Here is a great example of old-school made manifest in a number of ways – first off, the place was closed on Sunday – because there once was a time when we had respect for the tradespeople around us, and didn’t put the convenience of the all-wanting customer above everything else (which meant we all had more self-respect).

I consider myself lucky to have been trained by two very different generations of technicians at once, back in the mid 1980s. The boomer teachers had lots of cool ideas about the world, and many of them were closer to being tuned-in to our crazy philosophies and ambitions (I’d say 90% of the class were broke musicians, hoping to graduate into a slightly less pathetic economic standing – including me!). But the guys who came-up not in the sixties, but the fifties, were of a whole different culture, one that we very rarely notice nowadays, and acknowledge (or thank) even less.

My favourite prof Ed taught me lots about hustling a gig, but the grey haired Ian could tell me about laying power-lines in Labrador, industrial diving for the Ford plant water-intake (hint, no – you do not ever want to trust that everyone will respect the sign that says “do not touch the pump-switch” when you’re half a kilometre up a lakewater intake pipe – you go and pull the freakin’ fuse yourself! (Best safety teacher EVER!).

He was also an installer for the very first generation of televisions sold – which required a home visit from a technician, to operate at their best – since back then the electron guns were so weak, the electromagnetic field of the earth itself would throw the picture off-kilter, unless the set was “Mandraked” (demagnetized) in it’s final position, (especially it’s orientation WRT flux-lines).

He was not ‘sensitive’ (reveal your laziness or stupidity, and you could expect to be publicly humiliated for it) he was sharp, determined, dedicated and tough and he expected you to meet him up there (considered-it part of his teaching responsibility to build-you-up that way, as part of your professionalism).

Here’s the thing – that old-school semi-punitive mode of teaching, for the trades especially, was NOT just arbitrary, nor was it meant to be cruel (though of course there are sadists to be found in all professions offering power over others). The underlying lesson was crucial and necessary, and applies literally everywhere: Reality is more important than any opinion about it (especially yours, new-guy).

I’ve mentioned before that in art, the hardest thing to learn is to see clearly – because everyone always assumes that they already are – even when their accumulation of habits, cliches and assumptions makes them effectively blind!

In service, the hardest thing to learn is that your opinion doesn’t matter, your ideas don’t matter, your theories don’t matter – what matters is making the thing work right (or not) and that is an empirical real-world result which cannot be disguised or prettied-up with bullshit, nor is a “good-try” ever good-enough.

And so to the apprentice relationship (another one of those all-the-way-back-to-Babylon institutions – of which I see more and more, as I study the world). Why are there hundreds of variations of the sign which yells-at a junior worker, for making the assumption that they might actually know what they’re doing?

Because the senior guys get tired of doing all the yelling first-hand – because the junior guys are still very much idiots, (each new crop arrives freshly dumb) and because those who have finally learned the wisdom of functional reality over opinion, really do require respect (or you’ll never ever get to hear their best-side at all). The absolute worst thing an (only semi-useful anyhow) apprentice can do, is directly interfere with the work of the wise master.

So yes, when it comes to the master’s tools those really are the ‘Tool Rules’ – no joking-around whatsoever.   Don’t borrow them, don’t organize them, don’t move them, don’t touch them – don’t even look at them!

And while you’re at it – don’t look so grumpy about the sign, either, if that warning didn’t still apply to you perfectly, then you wouldn’t be in the slightest-bit irritated, every single time you read it!

No computers in sight at this garage – which makes this the sort of place I’d want to apprentice myself, if I was starting out in the trade right now. Of course you’d have a safer bet of steadier income wearing corporate coveralls, smiling at lot and obeying your master Wrench-tron, over in the corner – but that’s like being a board-swapping technician, or pulling orders in a warehouse.

No detective work, no puzzle-solving, no imagination and cleverness involved, no challenging variety of analysis, no bonus for years of accrued wisdom care and skill – and most of all – no fun with finger-torque!

Sound trivial? Ask a former tech about the things they used to be able to do perfectly by-feel, and watch their eyes light-up like they’re recalling a hot date!  (Gentle but inexorable back-tension EMF on a Studer open-reel! The slick glide of a freshly re-felted Nakamichi Dragon slip-clutch! Oooh baby, now we’re talking!)

Think I’m crazy? Can’t get why anyone would still bother doing anything so manually, slowly, laboriously, and old-style inefficiently, in this disposable, post-human-value, digital-convenience age?

Exhibit three – T-Dash in the T-dot. I rest my case!

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