Mechanic Musings



It all started with my Leatherman. No, back up. It all started when I was 19 years old.... NO. It really started when I was 14, but I suspect it was much earlier than that.

I was the oldest in family of four, and it was a great disappointment that the eldest was a Patricia, not a Patrick. When my brother came along, I could see that he was soon to be crowned prince regent. I suspect it was due to sibling rivalry, and clamoring for the hope of a morsel of love and attention from my father that made me prove over and over again that I could throw any ball as well as my brother and I was always willing to play. Poor Jim, I even won all his baseball cards from him when we flipped in the neighborhood. (all those Mets cards I collected...)

At 14 I announced to my parents and to my school, that I wanted to take Shop Class. In the early 70's, shop was for boys, and home EC was for girls. I had art, home EC, and wondered what lay behind those doors in the basement of my High School, a place where I saw boys come and go all day long.

I was not interested in boys. I was interested in the projects that lay behind those double metal doors. And now I wanted to more than one-up my brother, I wanted to take on the entire class of boys.

I was allowed in, and the boys instantly hated me because I had infiltrated the club. But somewhere along the line I became their best friend as I had the highest grade in the class and if I liked them well enough I might throw them an answer or two. What power I had over boys then, even if only the offer of a few good answers.

After losing a job at Trailways because I complained that a man was getting paid more than I while he sat around with his feet on his desk chatting away on the phone, and being fired from a job where the boss fired me on my birthday (I never quite knew why she fired me...except that she was angry with her husband for cheating on her and I was her victim of the week) I decided to switch gears and get another job in a man's world.

At 19 I was a truck driver and safety mechanic for U-Haul. I can't tell the wild stories that I have from that job (is there a statue-of-limitations on ... oh never mind) but I did learn some handy things. I could grease bearings, change a tire, change oil, check electrical systems, replace lights etc. I learned how to drive a standard 24'truck, with a trailer attached. I only burned out one emergency brake, and never crashed into anything, which is more than I could say about the guys that I worked with.

Over the years it has come in handy. I have accrued a small kit of tools. My Leatherman, my digital tire gauge, my mag lights (Xmas present from Larry). Twice in the past week I have needed them--to replace a burned out bulb on my CRV taillight, and fix my door lock this afternoon. I even have a spare pair of gloves in the car for dirty jobs, a few wipes, a blanket, and hmmm... I still need a compressor, and some flares. I don't need much more as I can't fix much more with everything being electronic.........I won't be pulling the engine on THIS car!

Still, I would rather be making art, but it sure helps to not be afraid to read manuals, use a tool, or problem solve. And I still love to prove that I am a very capable women who knows how to use her tools.

Patti O Mechanic

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