Jeffrey L. Bromberger, Lead Grease Monkey
19 August 2021
Sometimes, the only cure for doubting your own self-worth is to take on a basket case and bring it back from the edge of oblivion.
Ever since my IT career began in the late 1980’s, it’s been obvious to me that nothing I do will have staying power. I understand that, technically speaking, absolutely nothing is forever. Back in junior high school, we were all made to read the poem “Ozymandias” by Shelley. In case you were out that day, here’s the dime summary – it’s the short tale of an explorer who describes an incomplete, broken statue in the midst of a barren, swirling desert. The kicker is what was carved into the base of the statue…
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
The lesson we were taught was about pride – that time respects no individual and that the biblical lesson of Ecclesiastes was the rule. But that didn’t change my need for self-validation.
Architects usually get to see their buildings last for a generation, if not more. Physicians help people live to their fullest as well as deliver new children to continue the cycle of life. Painters and sculptors, of course, create physical works of art that may, one day, end up in a museum for everybody to see. Musicians release albums – some are good enough to make it on the charts and be remembered for what feels like forever…
As a software guy, however, each version of what you do goes into the dumpster every ninety days, more or less. Nobody in your user base will ever say “Do you remember Version 3.23.1(a) written by Jeff? Wasn’t that one amazing beyond words?”
“Damn! I really miss those old versions of AOL, where it took forever to start, longer to load images, and there were so very few options so we were stuck for choices!”
So here I am, in my early 50s, wondering if anything I do will ever survive my brief mortal life. And it hits me in a memory what I should do.
When I was a kid in the slums of Brooklyn, happiness didn’t come my way very often. I remember, though, one person who always made it feel like a holiday, and that was the mailman. Not the regular mailman, mind you. He only brought bills, and that was never a good day at home. The UPS guy rarely came for us, as he only delivered boxes that you ordered from some catalog. If you had limited funds, then there’d be no deliveries for you. And there was no FedEx back then, either. But there was a “special delivery” mailman. He came around in a odd looking vehicle to deliver boxes that may have been sent by your grandparents, And that made it a good day.
So, in a fit of nostalgia, I went out and purchased a 1974 Jeep DJ-5C. I am going to restore it back to it’s original glory. I found it sitting in a combined junk yard / cow pasture. The guy in the junkyard said that it was in good condition – the cows were seemingly unimpressed with his description. It drove in under it’s own power, he told me. Probably only needed an oil change and fresh gas, and she’d be on the road. Well, here is what I brought home from that junk yard in Oklahoma…
That is one sad tomato, I’m telling you…
If he only knew just how much work I’ve had to put into this machine so far. The previous owner beat upon her like a cheap tin drum and drove it pretty much into the ground. I have to really wonder if it had moved under it’s own power any time in the 21st Century.
It is now two years since I purchased the Jeep. And I have succeeded in quite a few things. I’ve disassembled and rebuilt the engine, and this is after finding the first engine was cracked through and through, so this is a replacement to that train wreck. No surprise here, but she runs pretty well for a late 1975 engine! I know every bolt and nut in the whole package. Did the same with the transmission. You know, after hearing how scary it is to be working on these systems, I have determined that they didn’t live up to all the hype. I’ve redone the brake system, the fuel system, the cooling system, the suspension and the steering. I am working on the last part, the electrical system, and once this is conquered, it’s time to get it insured and registered. It will be a joyous day when she moves under her own power once again.
OK, it’s a toy Jeep, but it shows what they looked like in all their glory…
By now, you’re probably asking whether or not I’ve done this before. The answer is, no. I read the books, stared at the parts, played with the tools and practiced until I could do it right. It was the same learning technique I use anywhere, from my shooting right on through to the software package that gives me a career. Why break what you know works reliably, right?
Once I am done with the functional rebuild, it goes into the shop for a good paint job. I doubt that I am going to use the original paint scheme just because I want it to say something about me. Speaking about that – once she’s back from the paint booth, I will go to a trophy shop and get a small brass plaque engraved. It will read something like this: “Rebuilt by hand by Jeff”. And when I am finally laid to rest, somebody else can enjoy this Jeep, and by looking at the plaque, they’ll be able to bring a piece of me along for the ride.