One Step Forward and Two Steps Back
(the truckers Waltz)

Chapter 8

IT COST HOW MUCH?

One morning Bill had gone down and bought some paint so he could paint the bathroom for Jeanne and it wasn’t a job he was looking forward to, so he thought, seeing he was down in this neck of the woods he could prolong his agony by gassing up his pickup, after he finished fueling the pickup, he though, ‘what the heck, I’ll have a coffee, that should waste another half an hour.’

As he was drinking his coffee and having a little BS with some of the boys, when he saw a young driver, he knew pull up to the pumps. The way he had swung into the pumps, shuddered to a stop and jumped out of his truck, Bill could tell he was a little hot under the collar.

After the kid had fueled up he came storming into the office, “Looks like some one just bit you on the butt, Dean, your wife kick you out of bed this morning,” Bill asked.

“No I can live with that, but I took my truck into the shop last night to fix a little driveline problem, I told them to fix it and I would pick it up this morning, then I went home. This morning I picked it up and when they gave me the bill I almost crapped my pant, they charged me an arm and a leg. I told them I just wanted them to fix a little vibration not to rebuild the whole dam thing, we had a hell of an argument, I signed the bill and left, I have to go to work.”

“Yeah, I know the feeling,” Bill said, “but you know drive line vibrations are a hard to diagnose, there are so many things that could be wrong, did you give then an idea of what you thought it was?”

“If I had of know what it was I would have fixed it my self, instead having them rape me,” Dean said angrily, “ The truck would start to vibrate at around 95 klm's, but only when you were in that sweet spot, you know, when you don’t have any power on, just when you are rolling easy. I told that stupid service manager what it was doing and left.”

“What did they say was the problem, I imagine they found it, did this happen when you were empty or just when it was loaded.” Bill asked.

“No, after spending eight hour checking every conceivable thing under the back end they couldn’t find anything wrong. Eight hours at almost a hundred dollars an hour, you know what that cost me. And yes it was only when I was loaded.”

“Well I will tell you something, Dean and I don’t want you to think I’m taking the shops side, I’m not, but like I said, it’s hard to diagnose a drive line vibration. I ran into the same problem with a tractor I had once. It damn near drove me crazy, I took it to the dealer and had them check it out, but I stayed with the truck until I knew they where stumped and weren’t going anywhere with it and I pulled it out of the shop. This was after they checked u-joints, steady bearing, drive line angle, wheel bearings and suspension, they checked it all out, everything by the book.”

“But they never fixed it, did they?”

“No and they never would have if they weren’t driving it down the highway with a load and done exactly the right thing. You can’t always blame the dealer, when you drove your truck in and told them to fix it and left, they are going to fix it or at least every thing they can to fix it. Most of the dealer’s today are guys just like you and I, trying to make a living, they have very large investments and have to depend on people like our selves to do the work. All of them will do their best to get you going, but you have to be there to tell then when to stop. They usually stand behind their work for a year and to do that they have to make sure it will last, if you only want a Mickey Mouse job done and don’t want the warranty, you have to tell them.”

“Well I guess your right, but it doesn’t make it any less painful, by the way did you ever get your problem solved?”

“Yes I did, but it took me a week of crawling under that truck to do it, The truck had this little quirk, if you set the air ride height with the factory gauge it would do it, you had to set it about a ¼ inch higher on the ride control and experiment.”

“Thanks for the advice Bill, maybe I should have hung around for a while longer, but the kids had soccer and I wanted to see them play, so I left.”

“Yeah, I know the feeling, it’s like they say, been there, done that. You can learn a lot by watching a good mechanic work, things that can save you a lot of money on the road. They learn short cuts and the easiest and fastest way to do things, they do it every day. You might take up a little of their time, which is your time, but an extra half hour in the shop could save you a service call on the road. Do you know that you can disable a lot of those electric sensors for the computer that will shut down your engine and drive home?”

“I was in one shop and I was piddling around doing some thing to the truck while the mechanic was working on it and he told me to go drink coffee or some thing, just stay out of his way.” Said Dean.

“Were you getting in his way?”

“No I didn’t think so.”

“Look kid, I think I just might have told this guy that it was my truck and my money and I want to know what was going on. Most good mechanics are proud of their knowledge and profession, they don’t mind sharing it with you, although in some shops they don’t want people getting hurt in their shop, it has to do with their compensation, but if you are standing back, out of the way and not putting your self in harms way. I don’t think they mind.”

“I knew a gear man; he was the best transmission man I had ever seen, a young native by the name of Kelly. When Kelly put a transmission or a differential together you knew it was going to be good, but if you were in the gear room while he was working on your equipment and wanted to talk, he would put down his tools and lean against the bench, cross his arms and listen. Kelly was a quite guy and never said much. Now in most cases your truck was down and you wanted to have it finished, so you would ask him what the problem was.”

He would say in his soft quiet sort of way, “Look if you want this transmission put back together, I’ll do it, but if you want to BS I’ll do that to, but I won’t do both, because if I’m listening and talking to you, I could make a mistake on a clearance or when I torque something up and your going to come back here mad as hell, when it piles up down the road, right.”

“You knew he was right, so you left him alone and let him do his job; he had to concentrate on what he was doing. Gear work is like rebuilding an engine, you don’t want something that’s going to come back and haunt you, because of some little thing you forgot.”

“I guess what you just told me is from experience, but it doesn’t make the bill I got any less easier to swallow,” said Dean.

“And it never will, in this business you never stop learning,” said Bill as he looked his watch in surprise and turned to leave, “and I have learned over the years that if I’m supposed to be painting the bathroom, I had bloody well be doing it instead of chewing the fat with you guys, the old lady is going to kill me.”

As he rushed out the door, someone shouted at him, “That old woman of yours sure has you on a short lease, Bill.”

When Bill walked in the door the air in the kitchen was a little cool. “Well I see you at least got the paint, what are you going to do now, paint the bathroom or escape back into the past?”

“I’ll paint the bathroom, but I still have the rest of my life to do that. I got talking and lost track of time again.”

Go to Chapter 9