Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My Day, or Five Reasons to Become a Mechanic

Hello, audience. Believe it, or not, I've actually started several posts that kind of miscarried and never made it to finished and posted. Maybe someday they'll see the light of day, but today, I decided to share some thoughts stemming from my day.

In addition to getting up and working eight hours before noon, I got to take my car to the mechanic for some routine maintenance before I take a road trip next week. Isn't that just the best? Is there anything better than taking your car to a dubious stranger so that they can demand obscene amounts of money? It's probably my favorite thing.

I came to the conclusion today that I should become a mechanic. Screw my artistic aspirations and the apprenticeship I'm pursuing. Tattoos are clearly the wrong business, and here are five reasons why.

1. Appearing competent
When you work in a field like auto-repair, you have the comforting knowledge that 90% of your customers are completely ignorant. You tell them that a mischievous gnome has ripped holes in their car's mass air intake, and they'll probably nod sagely (so as to avoid looking incompetent or uneducated) and thank you for your attention to detail. And this is without even having to do any actual work to prove your ability. You could probably accomplish the exact same appearance of expertise simply by putting an oil-stained rag in your pocket and speaking authoritatively while standing in the office of a garage.
You can tell he's experienced by the way he's trying to use a wrench 
on a  tire attached to nothing. And he has coveralls!

2. Charging for your presence
The accepted term for this is "labor," but as far as I know these fees require no actual labor. Glancing over a car long enough to say, "Your front tires exploded and the hood is folded in half," counts as an inspection and therefore ground for labor costs. You can spend an hour in the same room as a car and it qualifies as billable time.

3. Innumerable reasons for fees
Cars, as you may or may not ("Meyer may not") know, are a complex, interdependent system, so that one problem may stem from many underlying issues, or the other way around (one underlying issue causing many problems, for those who couldn't quite keep up.), so there are a thousand different things that could be wrong, and each one of them is a reason to charge more. Because time is money. So the more theoretical time you might spend on a thing, or the more complex it is, the more you charge. See how that works? Potential time for a repair + actual amount of time spent on a repair + between two and four times the costs of parts + number of things that could potentially have been wrong = total bill.
So, if, for example, you could have spent eight hours on a repair, and you actually spent three, the part costs fifteen dollars, the problem was loosely connected to the exhaust system, and the moon is waning, you would charge the soul of their firstborn and two months wages. Simple, right?

4. No necessity to do actual work
Especially when you run your own place of business (this isn't limited to mechanics), there are often underlings of a lower pay grade whose sole existence is to perform grunge work, so when one is a mechanic and hired to fix an automobile, one's primary job is to stand in the office and explain to bewildered (soon to be penniless) customers what exactly is wrong with their car, and how that gnome seems to have expanded his activities to the throttle body and the transmission, at which point the appropriate thing to do is show them a neatly outlines list of the things that need/might need/might actually be done in order to correct this problem. Of course, including the expected costs of parts and labor -_-

5. Ensuring future employment
If you recall, as I hope all of you without crippling short term memory loss would, I mentioned in #3 that cars are delicate, interconnected systems that all build on one another to create a two ton metal box for you to give rides to drunken friends, and many, many different things can go wrong within that complex machinery. A common practice that has recently gotten a lot of attention is slightly tweaking a few things in that mess of systems so that cars run less than optimally.

Yes. There are mechanics that break cars so that you have to come back and pay them some more to look at your car and say knowledgeable things.

If you think about it, it's a brilliant way to make money (assuming you don't have any qualms about stealing or ruining people's lives, but, really, who does these days?). What more effective job guarantee could there be? It's like a homicide detective going out and murdering people on the slow weeks.

I feel like there's a show about that...

Anyway, the only conclusion I can come to here is that I should become a mechanic and make money hand over fist. I've done work on my car, and it's pretty easy stuff if you know what to look for.

And that tiny fact-- "as long as you know what to look for"-- is the basis of the entire trade. As long as you know something someone else doesn't, you can make them pay through the nose for that ignorance, right?