“I’m just a guy who fixes cars” is how Ernie describes himself. On the surface, it’s a pretty accurate description. He started working on cars sometime in junior high with his older brother and cousin. They were pretty good at rebuilding engines and developed a reputation for making cars go a lot faster than they were supposed to go. But then, Ernie’s brother went into the Navy, got trained on nuclear power plants, and got a college degree in engineering. His cousin got into drugs and died of an overdose. When Ernie got out of high school, he took a job at a car dealership doing menial stuff like prepping new cars, oil changes, and, after a while, an occasional major repair. “I started out knowing crap. They were supposed to teach us stuff in high school. I took what they called the ‘commercial curriculum’ which included a lot of shop. It was a lot of nothing. Most of the kids in class with me were hopeless, stuffed in the ‘dummy’ part of the school because they couldn’t cut it anywhere else. And to tell you the truth, I wasn’t so good at schoolwork myself. I ain’t dumb but I ain’t all that bright either. But unlike most of the other kids in class with me, I like working with my hands. And I have a head for figuring out how things work.”
He’s right about that. What Ernie knew about cars and fixing them, he learned on the job or from his brothers. One of the dealerships he worked for took an interest in him and sent him to a training school but he didn’t he got much out of it. But something must have stuck because he always got involved in some of the toughest problems. He just seemed to know what would work and what wouldn’t.
So, he began to make a few bucks, enough to get himself a half decent apartment and to take care of his mother in the last couple of years before she died. He was a good son as well as a good mechanic. And, unlike his father, he stayed away from the booze.
By the time he was in his mid-thirties though, he had the feeling he wasn’t getting anywhere. He had a steady income. To make a few extra bucks, he moonlighted and took repair jobs on the side. All for cash, money he used for dates and for a little gambling. But he had no life. Or so he felt.
That’s when he got involved with one of the sales managers at a car dealership. There was sex. But there was also something more: ideas about how to get ahead in the world. An appreciation of some talents Ernie never imagined he had. How to act in business and in private. Even clothes to wear. And it changed his life.
The relationship was intense while it lasted. But it didn’t last all that long. A couple of years. Ernie still can’t figure out why it started. Or why it ended. But one day it did and its ending left him both devastated and open to more than just fixing more cars.
He had a few more relationships, none but the last one amounted to anything. They’ve been a couple for five years now. In business together as well as in love. And doing quite nicely.