I dipped in and out of the Cannondale/SRAM tent quite a bit while I was at Nationals. Our tent was set up about three doors down (little joke) from them so it was easy to stop in and see what they were up to. Sometimes TJ and Co (Jeremy Powers, Jayme Driscoll) were warming up. Sometimes Stu Thorne was having conversations on how to Glue Tubulars and sometimes there was bike work going on. Sometimes there was food.
Well, being the nosy snoop that I am I have no problem overstepping my bounds and investigating what is going on. Especially when there happens to be beer brats simmering on a grill nearby. I grew up with this Midwestern Delicacy and the grumble of my stomach was quite audible when in the vicinity of these little beauties. Powered by SRAM? Nay, powered by José Alcala's BRAT.
It is also interesting to peer into the inner workings of these tents and see what the Mechanics have for their own personal space. I do have one rule when doing this:
~Rule # 1: Never Piss Off A Mechanic.
~If you are confused about other rules refer back to this one.~~Rule #2 - Ask Don't Tell.
I am sure that you have worked at many bike shops for many many years. Quite sure of it. Know why? Me too. Almost nine years did I spend in and out of shops. But that doesn't mean that I know much of anything about fixing bikes, and neither do you. Or at least that is what you should assume when dealing with Professional Mechanics (see Rule #1). Plus, everyone has a different way of doing things and these guys got to where they are by, well, doing things.
~Rule #3 - Treat Mechanics with the Respect they Deserve.~
A Story (all true) To Illustrate My Point:
I spent a good amount of time working in bars and restaurants through college. Which means I spent a great amount of time around chefs and cooks. I got very good behind the bar making milkshakes and even took a certain level of pride in making the best at the pub.
The chefs got wind of this and I was soon refreshing them every few hours. Sometimes booze went in. Sometimes it was a good way to get drugs into their system. Either way it kept them happy and they were always ready to reciprocate with a mid-shift sandwich, burger, or extra-crispy fries (absolutely my favorite).
There was one chef that I got along with very well and was always adding some sort of powder or potion to his favorite variety - the vanilla shake. Well, one time he purported to wanting to reward me for my fantastical ice cream drink with his "special sandwich" the only requirement being that I could not ask what was in it, and I had to sit down and actually enjoy it.
Well, I saw him start to hand over the plate, steaming and fresh off the grill, the merest hint of a smile on his face, when I said it... I don't know why I said it, it just sort of slipped out. "What did you do spit in it?" My heart sank with the plate as it crashed to the floor in front of me. "I am a CHEF" he screamed at me "at CHEF!" And that is when the knife throwing started and I made a hasty retreat.
Eventually we became friends again, but it is a story that I think back on often. Especially when I am in bicycle shops, borrowing peoples tools, or peering into the kitchen of some local dining establishment.
Rule #3: Don't Borrow. Even "just for a second.
Do I come into your home and borrow your wife? Probably not. Do I come to work and surf the interwebs on your computer? Unlikely. Would I drink your beer if you left to use the restroom? Only if you were cold sore free.
I know that sometimes "its an emergency" and the mechanics tools are just sitting right there. But do not fucking take, borrow, or even touch them without asking. You cannot go wrong by asking, because chances are, if they are anywhere as surly as Verg (Shimano Superstar) or Matt Roy (also a Superstar) they will tell you exactly what and where you can use and touch. They are not being dicks I promise. They are just doing their jobs.
Mechanics are a pretty amazing lot. I have had the good fortune of meeting some pretty damn amazing ones too, and if you treat them right (like I said, with the respect that they deserve) you cannot go wrong.
The other (real) reason why I enjoy hanging around mechanics? Because they always have the best stories. When all the fans have gone home and are in their beds softly sleeping, the mechanics are still at work and that is when the pro's start to get crazy.
So, if you get the chance. Hug your mechanic.
This goes out to Matt, Chad, Verg, Gino, Norm, Peter, David, Kyle, Drew (who was the guy with the Prince Valiant Haircut?) and every other mech that has ever helped me. Thanks.