It’s the same routine Monday through Friday: My average day begins with the usual commute to work, the obligatory coffee and the turn of the key to the front door of the shop. I unlock the overheads, do any morning paperwork I have waiting and get the day started. Occasionally, I’ll come in early or stay later than normal, but, for the most part, every working day has the same basic routine.
Being under the dash or hood of the modern car is my comfort zone, but it doesn’t hurt to get out of my comfort zone from time to time. Like a lot of people, that day-in, day-out grind can give me a snapping attitude. I could use a reminder now and then that what I do for a living ain’t all that bad, and I owe my customers a great deal of gratitude for their patronage and for putting up with this snarly old mechanic.
You can take those average days in your own little comfort zone for granted and forget there is more to what makes the world go around besides the next car you’re working on. Sometimes, it might take a little nudge from an outside source to get you to realize it.
GOODBYE COMFORT ZONE
Recently, I took a few days off and ventured out on a road trip with my wife to one of her “comfort zones.” OK, I was “volun-told” by my wife, but I didn’t complain too much. It was three days of little old ladies, sewing machines and quilts. Yes, quilts. My wife was the guest speaker for a quilting retreat.
I didn’t have any tools, scanners or hoods to hide from the more than 100 women with scissors, big fancy (expensive) sewing machines and colorful fabric who were in attendance. There weren’t many husbands at the retreat, and the hotel staff had its hands full, so they kept me busy as their bellboy (minus the quirky cap, of course), carrying their machines from the parking lot to their classrooms. If you ask my wife, she’ll tell you, “Oh, he fusses but he loves every minute of it.”
I wasn’t concerned about what she was telling them anyway. I just pulled my ball cap down a bit tighter and asked the next woman with a sewing machine, “Where do ya’ want this one moved to, ma’am?”
This whole experience made me think of what it’s like for a non-car person to enter an automotive repair shop. The actual interaction with the service writer or mechanic can be intimidating. For me, a weekend with the wife surrounded by thread and quilts was, believe it or not, intimidating, especially when one of them asked me something about their sewing machine or quilting.
Look, I know what a PCM and a ball joint are, but I haven’t a clue about flying geese or half-square triangles. And these women loved to rub it in. Uncomfortable? Yes. Intimidating? Well, let’s put it this way: When I was stuck in front of a sewing machine and clued in on which buttons to push to make it sew, they got quite a chuckle out of watching some big, burly guy fumble around with a sharp needle and try to hold a thin piece of fabric with his big, nubby fingers.
I’d like to think I could learn how to operate any sort of machinery, even one of these ultra-expensive sewing machines, but these women are in a league of their own. They made it look so easy, but I can’t even figure out how to sew a straight line.
I certainly can take some lessons from the quilting retreat. The women did their best to make me feel comfortable, even if I did have to endure a little ribbing.
I’ve got to keep this in mind when I’m back at the shop. I should try harder not to be so intimidating, work to keep things on common ground, and not make it so overwhelming for customers, especially those who are uncomfortable with a stranger they just met work on their car. I got it ladies thank you. Now, the other question is, can I incorporate some of the experience of being out of my comfort zone into my average day? I’m sure going to try.