Saturday, November 17, 2007

To Wrench Or Not To Wrench

The transformation is becoming too complete; I am actually missing being a wrench. Indeed, I'm considering asking a friend who owns a shop if he needs another wrench. Not full-time, mind you, I'm not that far gone yet, and I love what I do now. Maybe one day a week, maybe only a half-day. Something.
We had this discussion about burnout today; the combined effects of both working and riding in the same life. It knocked me out of the "industry", taking my ride with it. It's happening to another friend of ours as we speak. I'll bet some doughnuts we aren't the only ones.
It wasn't so much about everyone in the biz, it was more about the service side of the picture. If you're a salesman first, the survival rate is considerably higher. Retail sales is only enhanced by a love of the product. A true salesman can sell... anything, whereas a wrench is a singularly-minded creature in many respects.
Many people work on their own bikes, a fair number get paid for it at some point in their lives, and a few make a career of it. The more you do it, the more you enjoy it, and the first one's usually free. Then somewhere down the road you apply to be paid to do it; a "pro" under certain legal headings. From there, the trail usually forks several ways...
You wrench for a while, and you're done.
You wrench for a while, and always keep it sharp as a fall-back.
You wrench.
It's that last group that seems to have the highest rate of burnout. Constantly attempting to save the dignity of well-made bikes, as well as trying to bring big-box zombies back to life. You begin by trying to save the world, keep them all running. Then you learn the difference. Certain brands evoke an instant response, good or bad. That's normal, it's a survival instinct. Sometimes it stops there, sometimes it grows into prejudice. You begin to judge your customers by the condition of their ride. Judge, jury, and executioner.
The last stage is contempt. That's the killer; the end of your career path, because once you get there you hold the machine in as much contempt as the populace. And you walk away. Some never return, but I, for one, am glad I came back. I have rediscovered two of the simplest pleasures in my life; riding for no other reason than to ride, and tweaking my steed to my own, personal specs.
Maybe I just miss the dirty fingerprints etched into my callouses. They are finally beginning to fade after three-and-a-half years.

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