Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The neurologically challenged mechanic

Grandpa Joe rented arc welders, some of which were powered by six cylinder gasoline engines. He had a mechanic, I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name, who worked for him part time. Cloyce was a very good mechanic, to give him his due. He also didn't drive. He also drank profoundly. One day when a welder was on the fritz in Rochester, about 30 miles north of Detroit, and no one else was available, Joe had me drive Cloyce out to fix it.

We loaded some tools and a box of commonly used repair parts into a pickup truck and off we went. I was a rather naive young lad of 16 and had only been driving for a couple of months. Consequently I was slow to read the signals that something was going seriously wrong.

At first it wasn't much. Cloyce had begun, well, not quite slurring his words but drawing them out. When he would speak to me he would start sentences with, Mawr-ty, and then say whatever he had to say. It didn't matter to me. I was just doing my job. Then he said with an odd emphasis, "Mawrty", almost like a command. I turned and said, "Yeah, Cloyce?". He was pointing his cigarette lighter, which looked like a pistol, at me. He made the sound of a gunshot - pschew - as he pulled the trigger, lighting a flame at me. "Funny, Cloyce", I said. But at the time I needed more than a simple clue that things were amiss. I needed to be hit with a pile of bricks.

The bricks fell on me when we were almost to our destination. "Mawrty," I heard, "Could you pull over to that pawrty store so I can get some Coke to mix with this?" I looked over to see him displaying a half drained fifth of vodka.

"Put that away Cloyce! Do you know how much trouble that could get us into?" I half screamed. By us, I meant me. I was the driver who knew what the law said about open intoxicants. And then I remembered, I don't anything about fixing engines. He's got to get that welder running.

What to do, what to do? All I could think was to get him to the job and hope for the best. So that's what I did.

We arrived, and I made Cloyce stay in the pickup while I found the foreman. He came out of his trailer office and directed me to where the machine sat. It was on the other side of an eight foot berm. Great.

I drove over to it, got the tools and parts over to the welder and then got Cloyce and hobbled him over the berm next. He commenced to stumble around the machine, doing this and that and I don't know what while I prayed he would somehow get us out of the mess we faced. I faced. In a few minutes the foreman came along to check on our progress. He couldn't help notice the state Cloyce was in. He leaned towards me and whispered, "Is he okay?"

"Oh, yeah," I answered. "He's just got a neurological disorder." It was all I could think of.

The foreman looked at me with a skeptical raised eyebrow. But right then we heard the roar of an engine. Cloyce had gotten that welder running, Lord knows how.

The foreman pursed his lips and patted my head as if to say, all right, we're good, problem solved. He walked away. I got Cloyce and the tools and parts back over the berm and started home gratefully. But the next time I took Cloyce to a job, I made certain there were no hidden bottles in the truck.

No comments: