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A good mechanic is hard to find, and even harder to lose

Stock photo of a mechanic's hands in gloves

Stock photo of a mechanic's hands in gloves changing a tire on a car. Credit: Stock

There are two things in this life that you can’t live without: a hairdresser who knows what he/she is doing and a proper mechanic for your vehicle.

It’s inevitable. So when you’re new to an area, you observe, you query others on the street - in search of that one, that one that will understand the curl of your hair and the turn of your wheels.

It might take you months to find this Svengali, this unique individual who can whisper to machinery that you don’t understand. But I found mine. His name was Randy Jordan. He was a maestro under the hood who made it possible for me to take on the world.

And I lost him. In the fall of 2017, I called the shop where he was working and the proprietor told me that Randy had passed on Aug. 31, 2017 at the age of 51. His boss sighed when telling me the news, saying: “If those people were half the mechanic that Randy was, he would still be here.”

I knew this to be true. I’ve known Randy for over 20 years. He’s known me from my first vehicle: a Dodge Neon, to what I called the “Green Hornet,” my 1998 forest green Honda Accord to my current “Gray Ghost” 2010 Honda Accord. My family followed Randy around like groupies when he grew tired of a repair shop and needed to move on. I met him in Richton Park, as the go-to man in a female-owned auto repair establishment. Once he passed muster with one Rockett, others followed and before he knew it, we were devotees. He moved several times during the years of our ongoing relationship. But my loyalty never wavered, often times dropping off keys in slots of buildings as if we were spies leaving microfiche for the other to interpret.

If there was a thump, a whir, a grinding or a light on the dash that popped on, he was the doctor I ran to. He would fix it, break down the specifics with me until I understood and then, often times discount his fees or throw something in for free.

One time, I raced to his shop after running over an entire wheel on the Dan Ryan at 1:30 a.m. on my way home from work. I managed to get the wheel dislodged from the undercarriage by sheer will, but some damage was done and he remedied it. When I couldn’t get the “hornet” to pass the emissions test with his help, he sent me to his gurus and when both teams couldn’t diagnose the problem - I called it. Time for a new car because the brains couldn’t figure it out.

Our friendship was a laid back one. He would call me to find out more information on things, like his “space junk” that fell from the sky and landed in his yard. He was hoping it would be something that would let him retire sooner - alas, it wasn’t. He wasn’t a loquacious person, but he had a great laugh.

The last time we chatted, he was talking about traveling more. He wanted to take some time for him. But just as he was an anchor for me and mine, he was his family’s anchor. And could rarely get away to be alone with his thoughts.

The last time I saw him, I heard a sound near my wheels. It only made that sound when I was in the car. It went on for weeks. No one else heard it. When I took it to Randy to decipher, we rode around the streets of Chicago Heights - me trying to make the sound and him listening intently. The sound was shy. I wasn’t able to coax it out until I drove away from Randy on the way home, defeated. When the sound came out, I hightailed it back to the shop. He finally heard it too. I felt like a proud child holding up a drawing to a parent for inspection.

In this instance, Randy stripped my car down to find the source of the anomaly, but none was found. He chalked it up to the car getting older. And I took his word as gospel. Randy Jordan’s word of OK was golden. Always had been. Always will be. While other mechanics dealt in looking at computers hooked up to your car, he was old-school, he knew the inside of the cars themselves.

Upon hearing the news of his passing, I said a prayer for Randy and told him how much he meant to me, my family, my well-being. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a special person with an innate talent to keep them safe in this world. Randy was such a person. He will be missed.