Posted May 19, 2009, 1:08 am

The Shop at Night.

Yesterday afternoon at work didn’t go my way. There was a string of minor but multiplying mistakes on my part that left me feeling clumsy, sloppy, and incompetent. I closed the shop feeling like a bad mechanic, with the remains of a project laying haphazardly on my bench.

I returned to the shop at night though, leaving my apartment just before midnight. I wanted to clean up the mess I made, and not leave any loose ends for my coworkers to deal with (or more likely push aside and lose) the next day.

I really enjoy working in the shop at night, whether it’s on my own bikes or some other project from the day. There are no customers, there are no coworkers, there is only the shop stereo, the tools, and I.

Being alone it can be quite romantic
like Jacques Cousteau underneath the Atlantic
a fantastic voyage to parts unknown
going to depths where the sun’s never shone
and I fascinate myself when i’m alone
-Andrew Bird, Lull

I fixed the bike I had left in pieces earlier in the day. I returned each tool to their place on the board. I cleared away accumulated litter and sorted parts into vessels. Once the mess was cleared, I pulled an old hub from my private stash of parts in the basement.

It’s a Super Record low flange front hub from the early ’70s. I placed it in a truing stand, and with the axle held in place the hub shell could spin freely. The bearings are older than me but still spun smoothly. I tapped out some Simichrome polish onto the hub and begin spinning it rapidly by pulling a rag back and forth across it. The polish turned from white, to grey, to black as it gently ground the tiniest particles of aluminum from the surface. Tiny scratches disappeared and the finish shifted from a dull silver to satin, and eventually to a mirror finish.

The ride to and from the shop was perfect. No cars on the road, a slightly cool Summer evening, crickets. When I got home I felt better.

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