Opinion: A Mechanic by Any Other Name

Opinion: A Mechanic by Any Other Name

In the debate of mechanic versus technician, I really don’t think that what we call ourselves makes all that much of a difference.

an’t divide two numbers and look at a trig table to find the angle of a rafter, or calculate the torque of an engine using the angle of the crank journal, or understand why the 3-4-5 method of knowing something is square, then calling ourselves technicians isn’t going to do anything for our self-esteem. People only equate “mechanic” to “low-class” because to them “low-class” = “ignorant”. Read your history.

Solving complex problems, working on sophisticated machinery, and keeping America running has always been the job of “C” students. This isn’t because we’re too stupid to be “A” students, but rather because our teachers can’t cut rafters, calculate torque or build a deck any better then we can. They teach in ways that makes sense to them, but not to us.

They understand how to start a car, but not how to fix it. They can cook hamburgers on their decks, but not build the forms, pour the columns, or cut the beams and make certain they’re square.

Chemistry teachers don’t tell us that the word “plumber” comes from the Latin “plumbum”, which is the name for lead (“Pb” on the battery?). Science teachers can tell us about force and energy and mechanical advantage, but they don’t understand valve timing, own torque wrenches or blueprint engines.

And English teachers can talk about Shakespeare all day long but never understand that he chose the technologies of “slings and arrows” for Hamlet because they’re the only weapons from that day that kill anonymously from a distance. (Ask them…)

Oddly, Shakespeare is a great way to end this commentary. This is from "Romeo and Juliet," from about 1600:

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;

Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.

What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,

Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part

Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee,
Take all myself.

Change “Montague” to “mechanic” and reread it. We really need  to understand — AND teach our students — that what other people call us will never be important. It’s what we believe about ourselves that truly matters. I believe that I’m an intelligent person doing an important job, in the best nation on the planet, that offers unlimited opportunity. The mechanic's watch: My dad gave me this (with tears) when I graduated from A&P school in 1983... It was his father's.

What I make of myself depends upon my attitude, my beliefs, and effort, and I refuse to live down to other peoples’ expectations. I’m no smarter than anyone else, or more deserving — but maybe I am just a little more arrogant…

If being a mechanic was good enough for my grandfather, then it’s good enough for me. And if you choose to see this as “old school”, so be it.

Maybe if we spent more time in the old school than playing job-title-roulette out behind the gym, this would be less of a problem, or dilemma, or conundrum, or annoyance, or hindrance, or joke.



Dan Sullivan is electrical instructor and owner of Sullivan Training Systems. For more information, visit: www.brighterideas.com or e-mail Dan at: [email protected]

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