Today was my first official day back as a mechanic at Citybikes, after four years of handling the lead buyer's duties.
To review: In a cooperative with an egalitarian wage scale, there are no promotions based on types of duties assigned. Instead, ideally, tasks rotate periodically, both to stave off burnout and to strengthen the knowledge base of the cooperative by offering at least some degree of cross-training of tasks. After four years it was time for someone else to sit in the buyer's chair, and for me to start turning wrenches again.
I arrived at 8:30 am, selected a tag from the job board -- I chose a full overhaul of a used bike, so I could jump in the deep end, as it were -- and got down to work. I was surprised at how quickly my old sense of system and order came back. When I'm asked to do an overhaul of a bike, I read the job tag carefully, and then I like to look at the bike for a few minutes before tearing it down. When I'm ready to begin, I usually work from the back to the front of the bike. I fell into my familiar rhythm, enjoying the quiet of the shop and the sound of a freshly-cleaned and oiled freewheel. I lost track of time, enjoying the focus of the particular task at hand: grease this brake boss, file down an odd burr in the end of new brake housing, get that "hop" out of the rear rim and bring this cheap wheel back into some reasonable semblance of round because the customer doesn't have buckets of money and just wants a bike that's safe and rideable for another year. By the time my co-workers began arriving two hours later, I had completed nearly half the job.
Of course, work slowed down once we opened, because in addition to working on the bike in my stand I was also fielding questions from customers, fixing flats and adjusting saddles and showing someone a new bike. I'll finish the overhaul in the morning.
As I wiped the grease from the tools and cleaned up my workbench at the end of my shift, I spotted something that made me laugh out loud. This was hanging on the main tool board, the one where we keep the bigger tools like frame straighteners, dropout alignment tools and the like. It had a tag zip-tied to it. I pulled it down to have a closer look:
(This tool is on long term loan from JF / It opens beer)
Happily, some things about the work don't really change.