12 March 2006

Toe Curling Car Trouble

We all have memories of situations we found our selves in that makes us laugh or curl our toes in embarrassment or both.

One such situation was from way back when I was around 18 years old (gee, it's been 20 years already!), when I was hanging out with some guys very much into cars. Every weekend we would tinker around with the old wrecks they had gotten on the cheap.
I've never been into cars at all, for me it's just a means of transport, all I know about my company car is that it is a Ford Airbag, you know the make with a trumpet logo on the steering wheel and that's all the information I need. My lack of interest in cars didn't stop me from enjoying working with them tough, it's after all a machine and machines fascinate me.

Back then DIY auto workshops had suddenly risen out of the outrageous prices of car repair. You could rent a cubicle with or without a lift at a reasonable price on an hourly basis and any special tools you might need such as crankshaft remover, caliber fitter or spot-welder could be rented there. The sizes of these DIY outfits ranged from places with room for two to fifty cars, the first would be a small local mechanic trying to cash in on this latest fad in the weekend.

We favoured a particular medium size place with room for around eight cars, were the on-site owner/mechanic where very knowledgeable and would always have time to give advice. The bloke was almost a caricature of a mechanic, a bearded rugged appearance, always to be found in his dirty dark green coveralls with a cigar in his mouth (I made up the cigar bit, but you get the picture). Despite his looks, his advice hardly ever involved a big hammer and a chisel, because he actually had all the tools you could think of in his immaculate workshop.

One Saturday Bent and me were trying to get Bent's car ready for the Vehicle Inspectors cruel probings into secondary functions such as brakes, steering and carbon emissions. For the engine tuning we had signed out an expensive looking engine analyzer set on a small table on caster wheels for easy transport. We placed the instrument a couple of meters from the car with cables trailing into the engine compartment and connected the to the various appropriate spots. I was sitting at the back of the car making sure the small tube needed for the exhaust readings stayed in place and to keep the exhaust extractor hose from popping off. Bent was at the steering wheel attempting to start the engine. First time nothing but a click was heard, Bent fiddled around in the motor and got behind the steering wheel again for another attempt. This time the motor ticked over for half a second before dying. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something move and turned my head to see what it was. Nothing but the trolley table with the analyzer on top could be seen in that direction and I was about to stand up a tell Bent when he, encouraged by the first engine cough, turned the key over again. This time the engine started with a roar and my world went into slow motion. The cables between the analyzer and engine were drawn tight and the trolley table began moving in the direction of the car. With a bump the table hit the front of the car and the analyzer was yanked off the table and disappeared into the engine compartment and with a loud "BANG" the engine went quiet. Bents vision was obscured by the open bonnet and did not see anything and he got out of the car, looking back at me with a puzzled expression on his face, asking: "what was that?". We both went to the front of the car and there in the midst of the mess of cables that had been tangled up in the cooling propeller was the analyzer face down. At this point everybody in the workshop were looking in our direction alerted by the noise and the mechanic came running out of his small glass walled office. He never even looked at us he only had eyes for his mangled up equipment, pulled from the safety of the cleanest workshop in the northern hemisphere into the dirty interior of a car 25 years past it's use-by date. He pulled a wire cutter from his pocket (he must have known what was coming when he saw two pizza faces) and started cutting the cables to liberate his analyzer. When he got the thing out I could swear he was cradling it like a baby in his arms as he carried it over to the table trolley. It didn't really look damaged and when he connected up a few cables, one of these miracles that the universe sometimes throw our way occurred, everything worked.
He turned towards us and said: "I don't ever want to see you two idiots in here ever again!". When we drove off, Bent remarked: "That's was the most embarrassing situation of my life, I have never felt like a bigger fool before" I agreed, though I could probably come up with worse.

Since then, every time I drove past this auto workshop I would feel a dread and half expected the mechanic to hang around the window just waiting for me pass by so that he could run out and shout IDIOT! at me.

1 comment:

Basil Glenn said...

Oh no, how embarrassing! And all because you needed to get your car done! If I were in your place, I probably wouldn't go back there for a while either! I hope the whole thing has blown over by now though, or that you at least have another mechanic to go to in case of other car troubles!