October 22, 2018. By Matthew Okaty:
When it comes to technology and keeping up with its relentless pace, it’s pretty clear that millennials and the younger generation have the advantage. Not only are children generally able to learn new skills more quickly than adults, but the average age for getting a first smartphone now is about 10 years old. This so-called progress, though, may be coming at a cost. While this generation may be more technologically savvy, evidence suggests that other important life skills are falling by the wayside, such as how to fix a running toilet, sew a button, or change a car tire – old-fashioned skills that require you to put down your phone, roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dirty.
While I am not a millennial, I admit that until recently I was one of those people who had never changed a car tire before. Granted, I don’t believe I’ve ever had a flat tire or at least not so severe that it required immediate replacement. And if I ever did find myself in that situation I could always call AAA. But given how much my day-to-day life depends on the proper functioning of an automobile, it never completely sat well with me that I was basically helpless if something should go wrong. Furthermore, taking my car to the mechanic always entailed a certain degree of trust that I wasn’t being ripped off. But I suppose that’s true with any industry, and we can’t expect to be experts in everything…can we?
It turns out, there is an adult education class for just about everything, from salsa dancing to authentic French cooking to – you got it – basic car maintenance and repair. It may be the only class of its kind in the greater Boston area, but Keefe Technical School in Framingham offers a Car Care course designed for the novice do-it-yourselfer and covers all the major systems of the automobile. The course is seven weeks long and meets once a week at night for 3 hours, the first 30 minutes usually consisting of a lecture with the remaining time spent working on an automobile.
Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity. After five classes so far, I think it’s safe to say that I will never be an expert, but I am learning a great deal of practical skills and have even assisted with a brake job (i.e., replacing the pads and rotors). The interesting thing, and an added bonus, is that the cars we work on each week actually belong to the students in the course. In fact, about half the students are second or third timers who keep retaking the course in order to fix up their old cars (at just $230, the course can literally pay for itself).
The real benefit of the class, though, is not simply about saving on labor costs. It’s a lesson in self-reliance. Sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day, or whatever your professional routine may happen to be, it’s easy to become trapped in a particular self-limiting ecosystem. It’s very liberating to step outside your element and try your hand at something completely different. My fellow classmates are a motley mix of men and women from diverse backgrounds and age groups. A special camaraderie is developing between us, though, as we learn how to do something new each week that we previously thought was out of our reach.