Hard-Working Americans: The Mechanic

August 26, 2019Maggie BenZvi
Coffee or Die Photo

These days, being a mechanic means changing with the times.

No one knows that better than Ernie Alix, who owns and operates Ernie’s Garage in Windham, New Hampshire. Because his father was also a mechanic, he’s spent his whole life in garages, but the constant developments in new car technology mean he’s never bored.

What’s been your hardest day on the job?

Probably when my wife was pregnant and I was here working, waiting for the call to go to the hospital. That was just nerve-wracking. I have customers, some third-generation, fourth-generation customers from my dad’s side of the business and all, and just to keep them happy and going, but I certainly wanted to be there when my baby was born. So that was a little nerve-wracking. Other than that I just kinda roll with it.

Photo by Marty Skovlund, Jr./Coffee or Die.

Why do you do what you do?

I like it. I enjoy the challenge. Every day is different. I’m my own boss — that’s important. And I just find it very interesting. I like fixing problems, you know what I mean? Finding the problem, getting to the root of the problem, and then fixing the problem. And doing a good job, too. And then not cheating the customers afterwards when I charge them, when I make out the bill.

What do people get wrong about your line of work?

To be honest, a lot of people think it’s very easy. They go online, they go to chat groups, and then they come in and tell me what I should be doing to fix their car. That’s so frustrating. Because I have tens of thousands of dollars of equipment, 45 years of experience, full time making a living at it, plus I grew up around the garage, and they’re going to come in and tell me how to fix their car. When, you know, the guy’s an accountant or an engineer? They don’t know … they just have no clue. So that’s a little frustrating, but again I roll with it, and I think of that when I make out the bill.

Photo by Marty Skovlund, Jr./Coffee or Die.

Are you still passionate about what you do? If so, why?

I am because I’m growing with the field. In other words, a long time ago, maybe 20 years ago, I started doing diagnostic work, electronic diagnostics, getting into the computers and how they’re all intertwined and making the cars run right and stuff like that. I just find that very challenging and very interesting, and I like doing that. It’s challenging. Especially at my age, I need a mental challenge.

Maggie BenZvi
Maggie BenZvi

Maggie BenZvi is a contributing editor for Coffee or Die. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in human rights from Columbia University, and has worked for the ACLU as well as the International Rescue Committee. She has also completed a summer journalism program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In addition to her work at Coffee or Die, she’s a stay-at-home mom and, notably, does not drink coffee. Got a tip? Get in touch!

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