The Old Mechanic: a story about the value of experience

An old story that shows the value of experience.

There once was a businessman who, having achieved much in his business career, was now retired.

Years of tough business life had taught him to be frugal, almost to the point of miserliness, and when he sold the business, he allowed himself just one luxury as a reward for his years of hard work: a beautiful burgundy-coloured Jaguar motor car.

It was his pride and joy. He drove it everywhere, and wherever he went it attracted admiring comments from passers-by.

A worrying development

One day, the car developed a worrying knock under the bonnet. Over the next few days, it got progressively worse. The car started performing badly, and the businessman realised he was going to have to get it looked at, or risk losing the car.

He took it to the best garage in town. They promised to run diagnostic tests to see if they could find the problem.

A few days later, his phone rang. It was the owner of the garage, with the worst possible news: they could not find the problem and it was likely the car would have to be scrapped.

The businessman had not got where he was by giving up that easily. He took it to another garage, and then another, but they both said the same thing.

The businessman was in despair. The car was beautiful, yes, but it was more than that. It was his last connection with the business that he had dedicated his working life to.

A pint and a chat

Over a pint that evening, he mentioned his problem to the publican, who knew everyone.

“Have you tried Bob the mechanic?” the landlord asked.

Nobody really knew how old Bob was. He’d been Bob the Mechanic for as long as anyone in that town could remember, and he worked from a tumble-down shed at the end of an alleyway behind the shops. It was not promising. But the businessman was willing to try anything if it would save him from scrapping his beautiful motor car.

The next day, he nursed his stricken burgundy Jaguar slowly and noisily down the overgrown alleyway. Just as the shed came into view, its door swung open and old Bob appeared. He had a cup of tea in one hand and a cigarette between his fingers, and his overalls were freshly-laundered.

“That’s sounded better” he smiled, pointing his cigarette in the direction of the rattling engine.

The businessman started talking, but Bob had already turned and walked back into his shed.

Tools of the trade

The businessman wondered if should leave, but Bob soon re-appeared, holding a large hammer.

“Hold this” he said, through his cigarette, and handed his mug of tea to the businessman. He opened the bonnet, listened intently, then struck the engine hard, once, with the hammer, before the businessman could do anything to stop him.

The engine spluttered, faded, then came back to life with the most beautiful contented purr the businessman had heard it make for years. “She’ll be okay now” said Bob.

“That is absolutely fantastic!” cried the delighted businessman. “What do I owe you?”

“One thousand pounds, if you’ll be so kind” came the reply.

“A thousand pounds? But you haven’t even had time to finish your tea! How can it possibly cost so much? I’m afraid I must insist that you give me an itemised bill. It’s a scandal.”

Bob smiled, nodded and pottered back inside. A few moments later, he emerged with a piece of paper, and handed it over.

The value of experience

The businessman looked down at the invoice. It read as follows:

Robert Jones - Mechanic
TO: Hitting engine with hammer........ £ 10.00 Knowing where to hit...............£ 990.00 TOTAL..............................£ 1,000.00

The tough, frugal businessman’s frown relaxed into a broad grin, and, laughing contentedly, he pulled out his cheque-book and wrote a cheque for double the amount.

“Thank you” he said. “I owe you twice: once for fixing my car, and once for teaching me something I should have known already, after all my years in business.

“Remember the importance of experience, and value it properly in yourself and others.

And it’s usually worth going for a pint.