Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Today I had one of the toughest days just Being In My Body at the shop:

1. I needed the large tire jack to re-install almost every single tire on flat fixes;
2. I raked my knuckes not once, but three times (!!) on someone's filthy chainrings because a tool slipped on rounded wrench-flats;
3. My knee popped -- loudly -- as I carried a bike down the stairs for a customer to test-ride;
4. I could not see the tiny part I was trying to work on without removing my glasses -- and after I took off my glasses, I still couldn't see the damned part. I had to ask someone else to come over and look at it with me.

I have an eye exam scheduled soon, so hopefully I'll get some help there, but this last one in particular really drove home the fact that my body just isn't up to doing this mechanic gig full-time anymore.
And yes, I'm well aware that you're not supposed to blog about your physical ailments in case a potential employer, insurance agent or government officials reads it and decides you are immediately much more expendable than you were five minutes before; but I don't plan on looking for full-time work in another bike shop, ever. My body is clearly sending me signals that I need to keep phasing out of the mechanical scene.

I have sold some personal tools online already, the ones I am least sentimental about. I will probably call a local friend in the industry and invite him to come pick through the pile and make an offer. I plan to pare down my toolbox to those tools that will allow me to do tune-ups and bearing overhauls and little else. I just don't see the need to hang onto frame-straightening tools and cheater bars and the like; when I need that sort of thing done down the road I will gladly pay someone to do it, especially now that my hands hurt so much after a full day of wrenching.

It is tough to notice the multiple and pesky ways in which my body is no longer willing and able to do things I used to do so easily only a few years ago. It really points out how important it has become for me to save my hands for more music-making, especially since I suspect that the time will come when even that may become difficult.

I feel melancholy about my hands tonight.

As a young child I used to stare at peoples' hands in amazement. That the human hand could move so many ways, in so many directions all at once, and do so many wonderful things, was a constant source of wonder to me, as I watched my father play piano, my mother make clothing or tasty food, my sister play fingerstyle guitar (something I never mastered; I remain a flatpicker). A lifetime of fixing and mending things, playing assorted musical instruments and making art has given my hands surprising grip strength -- until recently, as I've noticed some of that grip-strength beginning to fade a little bit.

I know these things happen. And I know that the best I can do is to parcel out the strength I still possess so that I can make the most of my hands now.

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