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Oil Change

Wednesday, January 2, 2019.

Ten-Tom Waterway, Pickwick Lake, mile 448.7 RDB, Aqua Yacht Marina. Iuka, MS.

Today is oil change day. At 25 hours on the Suzuki, I’m through the engine break-in period and due for an oil and lower gearbox oil change. As was drilled into me in the Army, if you take care of your gear, it will take care of you.

Pretty exciting, eh? But there’s a story in everything if you listen and watch.

I had briefly talked with the shop foreman, Tony Hurst last night. As promised, he called at 8 am and was on board shortly after to navigate LT around to the shop area. I’m sure his easy manner makes him popular with customers and employees alike.

I don’t think he’d seen many C-Dorys and was interested, maybe even impressed with how L.T. met my needs as a single-handed looper. After being surprised by a warm flow of air, his sidekick Chris had a hard time getting his head wrapped around the concept of a diesel stove.

Tony backed L.T. into the arms of a BIG forklift, carefully avoiding the trim tabs and transducer. Seconds later we were out of the water and backing up the ramp. Tony, Chris and I climbed out. LT shot further up in the air; if I didn’t know better, I would have thought the operator was going to tilt it over to make sure he had drained all the bilge water. I didn’t think to ask the lift’s capacity, but I suspect that LT’s 5,500 lbs. (give or take, I’m not sure with all the gas, water and gear aboard) was chicken feed for it.

Tony took me inside for Brittney, the office manager, to torture my credit card. He also told me that Marcus was going to do the oil change but that he was sometimes hard to understand. I had mentioned to Tony that I wanted to watch and understood the principal that if I tried to help, it would double the price. I intended to quietly watch, so understanding Marcus was not an issue.

It turned out that Marcus was German. He spoke perfect English, but as with most second language speakers, his idioms were occasionally thought provoking and there was a heavy German accent.

Once we established that I used to own a ski shop and he had skied the Alps as a kid in Germany, the oil change kept getting in the way of our conversation. If the labor was by the hour, this was going to kill me. I didn’t care. Marcus was interesting.

Our conversation was wide ranging. I can’t possibly relate it all, but I want to share a short version of a story that had me in stitches. As a kid of 14, he and a friend were skiing in Oberstdorf in the far south of Germany in the German alps. It’s the same area that ABC Wide World of Sports famous clip of Vinko Bogataj’s ski jumping fall in 1970 became the “the agony of defeat” intro to that show for many years.

Marcus was somewhat coy about if it was on purpose or by mistake, but he and his friend diverted onto the bob sled run. They would have known it would be icy and obviously no way to turn, but at 14 you’re bullet proof, remember? It quickly became life or death. Remember the luger killed in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics? They somehow stayed on their feet, made it down the chute, shot over three cars and crashed in the parking lot.

They picked themselves up and hobbled into the bar. Marcus admitted that they were trembling and probably white as a ghost. The bartender was impressed enough to put a free beer down in front of them. Most countries are not as fastidious as the U.S. when it comes to underage drinking, at least in circumstances that seem to call for one. Others came by and commented that they’d never seen anything quite like what they survived, at least, I imagine, until Bogataj’s fall.

Marcus is no angel. None of us are. I suspect he can be cantankerous and probably uses his ‘difficult to understand’ as a protective shield around people he’s not comfortable with. But under that veneer is a person whose cat has him wrapped around her paw. He is one of those people who, if you are loyal and treat him with respect, will return it twice fold. He is a survivor. He has lived in a different world and adapted to ours. That’s all you really have to know about his ability and integrity.

Marcus, if you really want to realize your dream of skiing again, let me know. I’ll pass you on to my former partners. It won’t be free, neither was my oil change. But you’ll be in as good of hands as I and my Suzuki were in yours. And if you really, really want to try snowboarding…….they’ll help you with that too.