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Those times they are a-changin’

09.09.2013

I LIKE to rate myself a bit of a manly man. Not in the sense that I can crush a beer tin against my forehead or bench-press anything that someone may throw my way.

No, quite the contrary, I rate myself a man more in the traditional sense in that I can provide and fix things - a handyman. Although a dying profession, it seems.

I say this because, with the evolution of technology, manly men like myself are becoming obsolete, like an old box television or a VHS recorder. That’s because now, when a car has even the slightest fault, it has to be taken in to a dealership or let a professional ‘take a look.’

Gone are the days when Dad was out back in the garage tinkering with his pride and joy as he adjusted the float levels of the carbs and tried to set the engine timing just right. It’s a bygone era where people weren’t just passionate about their cars, they loved them with the type of love that can only be formed by working on and truly understanding the inner workings of your car.

These days, the type of affair that exists between man and machine is platonic, as we use it purely to get around and to work. Sunday drives and morning breakfast runs are quickly becoming a thing of the past, because of the fear of getting stuck in the awful traffic that seems to sprout out of nowhere.

The modern generation doesn’t boast the same technical know-how as its elders. Many modern men sadly can’t even change a tyre when they find themselves sitting on the side of the road with a flat. Admittedly, a lot of new cars no longer have spare tyres and use run-flats or have puncture-repair kits instead, meaning motorists don’t actually need to know how to jack up a car and replace the flat with its Marie-biscuit substitute.

It’s sad to think that something as simple as knowing how to change a tyre is a skill no longer needed. Even checking the oil level on some modern cars can be done by simply pressing a button on the odometer. If you don’t know this function exists on your vehicle, it could leave you and the petrol attendant searching furiously for adipstick that isn’t there.

My mother recently acquired a new vehicle and when something goes wrong and I receive the phone call, I no longer know what to say or do. I go  visit to try and find the fault and it usually leaves me muttering the words “take it to a repair shop.”
Now any warm-blooded male will tell you these are the hardest words ever to say. Much harder than ‘will you marry me?’ because saying ‘take it to a mechanic’ means you have admitted defeat and a small piece of your manhood dies.

Thankfully I have noticed when visiting an autoshop that the mechanics are no longer the blue-suited grease monkeys they used to be. There aren’t spare parts and empty oil cans littered all over the workshop. No, in fact, stopping by a vehicle service centre is like visiting a hospital. The work bays are spick and span and the mechanics can often be seen wearing white overalls. Yes, the most difficult colour to keep clean.

These guys, who work with some of the greasiest compounds known to man, do it dressed in white. Any stay-at-home mom would have a cadenza trying to keep those clothes whiter than white.

So why white then? Well, the fresh new breed of mechanics also don’t have bloody knuckles from hitting them against an engine part and there is also no oil and grime under their nails. They are as clean and professional as your doctor. But unlike your doctor, should you arrive at the workshop in your new vehicle that’s bellowing smoke, they wouldn’t have to try and track down the problem. Instead, the mechanic would merely connect the car to a computer and do a diagnostic test to find the fault.

The modern mechanic is a white-collar worker with a degree in computers and probably knows more about computers than cars. But this is how times have changed and while some skills have been lost - like repairing and servicing your own car - new skills have been acquired for other things.

I guess it’s just the fear of my male brain becoming obsolete, forgotten in the back of the closet like a typewriter and cassette tapes. Maybe I should embrace getting facials and having soft hands. And when something goes wrong or malfunctions, I should just call the computer wielding professionals.  

Article written by Stuart Moir
09.09.2013
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