I coach my oldest son’s football team, and we had practice Saturday morning. I let J know the night before that he’d have the house to himself until about lunch time, then I’d clean up and we’d head down to Jonesboro just before dinner. Instead, he decided to join me for practice. That was a lot of fun for me. I didn’t introduce him to anyone, and I gave him a solid black folding chair to sit on that matched his solid black wardrobe perfectly. He sat for a good chunk of practice and cheered on my team. I kept waiting to hear, “I command you to move!” from his direction, but I guess he was pleased enough with my team’s execution to only yell positive comments. After practice, his cover was blown. A kid came up to him and said that one of my kids called him a ‘rock star’ and he wanted to know who he was. Before J could respond, the majority of my football team’s parents had him swarmed.
A few hours later, it was time to take J to Jonesboro and meet our worn out crew.
The owner of the Jackson shop decided to send two techs down, late Saturday to ‘work’ on the ambulance. I put that in quotes, because one of the guys told me later that afternoon he doesn’t work weekends, and his boss didn’t tell him until 1:00 pm that he had to head two and a half hours to Jonesboro immediately to work on this. I explained to J on the way to Jonesboro that things may get heated with the Jackson crew because they basically killed what was set to be such a beautiful project.
Sure enough, his guys weren’t there very long before they “had done all that they could do, and just needed to collect money.” They explained that everything was good, but the overdrive. I gave them a check for half of the ‘bill’ per my verbal and written communication with the shop owner. He called me and tried to cuss me about it and tell me I’m stealing from him. The voice of a half dozen hurricanes came out, and I proceeded to once again put him back in his place for about twenty minutes. He tried to tell me we would burn up the transmission if he didn’t haul it back to Jackson. I told him, his own mechanics and Austin, all agreed it was safe to drive. He hung up, called his crew, called me back and told me he sees things differently than his mechanics do. I agreed that he probably did. They were looking at reality, and he was looking to collect money for a job he didn’t finish and a project he sabotaged. I marched over to the two men he sent down, and gave them my perspective of the situation very bluntly. I concluded with, “If he doesn’t feel like the check I’m giving him is fair, then he doesn’t have to cash it.” They fully agreed that what I was saying was more than fair.
Now that they were out of the way for good, we had an ambulance to finish, and a dinner to eat. J had planned to go out with everyone who had worked on this project and get to know them before he left. There was no longer time for a fun night of drinks, but I made sure we kept our dinner reservation because everyone there had already given so much to this project. They earned much more than what they got, and deserved an extended night out, but unfortunately there wasn’t time anymore.
On the way to dinner we stopped at a hardware store to pick up supplies. J treated us to an impromptu Tool cover using a large piece of aluminum. It was beautifully done, and sounded brilliant. On the way out of the store, I managed to cut my finger on the same piece of aluminum. That’s why he’s the rock star, and I’m the guy frantically trying to pull a miracle out of nowhere.
After dinner we quickly went back to work. The crew was already extremely tired from working all night Friday. It didn’t matter though.
We were determined to make it happen, and we damn sure weren’t going to let the Jackson shop ruin our project.
As we worked through the night, tears were shed by just about everyone there. It was bittersweet to see something that we put so much of ourselves into, getting set to go away. It was difficult for us that J had to see it before it was ready to be delivered to him. It was a shot in the stomach to all of us that we were having to do so much at the last moment, since we had been working on this all summer. We thought we were finished by about 9:30 or so Sunday morning, just minutes before J came around the corner. I think J was surprised by how much different she looked in just a matter of hours, and that none of us had been to sleep. He still didn’t have a transmission with overdrive, but he had three solid gears that could get him back in time for his prior arrangements.
We backed her out of the shop, and J took her to the same gas station where she broke down on July 4th. It turned out the instrument cluster wasn’t working. We scurried back to HotWired and rounded the mechanics up. She had a host of electrical problems now that weren’t issues last time I drove her. The guys worked throughout the morning going through checklists of potential solutions we found on the internet.
Austin Kelley told the team he had to leave in an hour because he couldn’t miss work. J had to cancel his Monday plans. We failed him. It was Sunday afternoon and his ambulance only had three gears, and a plethora of issues we hadn’t even begun to diagnose because they didn’t exist the last time I drove it. J began researching flight plans. He was getting set to leave without the ambulance.
Not only did I fail him, I cost him a bunch of money, and wasted countless other people’s time and money. It was a devastatingly brutal feeling.
Everyone at HotWired had gone above and beyond what I asked them to do. They worked overnights after work over the course of several months making this happen with me. Austin and Lorie traveled from out of state to work on this. They slept in their vehicles, camp sites, and cheap motels. They worked hard, and they didn’t ask for anything in return. Everyone there just wanted the same thing I did. They didn’t want the music to die.
This wasn’t their fault, it was mine, but we all had to feel the pain of being there at the moment where it felt like it was going to end in disaster.
I grabbed my phone and began looking for a mechanic to replace Austin. I know countless mechanics, but finding a diesel mechanic on a Sunday, who’s able to come on a moment’s notice to a car audio shop, and repair a transmission and chase electrical ghosts for no money is basically impossible. I made two phone calls, one to James Merritt and the other to Adam Morris. Both guys picked up their phones and came within minutes.
They weren’t diesel mechanics by trade like Austin, but they were all I could come up with. They got to work with Brandon and crew and got almost everything working within an hour.
The final victory came when Brandon discovered a faulty fusable link that restored enough of the systems to give J a fighting chance to make it home. A quick test drive revealed the same relay was also what was preventing the overdrive from kicking in.
J now had a vehicle he could at least get home in. It shifted really rough, and will need some adjusting. The cruise didn’t work, although we were told it was fixed. It didn’t have a muffler, but the shop in Jackson told me it was put on.
J was able to make it home Monday about 14 hours after he planned to be there. The money I haven’t paid the shop in Jackson is going to be used to pay people near J to finish the job they started.
Ultimately this project ended up not being the overwhelming success I thought it was going to be, even as late as early August. However, it wasn’t the ultimate failure it almost became at the last second either. I will continue to update this blog with the work J has done to Pandora’s Box and as he records and tours with her.
I have an enormous amount of love for the crew that worked on this project so tirelessly in Jonesboro.
Thank you for listening,