After my fiasco trying to pull start an inert lump of metal cleverly disguised as a tractor I came to several important conclusions.
#1: I just wasn’t smart enough to figure out what was hosed and un-hose it. Someone else, presumably someone cooler than me, would have to do it. I’d known this for a long time but I’d been pussy footing around the truth. My only hope was that I could watch and learn to do better next time.
#2: The tractor may have been purchased as something like a fun toy but it had become important. Wood needs to be hauled, snow must be plowed, chicken shit must be shuffled, and the yard…my God the yard was giving me fits. I don’t mind looking “low class” but I resent looking “crackhouse”. Nobody should work as hard as I do to have a house that looks like it’s abandoned! In lieu of a tractor I’d been limping along with ingenuity and denial. It wasn’t enough. Time to shit or get off the pot. Fix it or buy something new but get it done now!
#3: Paying someone to fix it, which had heretofore been impossible was once again my best option. This is exactly where I’d been a couple years ago when the little Ford conked.
Problem #3 was the most maddening. I was in possession of a broken machine which nobody would fix on my behalf (for pay!). I’d turned the world upside down and there wasn’t a man (or woman!?!) within a hundred miles that would take money to fix an old tractor. What’s worse is that the only truck I owned that was large enough to tow the tractor a longer distance (to civilization) was also dead. Catch 22.
[There is a time and a reason to bitch about things. The time is now and the reason has to do with my endless searches for a mechanic. Here goes!]
Our modern self-imposed labor shortage pisses me off. When some bobblehead on TV tells you the unemployment rate is such and such…it doesn’t mean shit. The reason I know this is that I cannot pay money to get services. No matter how much money I offer.
I get constantly hounded by friends and relatives who do not believe this. (You know who you are!) But I’m not making it up. I can wave a big wad of actual real American money in the air and I cannot necessarily hire a job done.
I would understand a little difficulty finding hired help. I live in the hinterlands so there aren’t many people to start with. Skilled folks (like mechanics) are rare. Skilled folks (no matter what hippies and politicians will say) are always in great demand and usually busy people. You’d expect it to be hard to hire the tractor repaired; but not impossible. But it is a symptom of a greater uh… vacuum?
Nor is it entirely all about limited skills. What I’ve found out is that for even the simplest job you cannot pay to have it done, because the jobs I need done are work.
Back in the old days folks did work because they wanted cash. People payed cash because they wanted stuff done. There was invariably someone who would do the job if you paid enough. That is the very definition of a functioning market.
Not so much any more. You can offer a thousand bucks, a date with a model, and a chocolate birthday cake and that isn’t enough. You won’t get someone to come to my house to run a fencepost or shovel shit for nearly any amount. It’s not that a fencepost is impossibly complex. It’s that doing work for cash is a quaintly outdated idea from former times. Certainly very few people are willing to go to much (any) effort to chase a dollar. (I’m not alone in this complaint. There are unfilled jobs in oilfields in North Dakota and Saskatchewan and multi-generational 25% unemployment in certain neighborhoods. These two facts should be self-solving. However, no amount of money offered in an oilfield will alter pockets of “deliberate” unemployment.)
The reason is maddening. There is a significant (huge) portion of the spectrum that could work. Many of them have skills (like fixing tractors). They also have other (apparently better) options; among them unemployment and welfare (and often retirement savings). This is a Curmudgeonly Gem Of Insight so pay attention:
The labor market for low end work (and skilled work like fixing a tractor) has been pounded to death by free money. It’s nearly over. There are now jobs that you cannot get done for any amount of money. Anything anyone says about general financial misery is irrelevant if there are jobs going undone and people unwilling to chase them.
That had been 50% of my motivation to fix the tractor myself. The other 50% was a voyage of discovery that had long ago run aground.
Scoff if you like but that’s just the way of life in America in 2011 (now 2012). A score of very skilled tractor mechanics live within an hour’s drive. All men and most older than dirt. Fellows that can resurrect a tractor like it’s a gift. But none, and I mean none, would work on someone else’s tractor.
Several offered to buy my tractor (for parts…nyuk nyuk) and even sell me one of their tractors (many were shiny, rebuilt, and freshly painted). But that’s it. That’s the “new labor market”, buy my tractor, rebuild it, and then sell it. The market for buying and selling things still exists but not the market for labor.
I didn’t want a “new” old tractor. I’d come a long way with my personal tractor. There are many like it but this one is mine. To have it fixed I would have to either tow it several hundred miles (lacking a suitable truck) to places that specialized in “museum quality” restoration. I didn’t want a restoration. I wanted a rebuild. There’s a big difference.
This Catch 22 persisted until I got a glimmer of hope. In retrospect I can’t believe what happened. Like many seemingly good ideas, this one originated in a bar. I found an ad, scrawled on paper, for a guy who would “fix cars and trucks and things”, pinned on the wall near the can.
Desperate men make desperate moves. I made the call. More later…