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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Guesswork Garage....

"Stand back, she is about to rumble to life...", now where have I heard that before I pondered to myself...

Two tired old men in their late 60s, disheveled and unpolished as the garage that they stand inside of, peer through the open hood cowling intently at a 1938 Ford flathead engine. The engine itself oil-stained with time and unfazed at their enthusiasm, nor interested in awakening from its 70 year old nap, rests quietly. Returning to their chairs, the only work getting done now is from their rambling vocal cords, as I slowly grow impatient with their sense of urgency & relentless banter. While the men jeer each other with silly stories of their youth and hot-rod glory days, I smile. Knowing only a fraction of truth lace either book of their collective history, I wonder why I am still here paying to have my truck repaired by these Neanderthals.

Grabbing another wrench one of the men approaches my truck once more, perhaps believing that metal on metal contact is now what will propel this engine to start and finally relinquish its restful slumber. I am unconvinced, but take a step back to avoid any further casualties in this dramatic enclave, that they call a repair shop. Tap it right there, one exclaims. Thinking out loud, with a silent but bitter diatribe, I put on my engineering hat and wonder how tapping a chunk of iron will somehow produce internal combustion. I wonder, sarcastically if this is just a modern bit of cavemen theory --- eliminate all ideas, perhaps we will stumble upon how that other tribe produced F-I-R-E. I grin, trying to hide my amusement from the immediate audience armed with large, heavy tools, but still maintain my cheerful disposition outwardly.

The engine doesn't start. Not a whimper, nor a rattle or even a lowly grunt emanates from the old block of metal. "Must be a dirty carb..", I hear from a distance. This next idea pounces into the cage of uncertainty, just as recklessly as the last, but at this point they must be getting closer, as their chances for eliminating all other options is optimistically reduced. As the carburator housing is removed from top of the engine, its innards are examined carefully and deliberately by one of the men, this one I have named Ink in my head, due to his abundance of tattoo work, albeit most appear amatuer carvings at best. I sigh, believing this intense investigation may produce meaningful dividends to our immediate struggle, but still remain unimpressed.

I observe Ink carrying the carburator assembly to the bench with great concern and almost grave medical preservation. I ponder if this organ transplant or detailed cleaning will finally restore life to my tired engine. As chemicals spray off of the parts in nearly every direction, the mist permeates the otherwise damp but non-aromatic garage. Leaning down, I witness Ink reaching for a dirty shop towel and wonder the logic in drying a part with a cloth containing the same amount of grease that you just removed from the part itself. I shake my head in mild disbelief, but at this point I remind myself to displace logic. In fact, I think an appropriate signage to the entrance to this debacling shelter, would be "ELIMINATE ALL LOGIC BEFORE ENTERING, WE CHOOSE GUESSWORK" --- that is it. The "GUESSWORK GARAGE", man I am good. I smile, nearly breaking into a complete chuckle. My mind returns from my stand-up comedy act, back to the somber present.

While off in my own mind, appearently the carburator assembly has already been positioned back atop its meaningful perch above the engine. As Dopey, the slightly older dazed repairman, who seems to enjoy inhaling engine fumes a bit too much, enters the driver's door, I pray secretly for a miracle. I listen intently, even able to discern the metal clankering of the keys nearing the ignition just above the low volume of the continuous shop radio, now filtered out of my mind permanently. Click, the key slides into position. Clunk, the ignition engaged. Whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrl, the engine slowly breathes....or spins, or something magical happens. I am more excited than ever, like witnessing a mother giving birth, I jump forward & yell "PUSH" or "START" outloud. I am not sure what exactly I said, but I am unconcered at this juncture. I just want the engine to start. The tired old engine finally relents and the room fills with smoke simultaneously with a low but consistent rumble. A beautiful rumbling of timed combustion. It is running.

As I witness Ink and Dopey giving each other High Fives and smiling, I relax and realize that we have finally achieved success. There is something inherently sacred and primal about witnessing an engine come to life. All men, even the most mechanically uninclined are incapable of becoming intranced by its beckoning.
Like a mystical siren, it draws you near and somehow makes you feel as accomplished as the men who designed, created and built the engine itself. It is a force that is unexplained, but totally real in its existence. I peer over to the two men, and smile glowingly, showing appreciation in spite of my frustration with the process.

As I turn my head to ensure my wallet is still in my pocket, Ink reaches in and turns the key off. I shudder for a moment, as I hear the engine draw down to a stop.
Silence enters once again, but I am content now for some unexplained reason. Reaching down, I caress the side of the slightly warm, faded red engine cowling. I speak silently to my truck and assure it will be a good ride going forward for both of us.

"She is all yours", Ink offers with a proudful smile. Yeah, after I pay for your professional services, I think to myself. "I hope I am not paying by the hour", I announce sarcastically with a grin. Alas, no further time for deliberation, I am content and ready to depart with my dear Ford truck.

I can now attest that even in the Guesswork Garage, once in a while they guess right.