Friday, December 3, 2010


The Nissan cars of today were called Datsuns once upon a time and they had some beautiful cars.  Among these cars was a "Z" series of cars.  There was a 240Z, a 260Z and a 280Z.  They were very slick sport cars with a long front end and barely a trunk in the rear.  They were considered one of the hottest cars of the eighties.

A fellow I worked with owned a 240Z and he drove it to work every day.  He also drove it the way a Z series car looked like it should be driven.  That is fast and hard.  His name was Mike and he was like the rest of us, in our twenties.  The company had been going through a very fast expansion and new people were being hired by the week.  I was one of the new people and while I had worked with Mike at a previous job for a very short time, I did not get to know his personality until we started at Dit-MCO together.

Mike was a gambler.  He would bet on almost anything.  Part of this gambling personality was also that of a risk taker, which explained the ownership of the 240Z and the way he drove it.  Mike was also an engineer and with being an engineer comes a fatal dose of curiosity that eventually bites all of us in the rear eventually.  Mike was about to get his engineer biting of the rear hard and painful.

Another of the engineers who worked there was a conservative young man named Richie.  Richie also had that curious streak but he kept his toned down by thinking out his curiosity before acting upon it.  Mike was quite the opposite thinking "what if?" and then finding out what if within minutes of thinking it.

One sunny Monday morning Richie pulled into work in a brand new 240Z.  He drove it into the parking lot like it was a baby taking its first steps.  He got out of the car and after knocking some dust off of it with his shirt sleeve calmly walked into the building.  One of the first people he met when arriving was Mike and Richie wasted no time bragging to Mike that he too had bought a 240Z over the weekend.

I was standing next to Mike and we decided to go out and look at the new Datsun.  Richie's Datsun was bright lime green while Mikes was a more subtle hue of blue.  We were looking at it and touching it as if it were gold.  Mike opened the front door and sat himself in the drivers seat when a "what if" moment hit him square in the middle of his forehead.

What if I put my keys in Richie's ignition?  Think it would start?" Mike asked almost too seriously for me to be comfortable with it.  I told Mike I didn't think that would a very good idea but Mike figured that his key wouldn't go into the ignition to begin with, so he dug into his pocket and pulled out the keys to his Datsun.

Mike aimed his key at the ignition and to the surprise of both of us, the key slid in so smooth it almost seemed like it was made for Richie's car.  We looked at each other and Mike started to wonder if it would start the new Datsun.  As was his habit, Mike stuck his tongue out of the corner of his mouth and tried to turn the key. It turned very slightly then stopped.  Mike shrugged his shoulders and realizing that his key would not start up Richie's car he began to pull the key out of the lock, or rather he tried to pull the key out of the lock.  The lock had a firm grasp on Mike's key was not going to let go of it.

Mike began to try everything he could think of to get the key out of the car and back in his pocket but nothing was working.  He went in and got some pliers to try to pull the key out with but the key refused to budge.  Now it was getting to be a serious situation.

After an hour of trying to get the key in a non-destructive manner, Mike decide the time for destruction had come.  He went into the shop and brought out a small tool box with various pliers and screw drivers and other tools and began to sort through the pile to pick the tool that would get the key out with the least destruction.

He tried tool after tool until it became painfully clear that something would have to be taken apart in order to retrieve the stubborn key.  Mike began to disassemble the steering column of the car piece by piece.  Each time a piece of the car would come off, Mike would give the key a tug and each time he tugged at the key, it refused to budge.

Soon the dashboard of the car was beginning to come off and out into the parking lot and the key still sat in it's position like Mallory's Sword in the Stone, only Mike was obviously not a King Arthur.  Parts continued to be pulled from the car over the next few hours and soon, most of the driving cabin of Ritchie's brand new 240Z were carefully arranged in the parking lot next to the car.  It was a horrid sight, one that I did not care to see too much of but I kept going out about every thirty minutes to witness the carnage and see how much deeper Mike had dug into the car.

Time eventually slipped by Mike and lunch time arrived.  I was outside watching Mike give yet another tug on the key when Richie walked out and turned the corner and stopped dead in his tracks.  Half of his car was out in the parking lot and Mike was in the process of taking another part out.

Richie did not say a word but Mike immediately jumped out of the car and walked over to Richie and tried to logically explain why this new car was spread all over the parking lot.  Logically is the key word there for there is no logical reason at all for what had happened except that Mike was curious and had acted upon it.

I stood there looking at Richie as he was frozen in place, his mind working frantically to figure out what exactly he was seeing.  I was prepared for almost anything.  A nervous laugh followed by a terse fix was not out of the question, nor out of the question was an explosion that would send Richie into Mike with fists flying and curse words flowing like a mountain stream for all the industrial park to hear.  But Richie just stood there.  He was frozen and silent as he continued to gaze with glassy eyes at the various parts of his car spread around it.

Richie then asked very quietly and calmly if Mike had thought about calling a locksmith to get his key out?  Mike stood there with a look of sudden realization of an answer to a math problem, the famous "Aha!" moment that we all get once in awhile.  Mike promised to get Richie's car back together without his key in it by going home time that afternoon.

Mike called a locksmith before he began putting the car back together just in case the locksmith had to have something removed.  The locksmith arrived and stood just as Richie had stood, dumbfounded.  He then pulled a little something out of his pocket, reached in and within two minutes had Mike's key back in the hands of it's owner.  Then shaking his head in wonder, the locksmith turned and got into his truck and slowly drove away, thinking of the story he would tell back at the shop.

Mike spent the rest of the day putting Richie's car back together and to be honest, he did a very nice job of it.  Another of the advantages of being an engineer is that you tend to be organized while taking on a project.  Eventually the car was back to it's original state and Richie came out to see if his key would still work in the ignition.  I could see Mike holding his breath as Richie began to turn the key.  It wasn't until the engine started that Mike exhaled and his whole body kind of slumped upon itself.

As for Richie, he didn't say a word.  He put the car in gear and began to drive home.  Nobody ever brought up the subject of the stuck key again, not even Richie.  His car was fixed, it was running and that was about all he could ask for after the state his car had been found in.

So the last question to be asked is that of whether Mike learned a lesson about his curiosity that got him into this situation to begin with.  Would Mike learn to control his curiosity?  Would Mike slow down when his brain thought some wild thought?

After working with Mike several more years I can answer that question in one word.  "No."

1 comment:

  1. That's a great story. Funny, funny. And some people just never learn those lessons you would expect them to.