus I develop relationships with the folks who can diagnose problems and fix them……mechanics. This lack of mechanical inclination was, perhaps, my Achilles’ tendon during my years on the road as a highway patrolman. With hat perfectly squared and the countenance of someone who has arrived to save the day, I have stood too many times with a hapless motorist, staring down into an engine compartment and being forced to utter, sheepishly, ” I haven’t a clue, but can call someone to help us out.” Mechanics or technicians, as they are called today, are under appreciated and often taken for granted. It is time we acknowledge their rather significant contribution to our existence.

When I was a kid, I delighted in taking things apart. Unfortunately, my delight in removing a screw here or a spring there, turned into remorse when I was faced with the prospect of reassembling what it was that I took apart. This unfortunate inclination resulted in my bicycles being in a state of perpetual disrepair and led me to the use of wood as a medium for what little creativity I possessed. Unfortunately, the shaping, cutting and preparation of wood requires at least a basic understanding of rather complicated tools. Viola, new friends in the business of “fixing” these tools. Just this week, I watched a young craftsman, framing a nearby house, disassemble a pneumatic nail gun, right out of the box, and remove a spring which he felt improved the performance of the gun. He reassembled the gun with the precision of a Navy Seal working on a rifle blindfolded, as they often do in training. I was mystified.

My history includes a time when financial considerations required that I rely on a very used, old, Ford Courier as my chariot to freedom. This truck developed a tendency to not start easily and run exceedingly rough when you could get the little Nippon devil to turn over. I took it to a friend, a crackerjack mechanic named Scott, who was then a marine mechanic at a dealership near home. Scott examined the old truck and quickly determined it needed a carburetor kit. I located the kit and delivered it to Scott who opened the box and discovered the instructions were written in Japanese. No problem he said, opening a can of beer and grabbing a screwdriver. He tore the old carburetor down and began replacing parts as if he had done this a thousand times (he likely had), hooked up the linkage and the truck never ran better. Admittedly, we had a few parts left over, but Scott assured me that we didn’t need them. I have watched Scott, working on a piece of heavy equipment, rely on an electrical schematic that was utterly incomprehensible to all but a nuclear submarine electrician, find and fix the problem. A can of cold beer is all that he needs to clarify his thought processes!

Another friend, a truly multi-talented fellow highway patrolman named Lee, also possessed a mechanical aptitude that bordered on wizardry. Lee was in his element when managing the entire highway patrol budget, carefully navigating the various cost centers and money movement inherent to state government. This same gentleman tore down a big outboard engine, repaired a cracked block, and reassembled it, resulting in a smooth running engine. As a kid, he and his brothers were faced with a V8 automobile engine that was broken in such a way that two cylinders were not functioning. He stuffed the broken cylinders with fence posts and they drove the car, which “ran a little rough” for quite a while longer! Lee was an avionics technician in the military, adding yet another dimension to his existence. I will be the first to tell you that when dealing with police radios, my skill set was limited to turning the thing on or off, with perhaps a little knowledge necessary to finding the right channel, handling the squelch and volume knob. When queried by one of our amazing radio technicians as to what was wrong when I brought one in, I was quick to point out that it wasn’t working, the limit of my diagnostic ability.

The photograph that is accompanying this piece is of the battery setup in our recently acquired RV. I took this picture in response to the manufacturer’s advisory to remove the batteries during cold weather and place them on a charger to maintain them. I opened the battery box and was reminded that I certainly had the wherewithal to remove the batteries, but would surely burn the coach up trying to reinstall them. This picture is my schematic and I will be ready when the time comes. Even so, I carefully arranged the wires so they would be in close proximity to the proper poles on the battery when I reinstalled them.

My hat is off to the mechanics and technicians of our world. Their aptitude is really what keeps America running. Never mind the efforts of the wizards of Wall Street, attorneys and business people who garner all of the attention. Mechanics are the truly gifted souls that make a difference…….especially to challenged folks like me……and probably many of my readers.

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