Grime Pays: Always looking up

EDITOR'S NOTE: Grime Pays is a semimonthly series focusing on area workers whose jobs are hot, strenuous or just plain dirty. If you think your job is tough enough to profile, call Rainier Ehrhardt at (706) 828-3853.


Manny Gilchrist spends his day underground.

As a pit technician for the newly opened Express Oil Change in Evans, Mr. Gilchrist, 27, is in charge of draining the oil from vehicles, checking fluid levels and lubricating chassis joints.

Anything in the undercarriage of a car is his responsibility. To check a differential's fluid level, he uncorks a plug and sticks his finger into the hole. If it comes out covered in slime, the differential is full.

Mr. Gilchrist is constantly wiping his hands on a shop towel, just to keep his hands from getting too slick.

"I spend 15 minutes a day cleaning my hands, and I usually cut my fingernails every day," he said. "I've got twin 5-month-old boys, and my wife won't let me touch them if I haven't."

Mr. Gilchrist trained for several weeks with Birmingham, Ala.-based Express Oil Change before starting full time at the Evans store.

He was trained to make every effort to keep the work environment as clean and organized as possible.

"Keeping it clean is absolutely paramount to the safety of the pit tech," said Tyler Brooks, the shop's owner-operator. "It's a double-vaulted basement, so there's no chance for any petroleum products to get into the ground," he said.

"The good part about it is that it's warm under here," Mr. Gilchrist said.

In the warmer months, though, he does a lot of sweating.

"If it's hot, and I'm under a car, I'm losing weight by the second," he said.

The pit has a retractable mesh to hold up a car if a motorist drives off the edge.

Even with the mesh, Mr. Gilchrist says, he's not too keen about being under a vehicle in motion.

"I don't stay under there when a car's moving. It's dangerous," he said.

Although he enjoys his job, Mr. Gilchrist looks forward to setting up his own Express Oil Change someday.

"This is a great opportunity," he said, "One day, I'll have a chance to own my own store."