Gomer Pyle - Why do people associate this image with auto mechanics?


#1

I haven’t been on this board for quite some time, I used to post here all the time but life, kids, and work keep me busy now. I am looking for feedback on this topic. Many people do not think highly of auto techs, they see them like Gomer on the Andy Griffith show or to David Puddy from Seinfeld… why? I’ve been a tech for 30 plus years and I have heard many reasons for this perception.

I’d like to hear from members of this board as to why this perception exists.


#2

We don’t get this perception at all where I live. My lowest paid employee makes 620 per week and as far as I am aware from my church community and local government we are regarded as upstanding citizens of the community.

Perhaps the cartalk community fosters this opinion because the show itself is written with a touch of low-brow humor with regards to itself and other mechanics. Though this device is certainly worthwhile for entertainment it hardly reflects public opinion.


#3

I don’t have that perception, and nobody with whom I associate has that perception, either.
Nowadays, the complexity of cars is such that somebody really dumb probably wouldn’t last very long as a mechanic.

Well…let me revise that statement.
Somebody that dumb wouldn’t last very long with a legitimate shop that is interested in retaining customers.


#4

Wally owned the Mayberry service station and had a great reputation as a mechanic as I recall in the story line.

Somehow the name Gomer became synonymous with “simple minded hick” regardless of profession. That may have been more the result of “Gomer Pyle USMC,” rather than the “Andy Griffith Show.”


#5

Actually, Gomer Pyle was a kind, trustworthy, and honest character. People might throw around his name as an insult, but I don’t see it that way.

I think the negative stereotype for mechanics persists because a good mechanic you can trust is hard to find. I could go into a long tirade about all the shops that have either attempted to rip me off or got away with it.

One last thing to consider is that a customer who has a bad experience will go around and warn many friends and family about the establishment, but a customer who has a good experience might only tell one or two people about it, if any. It’s just the way people are. We focus on the negative and ignore the positive.


#6

To me, it was a sign of the times. Anyone with decent mechanical skills, the right tools and a willingness to read, could do brake jobs, replace exhaust systems , do tune ups, adjust valves, clean carbs ( up to a point) as these and many others, I and my friends all did. Now, you need lots more training and many more related skills in hydraulics, electronics and the training to integrate all of them. The number of parts unde the hood and elsewhere in the average car has increased astronomically. For Gomer back then ? Heck, I could have been a Gomer !


#7

I think the stereotype goes all the way back to the early days of cars. The very type of garage that the Gomer character is in in the shows is still a view most customers have of the auto service industry.
They think it’s just a machine of nuts and bolts that any hick with a wrench can take apart and put back together.
They remember the days ( but don’t notice the currenent lack ) of a service station on every corner that did in fact service cars and not just sell gas. There were six downtown, now you have to drive a mile in either direction to find gas.
Come with me on a trip down US route 66…’‘you see Amarillo , and Gallup New Mexico’’…that’s me, and as we drive down the ten miles of rt66 that is Gallup NM you will either see empty lots or buildings that were those service stations. Selling gas AND belts, hoses, tires, sealed beams, wipers, antifreeze, oil, …AND checking under your hood, the tire psi, and cleaning the windshield !
If the buildings are still there they do something else now like glass, trading post, sound systems, detailing, etc. or the service bays are blocked up to be mini marts.

But too many car customers STILL believe their servicing should still be just as easy and how dare we attempt to pursuade them that it’s much more complicated than that now.

so they still think that back shop mechanic is nothing more than a wrench turning ‘‘Gomer’’ type and not a schooled, trained technician.


#8

Some people always focus on negative aspects of a character. And if they don’t exist, they create them. For instance, George H. W. Bush was accused during his presidential term of being a wimp because he wasn’t enough of a war hawk. That’s about the dumbest thing anyone could say about the man; surely one of the bravest ever to serve as president. He flew torpedo bombers in WWII, the closest thing to a kamikaze pilot in the service. I wouldn’t worry about what people like that think.


#9

A good friend had an alignment at a dealer shop this morning. She was told she “absolutely needed” $978 of additional work… and it was all unmitigated BS. How do I know this? Because they were basing the work on two things: mileage (and I maintain her car, so I know what’s due… and I do it), and traces of oil on the side of the engine (her grandson spilled yesterday when adding a quart… the car uses 1 qt every 1500 miles).

Another friend’s wife took their CRV in for an oil change. They told her the drain hole threads were stripped and she needed a new oil pan. That cost her over $900.

THAT is why people hate mechanics. Everyone has been burned at least once for big bucks. Including ME!


#10

Around here, it seems that people don’t place a very high value on diagnosis. What I mean is this . . . people really don’t want to pay a fair amount to have their car diagnosed, whether it’s something mechanical or some strange electrical problem

It’s confounding. The customer brought it to you because they are having a problem, and can’t figure it out. But they don’t want to hear that it might take several hours to sort it all out.


#11

Its not just mechanics, its anybody who has allegedly pulled a fast one or messed up an assignment either by honest error or ignorance. Or someone who has done nothing wrong but are the victim of a shallow character.

auto mech, gomer pyle

lawyer, snake, shark, dewey/cheatem & howe

farmer in bibs, simpleton hick


#12

Actually I think Gomer was displayed as a pretty good mechanic. Pretty naive but a good mechanic. More than once he came back and reported he had re done the carb or points or something and it purrs like a kitten. They showed him to be able to fix most anything and the bill was never over a couple dollars which was a tank of gas in those days. Remember when Barney bought that used car and Aunt Bee too and then Gomer looked it over and it had saw dust in the engine or rear end?


#13

I think the label carries over from the gas station days as mentioned and in most cases with TV and the movies, the stereotypes just pile it on.

Remember the 2 mechanics in the “Vacation” movie out in the AZ desert…

Most jobs are done correctly and if praise was dished out as eagerly as the bashing maybe perceptions would change.


#14

Years ago when my wife and I were still dating we had a favorite restaurant. After some time we became friendly with the staff there and one waitress said “You’re a mechanic, right?” I never came in wearing my work clothes, so I asked “How do you know?” She answered “Because your hands are always dirty.”

I think to some measure we bring it upon ourselves. I often look around at my colleagues now and think “Put on a damn shirt with a collar and wear something other than old jeans. Wear gloves to keep your hands clean and shave more than twice a week. Drive a car that doesn’t have 3 different color fenders. Have some pride in your appearance and manner. And the moment someone acts like they’re speaking down to you because you’re just a mechanic, dismiss them and get on with more important things.”

Some people think that we are in fact good at what we do, treat them honestly, and in turn treat us with respect. Others think all we do is plug our magic machine into their car and fix whatever it tells us. Some people look down on lawyers or doctors, some on mechanics or plumbers. I think a lot of it comes from the fact that they have no idea what it is we do and for some reason they think we are expensive.


#15

I have actually run into a few Gomer Pyle’s in car shops, so don’t ignore that.

A lot of it comes with the relatively old, but still relevant blue vs. white collar occupation distinction. Underneath of that is the education question. And underneath of that is the “class” question. In terms of surface appearance, it is all tied significantly to the question of whether or not one has to get dirty while at work. (That’s part of the significance of the “white” collar). In more than one culture, being able to remove the body from being “soiled” is a marker of status. (It’s not universal, but does tend to pop up wherever stratification pops up).

So even these days when high quality car work requires highly professionalized skill, it is still the case that it’s hard to avoid the grease and grime. As such, it’s hard to remove the cultural stigma of “dirty work.” Dirty work clothes, to some extent, will always conjure Gomer Pyle to some extent because if Gomer was “smart” enough, he would have gone on to college and on to an air conditioned office - where he could wear a white shirt. Instead, he went to “shop” class and was condemned to a life of “dirty work.”

I’m not expressing my own opinion here about mechanics or car work or dirty work. I love dirty work. I’m just talking about invisible cultural assumptions.


#16

You know, I thought Goober was the mechanic.


#17

@cigroller…I agree entirely, though outsourcing is standing the “class” and white collar/skilled labor division on its head.


#18

“outsourcing is standing the “class” and white collar/skilled labor division on its head”

True, though in many respects it’s also just been the growth of the service economy, in general, whether outsourced or not. The blue/white collar distinction is not very useful any more for social science purposes - but it obviously takes those hidden cultural assumptions a while to catch up.


#19

@Bing, “Remember when Barney bought that used car and Aunt Bee too and then Gomer looked it over and it had saw dust in the engine or rear end?”

That episode came to mind when I posted my response earlier. I’m 99.9% sure the sawdust was in the engine, not the rear end.


#20

Not all mechanics are the same. Some mechanics can tear apart you engine and put it back together running perfectly. But ask them to diagnose what the problem is…and they haven’t a clue.

I find a good mechanic not only needs to be able to do the work…but also needs to be able to diagnose the problem. I’ve found many mechanics who can’t diagnose. They just start replacing parts until the problem goes away. And it’s the customer who’s paying for it.

While the character of Gomer in Gomer Pyle USMC and the Andy Griffin show…was a good mechanic (and had a great singing voice)…he really wasn’t the brightest bulb. I’ve yet to find a mechanic like Gomer. Every mechanic who’s also a good mechanic is pretty smart.