One thing that most car guys/gals have in common is that we work on our own stuff. We may grumble about it or put off repairs we know will be a pain, but in the end we buckle down, grab our tools and take care of business. I firmly believe that working with your hands is one of the keys to a long life. But at some point it gets too hard to get under a car to do an oil change, or arthritis makes gripping a wrench almost impossible. The old car guy spirit is willing, but the body could use a rebuild. At this point you must now find someone you trust to do the things that you once did with so much pride. The other week I was that person for an old friend from church, and I was honored.
Think about it. This man had a garage full of tools. He’d made his living building the infrastructure that still makes your home telephone work. His profession made it easy to access all the tools he needed to take care of the family cars, so it just became part of his routine. Now in retirement his tools were impeccably laid out ready for any problem that came before him. But his body was failing him. Between bad eyesight and a fall a year ago his days of crawling under a hood were over,. That’s a hard pill to swallow, especially since he could also no longer drive. So he called me for advice on a truck problem and I told him I’d be over the next day.
What followed was a leisurely diagnosis of the problem (loose battery cable connection) and a trip down memory lane. We talked about tricky problems we’d fixed and compared maintenance tips. He walked me through his tools and what they did. Being a phone company man he had some amazing specialty tools that are probably obsolete but still necessary in some rural areas. I was in tool geek heaven.
I could have been done with the repair in 20 minutes, but I spent two hours with him in the garage. I checked belts & hoses, fluid levels, and all the lights. He’d never drive the truck again, but it was in top condition just in case. We chatted the entire time I worked. In the end he tried to pay me, but I managed to barter a trade instead by borrowing a woodworking tool for the week. Truthfully I wouldn’t have taken $1,000 for the time I spent with him that day. A special thing happened as we poked and prodded under the hood of that truck, he handed part of his car guy mantle down to me. In that moment he validated the reputation I tried for years to cultivate through my work. He trusted me with his pride & joy and I was honored to help.
So the next time an old car guy asks for your advice on a car problem, think about what they are really saying. You aren’t just a mechanic making a repair, you are a trusted member of the car guy brotherhood, and that old car guy believes in you more than you know.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.