Anyone who has ever worked on cars is familiar with the grease, the grime, the clanking of a loose rod bearing or the snap of a fuse that comes with the territory. And, along with the noises and smells of the business, there are also the scrapes and the bruises.
Sometimes, I can go an entire week without cutting myself or jamming a finger, but then there are those days where I have to make a mad dash for the First Aid kit.
Like a lot of technicians, I’ve got scars, a couple of broken fingers and a few swollen joints from working on cars all these years. The older I get, the more war wounds I seem to collect. Age sure doesn’t help with the eyesight, or the knees, or, oh, let’s not forget about that aching back! Let’s face it, working on cars and trucks is a physically demanding job, as well as a mental workout.
I can remember a time back in my youth when I would bench press a tranny up into the car while lying on a dirt floor. I don’t think I’ll try that these days. I’m much older now and I’ve grown out of that macho style of auto repair. Doing some Herculean feat, which only ends up with another scar for my efforts, is no way to end the day. I sure wish I would have understood that back then.
I was changing the U-joints on a truck, on one particular day. The customer had dropped it off early that morning, and I said I could have it done by lunchtime. The joints weren’t that hard to change, but getting the driveshaft off was difficult. Three of the four rear yoke bolts came off without a problem, but with the fourth one, I wasn’t so lucky. The wrench slipped off, and, with the force I had on the bolt, my whole arm shot skyward. A sliver of MIG welding wire was still on the joint where the rear yoke housing is welded to the actual driveshaft pipe from the factory. This made for a perfect slice and dice on my forearm.
I had most of my forearm wrapped up by the time the customer picked the truck up that afternoon. “What did you do to that arm?” he asked.
I told him how it happened in all the gory details. I’d like to say he was concerned, but not just about my arm. He was more concerned with his truck. “So, you still got the U-joints changed?” he asked.
My wife just rolls her eyes when I come home with a new bandage on. I think she enjoys tormenting me while she cleans up my newest wound.
Outside the daily workings of the shop, I’m asked to speak at different functions, or invited to some event where I’ll be shaking a few hands. I used to worry about the roughness of my hands, especially when I was in a room of businessmen and women who had no concept of manual labor work in their daily vocations. But, you know, I’ve come to realize that I should be proud of what I do, and those scars and calluses are my own personal business card.
Even with a few extra scrapes and scars, I’m still going back to this job tomorrow. I don’t plan on gouging a test light into my hand while reaching down into an engine bay, but you know … it’ll happen … maybe not today, but it will.