I started in the generator business as salesman in 1977. I needed a job! I applied for a sales job at a major distributor looking something like this.
(I looked like Herb Tarlek! I no longer look like Herb. I look more like The Big Guy Mr. Carlson)
Long hair, green leisure suit, and thick soled plastic shoes. The fools hired me!
I was assigned to learn from their top salesman; one of the finest gentlemen I ever met. He did not have time to fuss with me right then, so they gave me a set of manuals, including technical manuals, and told me to familiarize myself with them. I studied those manuals for two weeks before my training began.
I do not think they expected me to learn much from those manuals. They were wrong. Reading technical manuals is one of my favorite things! I still have them and refer to them regularly. The technology has changed but the mathematics, heat transfer, gas flow, and mechanics have not changed.
All automatic generator start system in 1977 used two relays: run relay and start relay.
All automatic generator start systems in 2020 use two relays: run relay and start relay.
A lot has changed, but a lot stayed the same.
I have been interested in technology since I was a kid and repurposed my electric train transformer to recharge flashlight batteries. It didn’t work, but I learned a lot about how to put out small fires.
I was smart enough in high school that I didn’t have to work hard and thought I could carry the same strategy over to college. I was wrong. I started college in 1968 during the height of the Vietnam war. I had a 4 year college deferment. I thought things were going just fine until my counselor called me in to say if I didn’t improve in algebra my next class would be in the Mekong Delta. I got better fast!
I received a really good education at SWBC though I didn’t know it was happening at the time. I thought they were just being mean. My teachers expected me to work.
I took the required 5 hours of chemistry. Wish I had taken more. Our professor was a retired chemist from Monsanto. He not only made me learn something about chemistry, he taught me how to research scientific data to find answers. Many years later I do not remember much about chemistry but I do remember how to find the answers. Take a look at my paper on how a battery works.
My English teacher said she was going to make me literate if it killed me. I thought that might be illegal, but if she wanted me to go litter something I would. I have since enjoyed more books than I can count. (I told you I did not do well in math) I even stole that joke about littering from one of my favorite writers, Patrick F McMannus. Go buy any book by Patrick F McMannus. He will make you happy.
All of my professors evilly conspired to teach me to be resourceful. They assigned term papers! They would not wait for Google or the internet. No, I had to go to the library and use microfiche (tiny little fish that are really hard to see) and the dreaded Dewey Decimal System! You kids have no idea.
I have always been a chronic procrastinator. After spending an evening parked under a bridge on the Pomme De Terre river with my girlfriend, I would race back to my dorm around 11 to start on a term paper that was due in the morning. I would begin banging away on my portable manual Royal typewriter. (An antique you kids have never seen. PCs had not been invented) I had to come up with at least 3 pages single spaced with footnotes. This was creative writing at its most desperate.
I was allowed no more than 3 errors in grammar, spelling, or punctuation. This was a problem since I could neither spell or punctuate! My grammar was nothing to write home about either. The Mekong river delta lurked in the background.
At about three AM I would take my paper and drive over to the girl’s dorm where I threw gravel up to a third story window where my girlfriend lived. She would throw her purse down to me tied to a string.
I put my paper in her purse. She would pull it up and re-typed it. Thankfully she could both spell and punctuate. Together we would push the delta away for another night.
That’s being resourceful.
Brand new to the generator business, I set about learning everything I could. I studied the technical manuals they gave me and pestered department heads to find out about service, repair, and warranty.
Our shop supervisor was Elmer. “Don’t worry if you don’t know all of the answers.” He said. “When you’re talking to a customer and you don’t know an answer, it doesn’t matter what you tell him. Remember, you know more than he does.”
Sadly that attitude pervades the industry. See my articles on Supervising a Vendor’s Generator Technician. I give you a lot of inside information under that heading.
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