As the saying goes, “you can run but you can’t hide”… So it is with thanksgiving. Part of the thanksgiving tradition is inviting everyone to the feast, even the weird uncles and aunts, regardless of political affiliation or felony record. So it is that we gearheads are forced to exercise our decidedly marginal social skills in a failure prone attempt to navigate this one social event a year. And thanksgiving is the worst- at Christmas our mechanical skills are in high demand to perform the “some assembly required” and battery installations that are beyond the comprehension of Liberal Arts majors. For Memorial Day and the 4th our pyrotechnic/grilling skills are in high demand, and Labor Day we get to spend with our union buds BS’n ’bout our machines. But avoid thanksgiving… The only way I know of is to get called in to work under penalty of termination, and they never called me in before the thanksgiving dinner was over. So, in hopes of avoiding total social ostracism that will result in your not being invited next year (which depending on your family, might not be a bad thing), here’s the gearhead’s survival guide to thanksgiving:

1. Preparation: As I suggested yesterday, by now you should have converted your washing machine from “parts washer” mode to washing machine mode.  By now you’ve run your thanksgiving best outfit (and I don’t mean your shop coveralls) through a cycle or two with degreaser. Yup, they look clean, but your gearhead sense of smell (or lack of same) is desensed to degreaser odor, and your family can smell degreaser a mile away. So run them through the washer a couple more times with normal detergent to get the degreaser smell out.

2. Thanksgiving morning: Hopefully you haven’t slept in your for now clean thanksgiving outfit, so put it on. After wiping off any residual grease, transfer you wallet, keys, etc. to the pocket. Do not transfer all the “neccessities of life” like vise-grips, knives, electrical tape, etc. that you normally carry in your pockets, ready for those daily “emergencies” gearheads seem to get into. Going “naked” without tools may cause hyperventilation up to and including panic attacks; If it makes you feel safer put the tools in your vehicle, but out of sight- it’s all too easy to instinctively pull those handy tools out when standard table utensils aren’t up to the job, so best to pre-emptively remove them from your reach. While you’re stashing your pocket tools, if you’re picking up aunt, grandma, etc. remember to hide all tools, lubricants, etc. out of sight. Last but not least, for once a year clean the grease out from under your nails… I know you wear it as a badge of courage and it impresses the other gearheads in the boardroom, etc., but for this one day you gotta get really clean.

3. Thanksgiving dinner: Suppress your instinct to get out your Sawzall and assist with trimming the bird. We all know that the Sawzall is the best device ever invented, short of professional butcher’s tools, for filleting a turkey. Especially a big old one. Not even in the kitchen- we know (hope) you’d use a clean blade, but the sound of a Sawzall is a dead giveaway.

4. Conversation: We know you can handle politics, but how ’bout that niece or nephew with the Prius that always manages to drag the MPG of your truck or gruesome motorcycle accidents into the conversation. Avoid the temptation to challenge the Prius partisan to a tug of war with your truck or an economy run against your 250. Sensitively tell them how their Prius is never really off, and how that drain may result in a dead battery if they hang around too long. If Prius owner doesn’t take the hint, ask them how many hundred volts AC their Prius operates at. Remind them that though you have jumper cables, you darest not hook them too a Prius, too risky with that high voltage AC floating around. Suggest they google “stray voltage” and read up on the hazards to their health. Heck, takes special HazMat crews to deal with a Prius fire, and most towns don’t have them and just have to evacuate the scene and let it burn itself out. Then work the battery’s ingredients into the conversation- Lithium is in short supply, and by the time that battery needs replacing, who knows how many hundred thousand dollars it’ll cost.

Leave your Prius partisan niece or nephew with a stack of haxmat placards for their Prius, but let them install ’em themselves… Hazmat placarding a vehicle with no hazmat is a federal offense, and let that smartass kid deal with the cops. Then sneak out to the garage with the other gearheads, and let life return to normal…

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