Once not too long ago I was a fledgling mechanic, one of the opportunities that came to me was an apprenticeship. This is where I met Gary. He was a troll of a man maybe 5′ tall if he was in his big boy shoes. He had the haggard face that you’d expect a man who had been a mechanic for 45+ years. His face had pock marks all over it from a radiator explosion that resulted from a water pump he didn’t properly install. In the old days water pumps weren’t ready to go out of the box and he didn’t swap the impeller which means the water pump couldn’t move anything. It apparently blasted him with boiling hot antifreeze and sent him to the hospital as it made the skin sluff off of his face. So needless to say the long healed trauma left it’s mark. He was a hard worker and an even harder player. He drank regularly despite many court ordered visits to AA. He also smoked like a runaway freight train. The only place he wouldn’t light one up was in a customer’s car. One of many lessons he’d pass onto me. If I wanted to work with him I had to earn my way there
The struggle was real then too…
I had to put in some work to earn my way into the apprenticeship. So I worked my way up from installing tires outside. So if it was 90 out we did tires, if there was a foot of snow on the ground, we did tires outside. The only break from the elements was the machines to mount and balance were at least in the building and shaded. I was told just how far I could fuck off if I didn’t like it. So I swallowed some pride and rode it out eventually I became the “supervisor”, which meant I got yelled at if any of the other delinquent assholes screwed up, or needed training. No raise just responsibility, but hey it was a move. Once the chance presented itself I jumped at the opportunity to get out of that suck fest.
The apprenticeship program at this place was a major assembly line the guy in front of me finished a day or two before I started. Gary always used to bitch “I’m teaching myself out of a job”. In all honesty he loved it, he taught in that old school ‘let you struggle it out sort of way’ you know because screw you… From what he said he had gotten no better from his teacher some 45 years prior. He left home at the ripe old age of 15 because his Dad was abusive toward him, his brothers, and, his mom. The last instance his Dad came home drunk my teacher, at 15 years old mind you, pulled a shotgun out and said “…this is the last time me and Mom are gonna be hit”. Apparently police came and talked it down, his Mom was a scared enabler so she didn’t press any charges. That meant my dude had to get the hell out, as of then he was living on the lamb! Of course he had probably lived as much life as 3 people by this point.
We formally meet
The first time we met he was told about the fact I had gone to tech school, and we had met before as I had seen him around having worked at the same place for a couple years.
His first words to me were “You went to tech school, why the hell did you do that?”
To which I replied “Yeah because…”
He interrupted and said “Forget all the bullshit they taught you, you don’t know a damn thing”.
My jaw hit the floor, the manager of the service department, who had just introduced us, just laughed. The manager said “Alright, I’ll leave you two to it. Here are your tickets to start the day”
Gary said “I’m not here to teach you how to fix cars, I’m here to teach you how to make a living. After all that’s what you drive here for right?”
To which I quickly said “Of course”
Time to learn something beyond auto repair
We had worked together for a couple of weeks when he made a comment about how I was unsure in my diagnosis of problems. He was right I was always scared to commit to a solution mostly because the cost often freaked me out. I didn’t want some poor bastard to drop bank because I did’t remember to test a circuit or something. Gary talked to me many times about it, until one day he’d had enough.
“Do you love yourself?” he asked point blank, in that not nonsense way of his
“What!?” I replied. I mean who gets asked this kind of question at work. Especially by this kind of a hard ass, you know?
“Yeah, I guess” I said in the most uncertain of statements
He then gave me some instructions. Not like the normal “Pull this car in” or “Take the belt off of this one”. I’m talking real deep stuff.
“Tomorrow, when you get up before you do anything to get ready, I want you to look in the mirror, look that ugly fuck in the eyes, and tell him you love him”
I laughed this off and thought he was messing with me. Until the next morning came he asked me if I completed my homework. I didn’t because I thought he was messing with me. We had already gotten our pile of tickets, it was summer time it’s always busy as hell in the summer. Once I answered him he took the pile of tickets dropped them in the drawer of his old Snap-On tool box and locked it, and said “Come with me”. This was incredibly unusual we always came in and started doing the things the minute the work hit the box. He had me follow him to the bathroom mirror. Now let me paint this picture for you. Imagine a nasty truck stop, or 7-11 bathroom, hot, smelly, providing very little if any privacy, with a urinal, and a toilet stall that had door that just rested shut. I always smelled like B.O., and ass. As you’d expect the heat made it 50 times worse
He pointed at the mirror and said “Do it!”
I said “Do what?” incredulously
He said “You’re homework!”
He wasn’t gonna let me go til I did so I did it, so I did. We repeated this cycle every day if I didn’t do it he’d send me to the rest room, which was a fairly public place, I’d have to say “I love you” to myself right where my coworkers could see. So I began doing it at home, way less embarrassing that way.
I Finally learned a thing
At first it felt dumb, really dumb, then I finally realized after a couple of weeks he was right. I didn’t love me. I was 20 something years old and had been told my whole life I was an accident, that I wasn’t going to be much etc.. I had 2 emotionally abusive, alcoholic, parents. I had spent most my life to that point trying not to arouse their drunken wrath. For the first time in my life as a young adult I realized that didn’t matter, at the end of the day no one cared, I had responsibilities and was growing a career. I felt like I was born again in the bathroom of my shitty little apartment. It was like the world began anew. I realized to be a self actualized and complete human being I needed this vital ingredient – Self Love. I had to get over the not enough or too much whatever from my parents and stand on my feet, under my own power. Well of course my workmanship improved, my confidence in what I was doing spiked, hell my ability to not take my self so seriously all blossomed. For the 1st time in my whole life I felt conscious, like really conscious. It was then I realized… for the first time, I wasn’t broken, damaged, or, dumb. Just like that I knew
The Sinner is The Sage.