Thursday, September 20, 2012

Drunk on the job

This is the 782nd time I’ve posted a new blog since I began in 2008 and I can honestly say I’ve never blogged while drunk.

This surprises even me. You, too, I’m sure.

My wife, man, she’s bound to be floored by the stat. She probably thinks there haven’t been 782 times I’ve been sober since 2008.

I don’t know why I don’t blog while drunk. There’s no law against it. I doubt anyone would notice, and it would likely boost my productivity by letting me kill two birds with one stone.

I bring this up because just the other day I dealt with a guy who was drunk on the job.

My mechanic! 

Geez. What a predicament.

My 2007 Saturn Vue’s been making a loud hum for a few months and the car needed inspecting.

I needed the car for a 5-hour trip this week (details tomorrow) and wanted it to be functioning in top condition. It’s been a good car. It’s been paid off for three years and is nearing 100,000 miles.

Most important, it has a good stereo with commercial-free satellite radio. Love it. I wanted the hum eliminated so I could enjoy five uninterrupted hours of great loud music without the whiny kids complaining about the volume of my tasteful selections.

So this was important.

I’ve been going to this guy for about 15 years. He’s been reliable, but often grumpy about trying to earn a living as an independent operator in a business that’s been gobbled by corporate uniformity.

So I felt bad for him. High school graduates who pursue careers as mechanics generally shelve grand ambitions. The good ones know they can have a stable career doing an essential job that will pay their mortgage and leave them just enough leftover to take the kids to the beach once a year.

At least they used to. That was before the conglomerates began squeezing out the independents. They made it unfeasible for them to sell gas. That meant fewer customers would know they needed routine maintenance. Pretty soon the Mom & Pop filling stations began disappearing.

It’s enough to drive a man to drink.

That’s what happened with my man. I’d drive by and see him in there rattling around in three empty bays. It made me sad.

Of course, that’s no excuse to spend your days getting gooned up, not in a job where your customer’s safety is your responsibility.

OSHA reports 12.9 million American employees are gooned up while on the clock. The number seems low to me. I figure there’s at least that many drunken bartenders alone.

You hear about it anecdotally once in a while with surgeons, air traffic controllers and wayward school bus drivers -- all occupations that scream for alcoholic relief.

Pat Sajak said he and Vanna White used to get giddy on margaritas between tapings of “Wheel of Fortune.”

“I had a great time,” he said. “I have no idea if the shows were any good but no one said anything so I guess we did okay.”

How could anyone tell?

So the mechanic tells me the car needs new ball bearing joints for the front end. He’s drunk, I can tell. But not so drunk that he can’t safely execute the task.

“If I have to stay here until midnight, I promise you I’ll get this job done. I really want to do the work for you.”

He calls me the next night, practically in tears. The joints are rusted tight. There’s nothing he can do and, oh, did he mention his wife had left him?

So now I’m stuck. I should have bailed on him, but thought a rebuke might have sent him into a tailspin and, besides, the car’s equipped with multiple airbags so what the hell.

Now, for the second straight day my car is up on the rack, tires off, hood up, suspended there like a dental patient with its mouth open. 

And the only thing in worse shape than my car is the man I’m relying on to fix it.

Me, I’m 300 miles away with a rented Toyota Corolla parked outside. Dang thing doesn’t even have satellite radio.

It’s enough to drive me to drink.

I don’t though.

I might be called upon to blog later and wouldn’t want to forsake my professional responsibilities.

Related . . .


Max Power said...

The empty bays were the smoking gun, seems everyone else knows where not to take their automobile when it's not feeling well.

Tools and alcohol don't mix.

Chris Rodell said...

Yeah, that was a pretty clear clue. I didn't want to bail on the guy. That was the last straw.