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When there is nothing left to fix

February 27, 2013
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

A walk out on the shop floor recently was greeted with empty bays. Earlier the shop had been full of cars.

"What happened, where are all the cars?" said I to the nearest technician.

"We fixed 'em." was the reply.

"All of them?"


"Every car in town?"

"Apparently so."

"Maybe you should have left a few things unfixed so that we could have something to do later."

"I might have. Time will tell, but you always preach to fix things so that they won't fail again."

"Yeah, but how do we get some more work in here?"

"Don't know about that. I guess it's lonely at the top, huh?"

"Thanks. How about using the time to get the shop cleaned up, until something else comes in?"

"Gotcha. The broom brigade has begun."

About then a car pulled up to the door, and the brooms were put away.

I wasn't really worried. The one thing certain about any machinery repair business is that machines fail, no matter how they are designed, or manufactured, or maintained, and when they fail, someone needs a repairman to get them going again. You never get everything fixed on a car or any other machine; you only pay attention to the most serious, recent problem. For instance, the average car has over ten thousand parts. If one of those parts fails, it gets attention, but what makes you think the other 9,999 parts are not about to fail? They are all wearing out together and will fail singularly or in concert, but they will fail.

People who get irate because two different parts are replaced on one visit are not being realistic. A retired Coast Guard pilot once described helicopters to me as "10,000 parts wanting to go in different directions, riveted together to fly in formation." He hasn't set foot in an aircraft since retiring. He's alive and well. He bought a farm. Literally. If his John Deere quits, he can walk back to the barn. The man knows his machinery.

So, although it can be a little spooky to run out of repair work for a while, it's a certainty that work will show up. We can't fix everything permanently.

After a couple of years writing this column every week, I sometimes think I have written about everything there is to write about concerning cars. Writers' block sets in. Then another subject comes up, and we're off again, just like with repair work.

I have no idea what I'll write about next week. Quick, someone give me a subject. Something will turn up. It usually does. Or I just make it up.



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