The Zen of Wrenching

It’s rare that we work on our racecars without some kind of deadline. If we’re in the pits, we need to get it ready for the next session, or qualifying, or a race. We always seem to have a limited amount of time.

At the track, there’s nothing you can do about it. NASA has an event schedule and you’re either able to make it out for your session, or you’re not, but NASA trains leave the station on time, regardless of whether you’re ready. It helps to be deeply familiar with the intricacies of your car and what it takes to fix it at the track — and fix it quickly. Because of the nature of racing and Time Trial and HPDE, it’s necessary to be able to make quick fixes.

At home in the garage, that timetable still looms large, but at least it’s a bit longer. You often have a week or two to find the time to get the car ready, or in a tight crunch, days. When you’re at the track, it’s hours, or minutes.

When your car is at home in the garage, and it needs work, you can focus on doing things right rather than just quickly. While I was building my latest car, most of which was done in the garage with a comfortable timetable, one of the tools I found to be indispensable to keeping calm and carrying on was music.

Most of you probably already knew that, and the old Bugs Bunny cartoon about how “music calms the savage beast,” emphasized that lesson early in my life, but for reasons of FM reception, I was never able to put it to use.

You see, in the garage at our old house, the “garage radio” I had wouldn’t pick up any of the good FM stations I liked, so I never bothered turning it on when I was out there. Then we moved to a new home, which I hoped would alleviate the reception issue, but because we moved to a more rural area, it made things worse. Nothing came in clearly, and I loathe the sound of static, so again, I didn’t bother to switch it on.

However, by this time, I had bought one of those Bluetooth Bose speakers and signed up for Pandora on my phone. Now I was in business. Not only could I get the rich sound that you expect from Bose stuff, but I also could get music tailored to my needs.

I use the word needs specifically because I need a certain kind of music in the garage. For example, Judas Priest and Guns ‘n’ Roses and have their place in my musical rotation, but not in the garage. When I’m out there turning wrenches, I need something more soothing, something to foster what I like to call the “Zen of wrenching.”

I set up the channel initially as Little Feat Radio, but apparently Pandora has an algorithm that automatically helps deliver similar music through a given channel. What a time to be alive.

The presence of soothing music brings about a higher quality to any fabrication I attempt, and a more conscientious effort to general service and repairs. In fact, while I was working on my car, I forgot to bring out the Bose speaker and I could feel the anxiety creeping in with each hard-to-reach bolt that wouldn’t thread properly.

I might try experimenting with some jazz next time I’m out there. As I usher my car back from the damage sustained in a crash, I have a feeling that I’m going to need something to soothe the savage beast.

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