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Thursday, February 14, 2013

THE VOLK’S SHOP


THE VOLK’S SHOP

 

When I graduated from College I bought a new 1968 Volkswagen bug.  It cost $1800.  I paid extra for undercoating (hey, I was young) and an AM radio.  Actually my Dad paid $1800 which I was to pay back after I got a job.  I paid it off in eight months.  The best thing about the VW bug besides the fuel economy of its 40 HP air cooled engine was its easy maintenance.  One reason for its easy maintenance was “The Volk’s Shop.”

The Volk’s Shop was a one mechanic shop run out of a barn on a farm in the outskirts of North Brunswick, New Jersey.  The proprietor, the lone mechanic at The Volk’s Shop was Tom “Something” (never did know his last name.) 

Tom was an excellent mechanic who was scrupulously honest.  I never left his shop feeling ripped off.  He did not ascribe to the almost automatic charge of $400 for anything beyond an oil change like other shops.  In fact I was always pleasantly surprised at how little he charged. 

The one thing I learned quickly about Tom was that he was a man of very few words, and he was very literal.  When he asked what was wrong with the car it was a bad idea to give him your opinion.  I learned this the first time I took my bug in for more than an oil change.

“Hey Tom, the bug is running rough, I think it needs new plugs.”

“OK.”

When I picked the car up I asked him what he did.

“New plugs.”

The car still ran rough.

I brought it back.

“Gee Tom; the car is still running rough.”

“What do you think is the problem?”

“I don’t know…points?”

“OK.”

I picked the car up the next day and asked him what he did.

“Points.”

The car still ran rough.

I brought it back.

“Gee Tom; the car is still running rough.”

“What do you think is the problem?”

“I have no idea.”

“OK, leave it.”

I picked up the car the next day and asked him what he did.

“Tune-up, timing belt, new gas filter, adjusted the fremlinger and tweaked the fornastat.”

The car ran like a top. 

Turns out that when Tom asked what you thought was wrong with your car if you didn’t know for sure, the correct answer was “I don’t know.”

I once took the car in for a fix which required Tom to crawl under the car.  He said it would only take a half hour to fix so I waited.  Tom took out wrenches of several different sizes, a screw driver and several other tools.  He slowly and deliberately laid out each tool in a specific spot by the car.  This whole procedure took him fifteen minutes.  I checked my watch as he slid under the car and was thinking maybe I should have just left the car and had my wife pick me up.  This clearly was going to take over 30 minutes.

Once under the car, Tom reached out and without looking grabbed the first tool.  He seemed to be working slowly but in one minute he meticulously replaced that tool and reached for the next, again without looking.  Working painfully slow Tom worked his way down the line of tools, never looking as he grabbed each one like a surgeon in an operating room.  In exactly 15 minutes he pulled himself out from under the car.  Not a bead of perspiration was on his face.  He had uttered not a single cuss word and there was no grease or oil on this face or hands.  Tom worked slowly but without any wasted movement.

“That should do it” he proclaimed wiping his hands of non-existent oil out of habit.

It took him exactly 30 minutes.

I took all my cars to Tom for 35 years until he finally closed up shop.

A mechanic or a dentist, if you find a good one, never change. 

9 comments:

  1. "If you find a good one never change." Amen!

    In my business I put together a great "team" of tradespeople that did excellent work at a fair price and I knew I could always trust them. I never changed. Someone had to retire, literally, before I would hire someone new.

    Other trades who tried to get my work never understood why I wouldn't change to them as they were cheaper. It's seldom about just the money.

    S

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  2. I want a Tom :) And, by the way, we had a car just like your VW pic! Loved it!

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  3. I had a '64 Bug that I might still be driving... if I hadn't severely crushed the roof in 1969.

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  4. Amen. I was in my shop twice a month for oil and maintenance when I drove all over the country. They gave me the employee discount. Now I get the retired employee discount.

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  5. I don't have a mechanic, but I've been going to my dentist for 25 years.

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  6. Firstly, so much love that your got a VW Bug!
    My first car was a paddock basher (grew up with a farm) VW Bug at 13. I was going to learn all about engines and restore her and be "That Girl" that was always covered in grease.

    However, I found the seats were comfy and really good to sit in and read a book, just for a bit... so, she stayed a paddock basher. At least I learnt to drive a manual.

    Secondly wow, a good mechanic is so hard to find! Hubby gave up on finding one and learnt how to fix electronic fuel injected engines himself.

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  7. Whew! When I first read it, I thought you paid $1800 for undercoating! You'd have to be a fetus to blame a mistake like THAT on being young.

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  8. Good story. A second hand 1957 model was my first car and I don't know why I ever changed. I'm sure it would still have been serving me well today. But the story was about the mechanic rather than the car and I'm sure you meant to say he was scrupulously (rather than unscrupulously) honest?

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  9. big sigh. wish i had one of those guys...

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