How to be a Great Chinese Mechanic
So you want to be a great Chinese mechanic? Your dream is easier than you can imagine. In just a few short paragraphs I will educate you in the way of motorcycle repair in China and set you on the way to a career of inflicting frustration and despair on anyone that is suckered into your shop, while ridiculously over-billing them for shoddy work. The good news is you’re almost halfway towards the goal already! Just answer these 3 simple questions:
1) Are you a Chinese man?
2) Do you like to get involved in activities that you don’t understand?
3) Do you own a hammer?
If you answered “yes” to those 3, you’re well on the way! Why, you’re practically already a mechanic, you just need a filthy, grease stained patch of dirt to work on and you can start ruining people’s machinery. But keep reading and let me show you the path to mechanical greatness.
“But wait”, you whine in your plaintive, weedy voice, “I really don’t know anything about fixing motorcycles, I’m hardly able to identify the gas tank 2 times out of 3…” Don’t fret little man, let me introduce the concept of “job shopping” to make your career problem free.
Job shopping is when a customer brings in a machine you’re not familiar with or asks for a repair you don’t understand, like replacing a lightbulb. Your first task is to assure the customer that you can handle this repair, it’s no trouble at all and you have every confidence it can be done in a few hours. Do your best to wrangle some money from the customer “to buy parts” and set a good fat price for completion; plead poverty, duress and how difficult the job will be, squeeze him like a grape. Then, once the customer is out of sight, find someone that can actually do the job; maybe a bigger shop down the road? Maybe your drunken uncle? Maybe a random member of the idle crowd loitering about your shop? Whoever, it really doesn’t matter. Get a firm price from them and negotiate mercilessly, every RMB they get is basically stealing from you, so fight hard. They don’t have to do a good job, assure them that the customer will never meet them, so they can just rush through it with used parts and it won’t matter. Get the repairs done and get the bike back to the customer. It’s best if you drop it off, so he won’t have time to check it over before you disappear. Get the money from him and beat feet. When the shoddy work falls apart in a day and if the customer comes back to you, plead ignorance, it isn’t your fault the other guy did a crap job. Job shopping is the express train to success!
The thing to remember to be truly great is that your time is worthless. Of course, as a Chinese man, any time not spent drunk or in the company of underage whores is just wasted, and if you’re at your “garage” you’re basically just hanging out and killing time. Since you can’t bill the customer for labor, the only way to make money in the mechanic game is to charge inflated prices for parts. So if a customer comes in with a blown head gasket, fuck that guy. It’s 2 hours of labor for a RMB$5 part. But a customer with a blown starter is money in the bank! Starters take all of 5 minutes to change and you can charge what you want, once his bike is in pieces. The best part is that you can rewind an old starter and slap that in, no need to buy a new one, but make sure you charge like it’s made of gold and blessed by GuanYin. Sure the replacement starter will fail in a week, but who cares? The customer will be long gone by then. And if he isn’t, it’s a chance to upsell him on a new starter!
A good mechanic repairs a motorcycle once, a great mechanic can make a career of repairing the same bike once, over a period of months. The secret is to screw up something that will make the bike come back later. The best way is to use the secret Shaolin mechanic technique known as “Chinklok”. When something needs to be tightened, a nut or bolt, stupid Western mechanics will just tighten it, maybe they’ll put some bizarre goop called Threadlok or a lockwasher on it to stop it from falling off. But that’s hardly the way of the great Chinese mechanic! Where’s the job security in that? No, the Chinese way is to tighten it until it just feels snug, then give it 3 quick turns. This strips the threads and guarantees it’ll fall off in a few days. Even if the bike doesn’t come back to you, it’ll have to go to another mechanic. When we all work together like this, we all profit. So don’t forget to Chinklok all the nuts and bolts!
Tools are an important part of being a great mechanic and you should treat them right. The instant you’re done with a particular tool, open your hand and let it fall to the filthy floor. There’s nothing more satisfying then hearing the “clang” of a precision instrument bouncing off a delicate part. That’s the sound of job security, as it’s hardly your fault the customers stupid carburator was under your hammer. More parts = more money!
It may be that a motorcycle comes to your shop that looks like it might be a challenge. Maybe a foreigner pushes his bike to your door, maybe it comes in on the bed of a tractor. This spells trouble! Foreigners are bad news, they expect repairs to last more than 20 minutes and their mechanic to not be a lying sack of shit. As a Chinese mechanic, that’s impossible. Better to brush him off and send him elsewhere. Try not looking at him while waving your fat little hand in his general direction. Don’t speak to him, just look away and grunt. If he insists on you working on the bike (maybe by bad luck you’re the only shop in 40km) tell him you’ve never seen one like it and can’t promise anything (even if it is identical to every other bike you have ever seen). Try to convince him that what he’s asking for is either a) totally trivial and not necessary or b) impossibly difficult and beyond the ken of man. Best is to claim both things at once, that should discourage him enough to go elsewhere.
So now you’re on the path to greatness! Remember: job shop, re-use parts, Chinklok and refuse anything difficult. Soon you’ll be known as a great Chinese mechanic!