caring about work

This weekend I was re-reading "Zen and art of motorcycle maintenance" after a gap of probably 10 years. I wanted to check whether with me being more "mature", if I understand it better – more on that later. One particular incident was kind of a coincidence.
In the morning it was raining heavily – Monsoon is a week early. It was raining with the sound of a speeding train. I was reading a passage in the book about how people has a block with technology, willfully ignores and puts up with a problem since it needs them to bother about technical details to solve it. Author was recounting an experience of taking the motorcycle to a shop and getting it back in an even worse shape – people not caring about what they do, being in a hurry, not diagnosing the problem right, not bothering to test, taking it too light, being sloppy with work. I also haven't done much with my own car, never tried to fix anything myself other than changing a tire maybe – I was thinking if there is a class somewhere on basic car maintenance or should I learn it online etc.
So in this rain I had to drive back and forth ferrying my daughter to her keyboard lessons, buying gifts for upcoming birthdays etc. My windshield wiper was behaving strangely – the one on the driver side was colliding with the other and getting flipped on the side and getting damaged. Last year around this time I had a worn out wiper and had taken a long drive to Athirapalli waterfalls and into forest routes beyond it when it was raining throughout – that left a permanent line in the windshield. So this time i didn't want to repeat the mistake. Initially I thought it was due to length of the wiper blades, overlapping, adjusting it in anyway didn't fix it. Finally the driver side blade stopped moving after one sweep and in the next iteration went outside in same direction.
I scouted for the usually Car Accessories shops, most of which was closed on Sundays. In recent years accessory shops have boomed here, there must be more such shops than ladies cosmetic shops now. Finally found one, there was a guy sitting in Sunday mood – he took a look and said the wiper was not inserted correctly in the first place and it was lengthier and anyway it is broken. He had a newer style wiper which was twice as costly, but said would last more – typical of the service done with car dealers now, bunch of new guys who doesn't care to fix anything, solutions are always to replace only. He put in a couple of new ones. It had the same problem. I thought the wiper blade was bent when it got stuck against the other one earlier – this guy was having none of it, he replaced with different length blades and test continuously with same results. Then he said my wiper itself is faulty, pointed to some misalignment and would need replacement.
The book says this about such an experience which seemed apt..
The radio was a clue. You can't really think hard about what you're doing and listen to the radio at the same time. Maybe they didn't see their job as having anything to do with hard thought, just wrench twiddling. If you can twiddle wrenches while listening to the radio that's more enjoyable.
Their speed was another clue. They were really slopping things around in a hurry and not looking where they slopped them. More money that way...if you don't stop to think that it usually takes longer or comes out worse.
But the biggest clue seemed to be their expressions. They were hard to explain. Good-natured, friendly, easygoing...and uninvolved. They were like spectators. You had the feeling they had just wandered in there themselves and somebody had handed them a wrench. There was no identification with the job. No saying, "I am a mechanic." At 5 P.M. or whenever their eight hours were in, you knew they would cut it off and not have another thought about their work. They were already trying not to have any thoughts about their work on the job. In their own way they were achieving the same thing John and Sylvia were, living with technology without really having anything to do with it. Or rather, they had something to do with it, but their own selves were outside of it, detached, removed. They were involved in it but not in such a way as to care.
I had switched to a local mechanic last year after such bad experiences with dealers – once I went to change a tail lamp, the guy locked the keys inside the car, then changed tail lamp but broke the indicator, I had stopped going to dealers after such. So I called this mechanic – being a Sunday, was skeptic if he would be around. He picked up, asked me to come over. He has a garage in front of his home, very hands on, doesn't speak too much more than necessary, extremely professional and very fair in dealings so far and he explains the diagnosis and fix usually – I used to think he worked somewhere abroad earlier and now keeps busy in his retirement.
I took the car to him, he came out and took a look, went in and came with a wrench, tightened the nut at base on the wiper assembly and asked me to turn it on – it worked perfectly. His explanation was that the nut had come loose a bit, blade was moving slower than the other causing the other one to catchup with this and get blocked – driver side blade has to have more length anyway since it should cover more area, so that is normal.
It is easy to put it down to experience. But there is value to being hands on, caring about work, putting in time, having patience and taking pride in what we are doing. 


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