When an unknowing civilian gets within ear shot if its’ toney whirring, he or she imagines money… on fire… coming from their own pocket. Whether you consider your technician a ham fisted goon, or the product of a superior technical education, this tool is one of the prime weapons in the arsenal of automotive repair.
My fondest personal remembrance of this tool came on a bitterly cold mid western winter’s day, when I was working as the assistant service manager at a quirky northern European car dealership.
Amidst the omnipresent whirring of impact wrenches, I reviewed our days appointments. I was disappointed to find that my least favored customer was to arrive with an inevitable laundry list of subtle issues that all convertibles have in cold winter climates. Despite my previous suggestions to the contrary, my client again demanded to have the convertible mechanism checked, it apparently squeaked while operating. I quickly rho-cham–bow’d my coworker to see who would ‘get’ to deal with said customer.
I won, and left the sign-in desk for the din of the garage just as the older, yet still sleek, red convertible entered through the rolling doors. As I passed I waved and smiled at the convertible’s owner. I was met with the same smirk and stink eye that I always got. I have rarely been happier to dodge a work related resposibility than I was entering the cacophony of impact wrench noise that moment. The syncopated rhythm of 12 techs and their tinny tambourines. Safe within the confines of the shop, with the constant sound of the automotive repairs in process, I watched from afar as the customer untidily exited the low seats of the drop top and waddled to the greeting desk. I could see my co-worker preparing himself at the approach. “You poor, glorious bastard” I thought to myself. Out came at least two pages of laundry list, single spaced, on legal pads. It was as if they’d re-written the owners manual, and written “squeaks when cold” by every subject line.
Safely 30 yards from the service desk, I tried to look busy. All the techs considered the client to be an overly dramatic, self-righteous and hyper-sensitive. They had all worked on the car before, at one time or another, and the issues of concern were, to our minds, unfounded for a convertible that age in the bitter cold.
Within minutes I noticed the storm doors opening again and realized it was Mrs. J. and her four year old lad, Timmy, arriving in their sedan for a scheduled maintenance. I began my walk towards the front desk and I received a kind wave from Mrs. J. I noticed young Timmy, at her side, yanking at her snow pants. Through the din of the impact wrenches I saw him yell up to his mom “Look Mommy!” while pointing at the after end of the convertible owner at the front desk. Mrs. J looked down at the boy curiously. He took a breath to yell over the clamor, still pointing. At that very instant all whirring stopped.
“That person’s butt is eating their pants!” And then the whirring continued, for a second, until what he’d said registered with everybody, and I mean everybody, who’d heard it. Which was… everybody within the confines of the very large shop, including the ladies in the warranty services department.
In another very brief second the tech’s laughter began to overcome the whirring. “Outta the mouths of babes!” the senior tech hollered, while holding his impact wrench over his head like a grease smeared, whisky crazed cowboy. I peered at the scene to assess damage control with a bowed head and covered eyes.
“Ooh, nooo, Timmy” gasped Mrs. J, her beet red cheeks flush with embarrassment as she held the lad’s toe-head in her hands. Her kind eyes were darting from side to side looking for an escape route. The laughing techs began to marvel aloud at his comedic timing. On my hip my walkie talkie squawked to let me know a loaner was warmed and waiting for the convertible owner.
“Your loaner is out front!” I belted out over the laughter and the whirring, shielding my eyes with one hand, and waving goodbye with another. The convertible customer was whisked from the scene like they’d been sucked through a vortex.
The laundry list was chopped down to two items that were diagnosed and repaired in a very timely manner. Mrs. J, got a discount on her service, because the tech who did the service wasn’t able to wipe the grin off his face for week. None of the techs could.
The lesson I took from this experience was that sometimes progress can be a monotonous, ear-numbing torrent of seemingly meaningless input interrupted, only briefly, by devine insight. That day the impact wrench found a warm place in my heart. Perhaps it could find one in yours too, if only as a MANVIL card.