SHOP TALK: Giving Back
As I write this issue's column, there are only a few more weeks left on our northeastern drag racing circuit, and only a few more car shows scheduled. Don't get me wrong, I love the change of seasons, and while it saddens me to keep my car in the garage this winter, I welcome the opportunity to fix and upgrade a few areas that need improvement. I will be sharing all of the projects I have planned this winter with you in upcoming issues.
At my shop the season is shifting from drag racing and show cars to a variety of Harley's that need to be winterized...but in my own meticulous way of course. I look forward to seeing all of my loyal customers who depend on me to keep their generators, four wheelers, and snowmobiles ready for the next time they are called upon. I even have a group of customers who trust only me to tune and fix their boilers for the long, cold winters we have here in New Jersey – and I am honored they entrust me with this level of responsibility.
A true gearhead doesn't limit their talents to simply working on their own cars. I learned this at an early age from my Dad, who was such a mechanical genius that he not only excelled in automotive repair, he was a master at HVAC, electrical, plumbing, carpentry, and even taxidermy. If it was broke, he could fix it. Most of the time he did it for free just to offer a blessing to someone. I owe much to being my Dad's apprentice. His willingness to help others with his talents inspired me to do the same. My motto of "You Break, I Fix" came from him.
With our prime drag racing and car show season coming to a close, I will have more free time to share. I enjoy helping others and fixing whatever I can for those who are less fortunate, and I encourage all my fellow gearheads to do the same. Just the other day I was at my local auto parts store returning a set of brakes when I noticed an older man trying his hardest to find a special tool he needed to open gas cylinders at his restaurant. The parts guy spent a few minutes trying his hardest to find something remotely close to the tool, but didn't have any luck.
I couldn't help myself and asked the man why he needed the new tool. He showed me the one he had and explained how it was supposed to look and went on to tell me how it got crushed by a large gas cylinder. He was a sweet elderly man, and I told him if the store had no luck finding something to replace the tool with, that I would be able to fix it for him. He was startled by my gesture and asked how I would be able to accomplish this feat. I told him I would use my vise, a torch, a really big hammer, and a lot of persuasion, but I was certain I could make it as good as new. When the parts guy told him that he could not help him, he quickly turned to me and said, "how much?" I have a soft spot for senior citizens and to top it off he was wearing an Army veterans hat, so I told him it was "on the house". He asked why and I replied by simply saying, "it's my good deed for the day and up until meeting you, I had no-one to help." He smiled and handed me the mangled tool. He asked if I knew where his restaurant was, I said yes, and he left. Even though I was the one doing the good deed, I must admit I was honored by his trusting gesture.
As soon as I got home, I put on some safety glasses, fired up my torch, and went to work re-shaping the tool into its former self. So many times I had watched my Dad fix something or make a part he needed out of scraps, and many times have I fixed or watched someone fix a broken suspension part or fabricate a much needed bracket out of a rusted piece of metal. All of these memories flooded my mind, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for everyone who had a hand in making me the mechanic I am today.
I fixed the tool, put a polish on it with a wire wheel, and lubricated the pivot joint. I left a note for my wife to drop it off on her way to work. I thought of the look of surprise and gratitude the man would have when my wife handed him the repaired tool, and quickly remembered I had the same look of gratitude on my face as I was fixing it.
So my fellow gearheads, I ask you, no I urge you, to share your talents with those less fortunate. Fix a neighbors weed-wacker, weld a broken fence for a local farmer, show a kid how to put his chain back on his bike, the possibilities are endless. I read somewhere that if you do your best to help those around you, that you are often helping yourself the most. During this holiday season, give back and be sure to keep an eye open for what I have planned for Big Red this winter.