Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

01 April 2007


It's not me-working-on-stuff unless blood is spilled. It began a long time ago and although the frequency has diminished some, I still usually wound myself in some way. Most of the time I don't even notice until someone else says, "Hey, you're bleeding." Goes with the territory, I guess. Well that and, as a mechanic I make a pretty good pilot.

It was November of 1975. I was living in Manhattan and we were in the middle of one of those bitter cold winters where you go outside and it hurts just to breathe. I know New York City is not the coldest place on earth in the winter; it just feels like it in my memory. The water pump in my car went out. I went to the auto parts store and bought a new pump, hoses and clamps. How hard could it be? I had just turned 20, an age when people know everything. As did I back then. The car was parked on the street. No garage. I remember working around mounds of dirty snow and piles of dogshit in the gutter. Oh what fun...

On the Ford 2600cc V-6 engine as installed in the 1972 Mercury Capri, there are four bolts securing the cooling fan to the water pump. I pulled and pulled on the ratchet wrench, to no avail. The first bolt held tight. Determined, I pulled some more with much more force. The wrench slipped off and my (non-gloved) right hand scraped against the fan on the way out. I do not remember the exact words I used, but I gar-own-damn-tee you that they were colorful. And loud. To repeat them here would require all of those little symbols above the number keys and then some. Nearby longshoremen blushed. Women passersby gasped in horror. Truckdrivers stopped, raised their bushy eyebrows and said gruffly, "Hey Mac, you kiss your mudda wit' dat mouth?"

I still have the scar.

And so began a tradition that continues to this day. And I mean that literally. I was working on the helicopter today and found out exactly how sharp those little knives are that come in those handy
Leatherman tools. You know the ones. We wear them on our belts since we can't wear pistols anymore and we have to have something there to pull out on occasion. They look like two simple little pieces of metal, but they unfold into a gazillion different devices. Needle-nose pliers? Check. Screwdriver? Check. Saw? Check. Beer bottle opener? Check! You name it, this little beauty has it. Leave the toolbox at home, with this gadget you could perform a tune-up on the Space Shuttle or, more down to earth, overhaul a Catepillar front-end loader. Or even, as I just found out, surgery.

So I was trying to get a circlip out. A circlip (sometimes called a "snap ring") is a little metal ring that is open for a bit of its circumference making it look like the letter "c". Let's say you have a hollow shaft and you want to keep something inside that shaft but you still need the end of the shaft open. All you need to do is machine a little groove on the inside of that shaft right near the end, then stick a circlip in there. Voila! Now whatever is in the shaft will stay put.

As you can see, where the two ends of the circlip almost come together are holes. They make a special pair of pliers with two little barbs on the end. These barbs fit perfectly into the holes of the circlip, allowing you to compress it (by closing the gap) and remove it from its groove. (Circlips can also be utilized around the outside of shafts, too.)

Yes, yes, I should have used snap ring pliers. But needless to say, I didn't have the right size pliers...strike that...make that "any snap ring pliers at all" here. So I was using a tiny screwdriver and the very sharp, pointy knife of my Leatherman. Hey, I am all about using the right tool for the job, and here I was voilating my own rule. I hate it when I do that.

As I dug in the groove to get the circlip out, the folding knife blade did just that. Quite suddenly and unexpectedly, catching the tip of my right-hand ring finger in its path. With surgical precision it neatly sliced open a big patch of fingertip. It was one of those cuts where you look at it, puzzled for the first moment, and you go, "Damn, that looks like it's gonna hu...YOW!" Hurt, it did (uh, "does"). And bleed, it did too. Oh-boy, did it bleed! Who'd have thought that our fingertips held so much blood? But they do.

So I stopped and got it cleaned up and bandaged, then went back to work and finished the task. I was originally going to title this post: "Why jobs always take longer than planned." Because when I think back, I've spent a lot of time stopping work and tending to cuts, gashes and punctures. This one will probably leave a scar too.

P.S. I did eventually get the Capri water pump changed. It just took longer than anticipated.


Gene said...

Sorry to read that you hurt yourself. Next time use the proper tools or get someone else to do it. Does your finger needs stitches?

Bob Barbanes said...

Get someone else to do it? Yes, I usually try to let our mechanic have *all* the fun, but sometimes it's just too much for one guy to handle. And yes, if I had all of the tools I need I'd be in heaven. As it is, I'm just in Guanaja, which is close enough for me. And no, it doesn't *need* stitches and for that I'm glad. They can't do that here. I'd have to fly myself to the hospital on the mainland! (Just kidding, Dr. Keith on the Cay *can* do stitches here...I...um...think.)

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.