Rodney M Bliss

Evolution Of A Mechanic

Ever heard the brakes on your car squealing? Did you know that is NOT the sound of your brakes being down to “metal on metal”? The do that on purpose. 

A brake job costs anywhere from $125 to $225. And typically that’s to replace the front ones. The rears don’t actually get used much except when you set the parking brake. 

All of this is stuff that I’ve learned in the last few years as a reluctant mechanic. Yesterday, I realized I’m not that guy anymore. I’m not the guy that actually drove my van 25 miles to the mechanic to have him tighten a single screw on the windshield wipers. 

Often we learn incrementally. One of my favorite movies is Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. If you’ve never seen it, he’s a jerk who gets “stuck” reliving the same day over and over. (Come to think of it, if you’ve never seen it, how do I even know you?) I’ve seen estimates that he may have lived as much as 20 years by repeating the day over and over. 

One of the things he decides to learn since he has some time on his hands, is how to play the piano. He starts off knowing nothing. Watching the movie, everyone else is living February 2nd for the first time, even though he’s been through that day thousands of times. His lesson with the piano teacher is the first time she’s seen him. And the second day of piano lessons is the first time she’s seen him.

I bring this up to consider the nature of a single lesson. How much can you learn in a single lesson wither it’s piano, or calculus, or how to draw a funny picture, or how to change brake pads? 

Not much.

But, repeat that lesson over and over and over again and eventually you look around and realize that you know this stuff. In Bill Murray’s case, we see him at the end of the movie leading a jazz band from the keyboard. 

My friend Howard Tayler draws a funny cartoon for a living. And yet, when he started his hobby 16 years ago, he couldn’t draw very well. There was not a day that he suddenly woke up and said, “Today I am an artist and have mastered my craft.” Instead it was a step at a time. You can go here and see his first comic and go here to see what it looked like after a lot of practice. 

Rodney, our neighbor Joyce wants to know if you can look at her brakes and replace them if needed?

Sure, I need to know the make, model, and year of her car.

(Actually, I eventually found I needed to also know if her minivan used disk or drum brakes on the rear. The 2005 had two configurations.) My lovely wife texted me the info on the car. I stopped by the auto parts store, bought the new brake pads, yesterday thought, 

I’ve got two hours before I have to be at Scouts. I’ll just do the brakes first.

That is crazy talk. My automotive projects always take WAY longer than I think they will. Sometimes weeks longer. 

I pulled her car into our driveway, jacked it up, pulled the tire and realized I had never seen brakes configured like this before. And so, I did what I always do, I pulled the calipers, and replaced the brake pads, in less than 75 minutes.

Wait. No, that’s not what I always do. I normally take hours and hours, and multiple trips to the store and then it still doesn’t work and I call my neighbor who is a great mechanic.As I put the last wheel back on, I thought about the fact that I don’t remember the day that I became a competent mechanic. but, it was some time before yesterday. I do know that. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2016 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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