Never Underestimate Anyone

I woke up this morning thinking about a couple of guys I know, acquaintances from long ago. Now this isn't strictly car stuff but both are vehicular related. And just because I'll throw in myself.

This should not be taken as disparaging of anyone nor is it all inclusive. These guys just popped into my head. You probably know someone like them regardless of their career path. Early on in their life maybe they took a wrong turn, or maybe they didn't take a turn at all, they just seemed adrift. That isn't necessarily the case with these guys. I won't name names (except for me) but if they read this they will know.

Many years ago when I was disillusioned with being an auto mechanic I went to work for the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) in Toronto at their vehicle inspection center. It was a decent job, paid relatively well, and at times it was challenging. There was a wide assortment of mechanics I worked beside, it was kind of like a mini-United Nations, and many stand out. But only one to my knowledge was vastly under-rated.

He was young, I don't know how old for sure but in his early twenties. He came from Great Britain alone. I think he had relatives in the western part of Toronto. He was a trained mechanic (in Britain like Canada there was/is a very good apprenticeship program) but he had almost zero experience on North American vehicles.

When he started with us he was a bit of a goof. Maybe it was his way of fitting in because he definitely wasn't stupid. He drove a huge Ford pickup that was pretty tired. It must have cost him a fortune in gas.

Now to be fair most of us at the Inspection Centre were a bit goofy. We'd listen to the radio, usually CFNY, and often start singing along with the latest '80s tunes. It must have been quite a sight, eight to ten mechanics in coveralls singing at the top of their lungs.

After I left the CAA I kind of lost track of all of my mates. Years later, like maybe 5 or 6 years ago, I ran into this guy at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance. He was/is an automotive writer of some renown in Canada. Obviously I write about cars but he makes a living writing about cars. He travels the world for events and introductions.

I can tell you that all those years ago no one would have imagined that he would be where he is now.

Another fellow I worked with in Canada, this time at Honda Canada Inc., didn't start off to be a mechanic. No if memory serves me correctly he was destined to be a doctor. He also was an immigrant to Canada. Somewhere along the line he was bitten by the motorcycle bug - repairing, building, and racing.

This brought him to Honda. When I worked with him he was the motorcycle technical expect. He was one of the most analytical people I've known. He and a coworker built a turbocharged NT650 Hawk that he raced in a Battle of the Twins (2-cylinder) series. Although there were DNFs they did very well.

Regardless of his prowess with bikes, and his obvious intelligence, I don't think anyone back then thought he'd go as far as, or take the path he did. But he ended up as the V.P. for motorcycles of Honda Canada.

And then there's me. I'm a high school drop-out. I started pumping gas, changing tires, and doing oil changes. I had no clear goal for my life. It took me a long time to get where I am and it definitely would have been easier if I'd continued on in school.

Those who knew me in grade school might have thought I'd become a lawyer (something I dreamt of as a youngster). By the time I was in high school some may have thought, "he had so much potential." I know the school's guidance counselor thought so. But the path I took led to hard work and hard choices.

I wanted to be a mechanic, just like my dad. Once I obtained that goal I wasn't so sure it was the right direction. Through some luck and perseverance I stayed in the automotive field but never had to turn a wrench again to earn a living. I've done well for myself even if I never became Perry Mason.

There are many others I know of who were underestimated early on in their lives who ended up doing well and being respected members of their committees. Some people, more than you would suspect, don't come into their own until later in life. So don't underestimate anyone ever again.


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