Flashback: Clean it up and Try again

The first day at a new job is an unforgettable experience. Let’s just say mine at the Auto Shop was less than ideal.

Tony truly is an awesome boss. However, his methods of teaching are a little… Different, shall we say. I started working for him back in the fall of 2009, and as a young, still in highschool kid, I had never learned how to use a ratchet wrench, much less work on automobiles. I don’t even know why Tony hired me really. I had no experience and could only work a few hours a week.
Maybe it was the fact I was working for free….
Or it could have been sympathy.

Whatever the case, he did hire me to work there and allowed me to restore my car in his shop. I’ll never forget that first day. I strolled in around 9:00am, expected to be given an orientation on what Tony expected, what he was going to show me, etc. Instead, he handed me a wrench and some keys and said “There’s a Mercedes Benz out front, the black one, pull that around and change the spark plugs and the oil.”
I stood there kinda shocked and dumbly said, “Can you show me where the sparkplugs are?”
“After you pull the car around and get it open, sure.” Tony replied

So I, a 17 year old guy with minimal driving experience, got into the $30,000+ car and terrified I would bump it into something, pulled it into the shop. It took about 20 min I was going so slow. After another 10 minutes, I finally figured out how to open the hood. Tony showed me where the spark plugs were, and explained how they worked with the timing system. I of course asked what the timing system was, which he went on to explain that as well. It is now 10:00 and I finally had a tool in hand ready to do… something. Tony went back into the office.
I still don’t know what he did in there all day.

So a little more confident, now knowing what exactly to remove, I located a socket, and then proceeded to figure out how exactly the wrench worked. Sounds dumb, but it did take me a few minutes. I proceeded to remove one sparkplug. Pulling it out made me feel so victorious. I had five more to go… On plug number 3, I broke it. Granted it was a bad plug and was going to be tossed, but is was quite embarrassing for me. Thankfully, nothing dropped into the engine itself. That would have made for a worse day for sure.

Around noon, I had gotten four plugs out. Tony came in to check on me, commented on the broke plug, and told me to take lunch. So I did, and got back to it around 12:30. Finally, around 1:30, I had removed all six plugs. Now, heheh, I just had to put the new ones in. At 3:00, six hours later, I finally had successfully changed all the plugs in the mercedes, and not lost track of the timing wires. (A plug job takes me now about 30-45 minutes, which is the standard speed.) 

Tony came in, checked what I had done, then said to change the oil. This is where the first flashback lesson comes in. In my arrogant little mind, I instantly thought “Haha! I changed the plugs perfectly (even if it took a little longer than normal), and I know how to change the oil. Piece of cake.” How does that saying go again? Pride before the fall? Well, I removed the plug, drained the old oil, and removed the old filter. I forgot oil would still be in the filter, and because of that dumped it all over my shirt.

The new filter and oil came in a bit later, so now it is about 4:00pm. An hour left until the day is over. I checked the ring on the oil filter, screwed it in, and poured the oil into the engine as proud as could be. I mean, hey, I got a whole car done in a single day. Without wasting any parts or breaking any tools. I was feeling pretty sure of myself, completely missing how badly I had performed in hours/labor.

Then Tony walked in, I remember this like it was yesterday…. He looks under the car, and asks…
“You put the plug back in?”
Ever have that moment of complete and undeniable stupidity founded in arrogance? That was me. Right then, my little image of “master mechanic” was crushed like a car compactor in a junk yard. I had forgotten to put the pan plug back in, and had proceeded to pour four quarts of brand new oil all over the shop floor. I was devastated. I knew right then, I was going to get fired on my first day. I was a horrid mechanic. I couldn’t even change the stinking oil without wasting money!

And then Tony said something which has stuck to me this day. He is not a believer, he rejects Christ, but what he said was something which had the incredible qualities of grace.
“Well, clean it up and try again, this time with the plug in.”
He didn’t get mad, he didn’t fuss at me, he didn’t even make me pay for the oil (I tried). He didn’t tell me to stop working. In fact, he made a joke out of the situation, and told me to try again.

Tony may not be wise in the ways of the Lord, which saddens me immensely. But he is wise in the ways of leadership and direction. Which got me, because when I make a mistake, too often I am quick to snap at them and make sure they never forget the wrong they did. Tony taught me that day, my first day, you are going to make mistakes. Your employees are going to make mistakes, and lots of them. He, a non-believer, choose to show grace and patience. While I, a professing Christian, was (and still am) short and quick to punish. That first day I was not only ashamed of the lack of my skill, but more-so at the fact God had to use one who blasphemes Him daily to teach me just how messed up I still was and am.

Everyday I have to clean it up and try again. How about you?

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