Proper Preparation

I know I was a fuck off in school. I got no problem admitting that. All I cared about was getting high and getting girls, and it was kind of shocking to me when I got out most of my friends either went to college or got drafted and here I still was, in town and thanks to a high lottery number, not at Da Nang Tech. 

Only thing left to do was get a job. Buying gas one day at JB’s Gulf, Auto Repair & Towing I saw “Help Wanted” in the window and pretty soon I was pumping gas and changing oil for old Jim Brandenburg. I was a fuck off there too, and one day after I forgot to put the oil back in the crankcase and the customer’s engine seized up, old Jim came to me and said “Dean you can stay and work this off and I’ll teach you how to be a real mechanic, or you can get the fuck out right now.”

For eight years me and Jim worked ass crack to elbow in that little two bay gas station. There was nothing you could put a wrench on that him and me couldn’t fix. I was there every day at 6 AM and did everything he told me to do. If I come up on something that seemed like it was impossible to do, he would stop what he was doing and come over, wiping his hands on a shop towel and say, “Well, what would you do here if you did know what to do?” Just do the next right thing, that was Jim’s motto. I’ve tried to live by those words ever since.

When he died he left me all his tools. After the funeral, a company suit came into the station and told me that Gulf was going to make our station a ‘pump it yourself’ place with no service bays. I could stay on and maybe work my way to manager but I said no, I’m a mechanic, not a peanut and cigarette salesman.

For two years I bounced around and took whatever work I could find. I was working five eights for Brown and Root as a maintenance mechanic in Pensacola and 10 to 2 AM as a bouncer at a bar in when I met Char. We were married in two weeks. We talked about having kids. At the time there wasn’t anything I wanted more than to be with her until the end of time. There’s times now when I wish her legs would grow together.

When things started to go south for us I decided to take the next job that got us out of town. That ended up being out here in bum-fuck North Dakota. Frack city.

It is unbe-fuckin-lievable how things run around here. Do they think vehicles just fix themselves? I tell them you don’t know what you got until you get into it and they’ll just stare at the axle or the trannie, like, ‘bwoop-bwoop’ – something is supposed to go from their head into the gear case, take out the planetaries, lube them and reset. They don’t know a sun gear from a ring gear.

Management? In their own little world. Not a clue as to what it takes to get a vehicle back on the road. I walk by Marty’s office and for no real reason he calls me in.

“Ready for the battle today, Tiger? You prepared?”

I’m here on time everyday. I have my own tools. All of them. I’m prepared. It’s not like I’m trying to do everything with a fire wrench and a multi-tool like Goose. It’s like I told him the other day, showing him my tool box; you think a set of sockets and open ends like that just grow on trees? Hell no. All Matco drop forged made in the USA. The 5 ‘P’s”, dude. Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. You got to prepare for every eventuality, because this shit is real. Try to use a 1 inch socket when you really need a 25 millimeter socket and you don’t have one?  You’ll see how fast lack of preparation bites you in the ass.

Danny is always asking me “Dean, what is your goal for eliminating vehicular downtime this quarter? What kind of plan do you got for achieving that goal?”

Planning. That’s what I need. Planning and a goal.

With a plan I’ll know what I’m doing everyday. Right now I’m like a cat trying to cover shit on a marble floor. Sixteen trucks. Four mechanics, if you count Goose. Fucking Goose. He’s more of a parts changer. Saw him trying to wrench out an inch and a quarter boss plug the other day. He was about to put the fire wrench on it when I came by. I could not believe he was using an adjustable wrench. I put a box on it and torqued that bitch out. I told him bring your arms to work tomorrow, Goose. Leave your old lady’s at home.

A goal is like what you do in football; it’s a target, something you shoot at. So no problem. I’m shooting at totally eliminating vehicular downtime this quarter, dude. Keep all those g-wagons and vactors running every day. 100 per cent satisfaction, Danny. You like me now?

 Just the same, you can make your plans but you can’t really plan on the outcome. I never have been able to figure why some things seem to work out the way they do. Like when Char was taking those ‘modeling’ classes. She had big plans. New York City. Then one day I found a video tape she had brought home and thought it was some of our vacation stuff. Popped it in the old VHS. There she was, fucking some guy with her shoes on. Bunch of other people without their clothes on; all in knots. Don’t work for me. I thought I had a wife but I had a whore.

I got back in the shop just in time to see Goose getting ready to fire up the wire welder. I said, Goose! Did you change the wire? I was doing stainless this morning. Real smug like he hollers back, yes I did Dean, drawing out my name like “Dee-anne”.

Well you gotta change the gas too, dumb-ass, I told him.

He was gonna weld regular steel with tri-mix gas. What a loser.


Author: hsderkin

H. Scott Derkin lives with his wife and a scruffy miniature poodle mix on the banks of a river in NW Michigan. By not taking into account his shortcomings, his wife has managed to stay with him for over half a century.

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