i have the job for good

April 6th, 2009

My trial employment period for the mechanic position had come to an end, and today I had a bit of an anticlimactic meeting with shop owner , as all indications (more or less) over the past 1.5 weeks pointed to my staying on.  I was being introduced to shop regulars as “the new guy,” I got my own key to the backdoor, an apron was ordered for me, etc… but slight uncertainty hung in the air, since when I was given that key I said  “so boss I’m staying on right?” and he sort of looked down and murmured something like, “well um the key just makes things easier for now, uh..”.  I am pretty excited, this is a permanent, year round position, and I think I really like this place.  It’s my best shot at developing into a competent mechanic because it’s a tight-nit place and the two other mechanics have been at this shop for 25 and 20 years each.
Still waiting for the new employee handbook to get the details on benefits, though I know there ought to be the possibility of an extended vacation during winter (boss says 1-2 weeks but I’ll see if i can stretch that out to 2-3, or maybe more.  I’m not cool with winter) and no< possibility of employee health insurance, which means I need to do my research on the commonwealth’s universal health care system.
As far as the wrenching goes, if I was writing this yesterday morning, I would say that work has been going smoothly and that I’ve found a rhythm and feeling more and more comfortable at the workbench.  That’s how I was feeling until yesterday afternoon, when a guy brought in a Walmart Schwinn for a flat fix and brake adjustment.  Simple enough, right?  Showing my inexperience, instead of giving the bike a good checkover before taking it from the customer, I said, “no problem it will be about 15 minutes.”  Then I go to turn and wheel the bike toward the stand, I do this by taking hold of the saddle, and the saddle falls apart in my hands. Not the seat off the seat post clamp, not the seat post out of the seat tube, but the springs under the seat itself come loose and the seat unit falls apart in my hands.  I laughed and said “Uh you got a seat problem too,” but that should have been a BIG GIANT RED FLAG to not take this bike.  I proceeded to spend 45+ minutes working on this piece of garbage, and Sundays are only 5 hour workdays. When I was done with it, the brakes still didnt adjust right (needs new calipers) and the seat moved up and down in the seat clamp (needs new seat post).  The customer, who couldnt afford the new components, was pissed he had to pay $8 $38 parts and $16  $24 labor for a bike that still was hardly functional, and I was ever so frustrated for having put in all that time and effort to no.  Who else must have been pissed? How about the four people with bikes at hip who were waiting to speak to me and the other mechanic on duty, and were being ignored??  Two of them turned around and walked out of the shop.  lesson learned, the hard way:  take a GOOD F-ing look at a department store bike before agreeing to work on it.  I’m a little fuzzy on the store policy but from now on I have a personal policy on refusing to spend more than 10 minutes on them.  It doesnt make me feel that great because people with these bikes generally are low on funds, but there is no way am I going to put myself through what happened yesterday again.  It’s a no win – the shop can’t afford to repair those things (don’t even want to call them bikes) and neither can the customer.  Blame the folks who’re making a buck at exploiting  the poor by selling them dirt.
As an aside, I just took a walk around Harvard Square and there were a suspiciously abundant number of Walmart Schwinns locked up on the streets.  I guess what they say about Harvard students lacking all common sense or ability to operate in the real world is true.   I saw like 5 chrome and purple aluminum mtn bikes and felt like I was under psychological attack by some devious horror-movie character, you know the unseen guy with the grave voice who somehow knows and controls everything .  Every where I turned I was like, ah no not again please!!

I also saw so many lock-up fails it made me wince.   Get out of the library and learn to function in society, Harvard nerds.

A nice coincidence that made me feel a bit better was when that dept store bike finally left the store, the very next customer was this cute girl who was flirting with me every chance she got.  I think I sort of prompted it by — possibly accidentally, or more probably sub-consciously — winking at her.  She’ll be back for her bike and shop dynamics would have to be just right, and I would have to operate really smoothly, for me to score a date. But both the former and most certainly the latter condition are quite unlikely to be met.  In any case it helped lift my spirits that day after getting my soul crushed under the brutality of imported plastic bikes.
Coming soon (fingers crossed):  a New Bike Day post!!  Hint: it’s a vintage Italian-made steel.   Double hint:  the first hint is just going to throw you off!

4 Responses to “i have the job for good”

  1. danpugatch Says:

    so when are we going out for celebratory drinks?

  2. huffypuffy Says:

    congrats, dude!

    as a department-store bike apologist, here’s a suggestion: always offer to work on the bike, but inform the owner up-front of your per-hour charge and let him know what this might mean with respect to his two-wheeled jalopy. if you get a go-ahead, fix away. if not, you did your part.

    positives about department-store bikes:
    1) reduces the cost barrier between the couch and the road
    2) teaches pre-enthusiasts the basics about personal bike repair
    3) some people just don’t ride bikes all that often
    4) crap bike or not, an early-90s “white heat” huffy meant that your parents loved you.

  3. explodedhub Says:

    @huffypuffy: that’s basically what I mean when I say I won’t work on these bikes anymore. It of course would be totally unprofessional to flat out refuse, ut I’ll give it 5 or 10 minutes, and then tell the person know that this would be a shop rate job, and would take so much time it would be way too expensive to be worth it.

    @danpugatch: hit me up next time you go to Charlie’s. I live around the corner from there now.

  4. Huffy Puffy » Modernizing the LBS Says:

    […] as much as I dislike LBS snobbery, there is definitely a community benefit to strictly enforcing a no department store bike repair policy.  I snapped this photo in front of a library of a community in which this policy has been in place […]

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