Saturday, November 25, 2006

Manual Labor

I love working on the car.

I haven't been able to pinpoint exactly what it is. Maybe it's the getting down and dirty part of it -- laying on the garage floor, having bits of grease & dirt fall on your face, having blackened fingernails, breathing in the carcinogenic fuel and oil fumes that are spilled everywhere, and that black dirty bathwater that always manages to impress me whenever I take a shower. Or maybe it's the cool toy factor -- playing with air tools, open end wrenches, ratchets & 6 point sockets, pickle forks and manual-advance timing lights. And then there's the problem-solving part of it; trying to figure out why the !@#^%$& someone would use a torx bit sunken in a plastic well (so you can't get a bit driver on it) to secure a microfilter cover behind the mass of wires behind the dashboard hidden behind the 3 layers of interior trim; or how to remove an oil return pipe that's buried way up in there between the (huge) header secondaries, the firewall, and the back of the engine block (I gave up on that one, by the way).

No...I think what it is all about is that wonderful quiet "alone time". Just you, the garage, your baby, and the challenge: something needs to be done on your car, and it's up to you (and only you) to figure it out. And so you apply all the knowledge you've gleaned over years of watching Dad scream and yell over busted knuckles & broken bolts; you summon up all those myriad hours of bench talk with other car guys over bottles of beer. You spend hours scouring forums and Ef-Aye-Kyewes on the web, read shop manuals, and formulate a game plan. You get your errands done early, and make sure everyone knows that you'll be incommunicado for the entire day. And while you're in there, diving into it full-on, you methodically keep mental notes of every nut and bolt you pull, snap mental pictures of every plastic cover and removed part so that you can reassemble properly later on. You find yourself immersed. No e-mails. No conference calls. No deadlines...

Just you, your car, and your wits.

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