Monday, June 16, 2008

Tom the Welder

After a crazy week a couple of weeks ago, the past couple of weeks have been pretty quiet, although we certainly manage to keep ourselves busy. Tom spent a couple of days in Spanish Lookout getting work done on Tinkerbell, and she’s now welded together and doesn’t seem to need any attention other than new tires, which we’re going to have to get sooner or later, although we’re going to wait until we either think we’re in danger of getting stuck, or one of them just goes flat. The welding job to get the cab reconnected to the frame was an experience for Tom. After years of just dropping our vehicles off with Aaron or Johnnie Blair, Tom got an up-close and personal look at how body and welding shops work. He had made the appointment to get the welding done the week before, and had looked at the truck and discussed what needed to be done with one of the shop managers. When he took the truck in for the work, the manager told him that one of the young guys would be taking care of him and introduced them.

The manager then went off to do other things, and the young guy asked Tom what the truck needed. Tom told him it was there to have the cab reattached to the frame, and the welder said he and Tom could look at it up on the lift and Tom could show him what was needed. Tom was starting to think this was a little funny because he’d been over it with the manager, but figured he’d just look at it again to make sure the welder knew what he was doing. He was more than a little worried when the welder looked at it, turned to Tom, and asked how Tom thought they should fix it. But, playing along, Tom pointed to the spots where he thought the welds should go, and offered a couple of ideas of how they could raise the cab off the frame to get the welding in place. The welder thought that Tom’s ideas for jacking up the truck were so brilliant, Tom could just do it. About this time Tom realized that there really wasn’t any yellow line on the floor across the doorway into the shop with a sign saying “No customers beyond this point,” which is normal in American service stations and body shops.

Tom ended up working with the welder for the entire two and a half hours to fix the truck. He jacked up the truck, pointed out the spots where the welds were needed, climbed into the cab to peel back the rug so it wouldn’t catch fire when the welds were being done near the holes in the cab housing, put out the fires when the rug caught fire anyway, used his own deep socket driver to reach and unscrew some hard-to-get-at bolts, and generally got a good welding lesson. When he went to pay for the truck – a whopping $80BZ – he mentioned to the manager that not only do customers not get to help with their vehicles in the US, they’re usually banned from the shop. The manager laughed and told Tom a story of when he was in the US and needed some work done on a vehicle. He broke down and a mechanic opened his shop off-hours to help him get his vehicle fixed, and because the shop wasn’t officially opened he was not only allowed but was needed to help make the repairs. The job took about three hours, and when it was done the mechanic wrote out the bill and charged him for six hours of labor. When the Belizean manager questioned it, the mechanic just looked puzzled and said that of course it was six hours of labor, because it was the two of them working for three hours. The Belizean manager said he considered arguing with the mechanic, but finally decided that he got his vehicle fixed during off hours, so he just paid the bill and left. Of course at this point Tom asked if he was paying for his time as well as the welder’s, and they all laughed and said no – but even if he was, it was still pretty cheap body repair at $80BZ!

And Tom wonders why I refuse to take the truck by myself when it needs work…

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