Good afternoon, Class of 2016, and thank you for inviting me to be your Commencement speaker. I suppose we all recognize by now that a number misunderstandings were involved in getting us all together here today. As an auto repair trade school, you probably felt that someone named “The Idler” might have some association with the automotive repair industry. I, on the other hand, was laboring under the misapprehension that you were a large midwestern university with a storied football team. Of course, this was based on your unique and imaginative school name, “Motor Dame,” which we totally misheard. By the way, are you in the same conference as Ball Joint State? Ha-ha!
Okay, then, I couldn’t help but notice that although you voted to disinvite me several times, it wasn’t for political incorrectness but rather because of my crummy ride. Well let me remind you that if it wasn’t for crummy rides, you might all be reduced to some form of subsistence employment like borough councilman or writing wisecracks in the paper. Also, you should know that I have taken a firm stand against white-wall privilege and, of course, when it comes to annual inspections, backup lights matter.
But here we are, and I can’t help but think it was fate that led me to blow a radiator hose just as I arrived and realized I had been hosed, er mistaken about the venue. And I wasn’t trying to get away, just, you know, looking for a parking place. Yeah, that’s the ticket. By the way, what’s it cost to replace one of those hoses? How about a show of hands for less than $50. Anybody? You’re not turning wrenches for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. yet, you know. More than $50 and less than $100? It’s the one right on top where you can see it. Could those of you who are conscious possibly wake up the ones who are resting their eyes. More than $100? Okay, now we have some hands, and may I suggest that most of you invest in the gallon container of Go-Jo. The kind with the pumice.
Now then, Class of 2016, as you make your way out into the world to encounter the motoring public and slide under its cars, you will find you need to make a number of serious decisions.
Wardrobe: Coveralls or separates? The former have the advantage of keeping you relatively clean, and have lots of pockets for tools and snacks. The downside is that they’re hot in the Summer. Also you’ll be annoyed when your girlfriend calls it a jumpsuit. Or a “onesie”. Then there’s the pivotal question of how the embroidered name should appear on your shirts. Script or block letters? You don’t want to go with anything too flamboyant unless, of course, you intend to specialize in Priuses or VW Cabrios. Old English fonts are out unless you’re working at a Bentley dealership. Any lady mechanics out there? You can dot your i’s with little hearts if you want, but don’t be surprised if your oafish co-workers tease you about it. By the way, how come you guys are all Buds or Macs or some other one syllable nickname? Aren’t there any mechanics named Nigel or Trevor? Imagine how much more you could charge if customers were told, “We’re going to submit your PCV valve to Algernon over here for his considered opinion. Yes, he’s the one with the monocle.” Maybe a little ascot under the coveralls. Overdoing it?
Fake Jargon: It’s okay to have fun with your customers by asking them if they prefer the plastic versus the brass muffler bearings, but you can’t charge them more for the latter. You don’t want your second job to be tuning up the prison van. Also, don’t start talking about the “Johnson rod” because everyone’s seen that Seinfeld re-run.
Your Customers’ Idiotic Taste in Cars: Face it, there are cars that can ruin your lunch. But if somebody pulls up in an orange Pontiac Aztek, you gotta work on it, Sparky. And you can’t wonder aloud who the guy with the “Impreza” is trying to imprez. Or what the “Achieva” driver is trying to achiev. The Ford Probe must be a weird one to work on. Especially if you’re a believer in alien abductions. Just be thankful that most of the Subaru “Brats” have landed in the junkyard by now.
So good luck, class of 2016, and as you file out, take a look at that classic ‘64 Comet up on the sidewalk. It’s the one with the tree branch holding up the hood.
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