Everyone agreed Smitty was an odd fellow. He was quiet almost to being reclusive. Any attempts to draw him out usually ended in failure. The only thing he talked to, and even then only in conspiratorial whispers, were the hydraulic systems he worked on.

Smitty had been working at Hycon Hydraulic Systems for three months before his ‘gift’ was noticed. Smitty worked in the hydraulic pumps repair section. Everyone else needed to dismantle and test every piece before making an assessment on what needed to be replaced or reworked. Smitty would whisper to the machine like it was a lover. He would run his hands over every inch and listen to it run. And that was all it took. Smitty would turn to his bemused foreman and state straight out what was wrong and why, and what needed to be done about it.

th2Once the pump had been disassembled his predictions were always found to be correct. Hycon Hydraulics has a policy of thoroughly testing the entire systems given to their care and they continue to do this. But it is always unnecessary. If Smitty finds no fault with it, the most sensitive testing available also find no fault with it.

But Smitty also has a dark side. It is because of this the bosses at Hycon kept him apart from the others; and especially away from the clients. Smitty is protective about the machines in his care.

When he was still an apprentice at Hycon Smitty bloodied the nose of an important client. The man was a director of an industrial machines leasing company; one of those businesses providing machines for hire to mining and earthworks companies. Smitty had whispered into the machine he’d brought in for repairs, had touched it and stroked it and listened to it like a surgeon with a stethoscope before erupting in a torrent of abuse. He claimed (and later examination proved this to be true) that the wrong sized washers were used in certain parts of the pump. The difference in sizes was almost microscopic. But constant use had caused metal fatigue and eventual failure. Smitty was incensed.

Unfortunately the director was in the visitors lounge at the time. Before anyone realized what he was doing Smitty stormed into the lounge a scuffle broke out.

The director was furious. He demanded Smitty be sacked. Our Section Boss knew both the director and Smitty were too good to lose, so he lied to one and banished the other.

Banishment was fine for Smitty. He only wanted the company of ‘his’ machines (regardless of who actually owns them Smitty considers the machines ‘his’ if he is responsible for them). A few people occasionally wander by his sectioned-off workspace and say hello. I don’t know of anyone who has got a response.

Smitty’s work continues to be outstanding; freakishly outstanding. Hycon Haudraulics continue to do the full testing on the hydraulics sent toth8 them for repairs (that’s what they promise, so that’s what they do). But when urgent repairs are needed and a full test is not required, when there is a crucial situation and a deadline that must be met, Smitty is the man.

Actually I told a lie before, when I said no one ever gets a response from Smitty: If any of the other mechanics can’t uncover the problem in their own jobs Smitty is overjoyed to help.

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