Today was my first day of Zen Master apprenticeship at the So Cool Speed Shop. It was also almost my last day of Zen Master apprenticeship at the So Cool Speed Shop. I strolled into the shop this morning, thinking that I had a few minutes before I started work, but owner Rodrigo "Queso" Chicharrones had other plans for me. He was standing in the doorway with a smile on his face and a broom in his hands.

"Here, these are for jou. Jou clean the chop," he said.

This guy doesn't waste any time, I thought. I walked into the shop looking for paradise but instead found Zen Master Jimmy "TIG" Wong pointing at a garbage dump. Looking around, there was stuff everywhere. Oh, there were cool rides and tools in the shop, but the problem was that they were surrounded by crap. I mean, there was stuff stacked here and piled there, metal shavings covered the floor, and custom car and truck magazines were scattered all over the place. The shop was a disaster, and I had to clean it. Nice first day, huh?

In the middle of the mess was a frame to what I had no idea. All I knew is that I wanted to be the guy that builds this kind of stuff. I stared at it for what seemed like forever and then I heard this voice. For a minute I thought the frame was talking to me, but it was just my boss telling me to get busy in broken English. I wanted to make a good impression, so I got to sweepin'.

After four hours of bustin' my ass, it was finally time for lunch. I walked up to the front office and I noticed that I had only made it through half of the shop, then I noticed my boss asleep at his desk. Man, was I beat. Tig was already deep into his 20 pack of McNuggets, so I didn't bother to ask him to join me for lunch. I left the shop, tired, dirty, and smelling like a sweaty gym sock at the bottom of a locker during football season.

When I returned from lunch, I really wasn't looking forward to cleaning the other half of the shop. You see the area that I left, more or less, resembled the La Brea Tar Pits with these metal formations growing from within it. Instead of getting right back to sweeping, I watched Tig work. During the five hours that it took me to find the dustpan and sweep up the back of the shop, Tig had already fabricated upper and lower control arms for the unknown frame and had put the rear axle on jackstands, waiting for a couple of four-link bars to be tacked in place. I asked what the frame was for and he said he was building a Chevy C10 longbed for a local comedian who wanted a truck he could cruise to The Improv in.

I stood there admiring his work of art, and I heard that familiar voice again. When I turned around, Queso was standing right there. He told me there was a lot to do and that I was wasting time.

"Alright, chill out a little. I was just looking," I said. He walked away mumbling something about kids, respect, and butts getting kicked.

In the back corner of the shop sat a '54 Ford Coupe with a puddle beneath it, resembling the Exxon Valdes disaster. I looked back at the guys, hoping one of them would feel bad and come help me. Fat chance. Neither one looked my way, and I figured they were busy making jokes and laughing at my expense. I began scraping this toxic goo off the floor and got this great idea; I remembered my old man used to clean everything with gasoline so I got a rag, soaked it in gas, and got to scrubbin'. It removed most of the grease but not fast enough, so I got an even better idea; if a small amount of gas worked OK, then a lot of gas would work better, right? And any residual gas would evaporate, so I just poured the gas all over everything, in hopes that the rest of my day would be easier.

My plan was fool-proof, except for one small detail. Just a few feet away, Tig had lit off his second favorite tool, the oxy-acetalene torch and started cutting on a rearend housing. I heard a loud bang behind me, as he smacked the housing with a hammer, and I turned around just as this little molten ball of metal was hopping along the floor right into the pool of gasoline on the ground. The next thing I knew, the back of the shop was ablaze.

My first reaction was to scream like a little school girl, not because I'm a wussy but because I didn't want to get fired before I learned to fabricate. I took off like Carl Lewis right past Tig, who just stood there for a second and stared at the fire burning toward the '54. I stopped in my tracks, as Tig calmly walked over to the fire extinguisher and proceeded to where the wall was now on fire. In about 10 seconds, Tig had control of the fire, and with a couple more blasts of white stuff, the fire was no more than a memory but one that I was wishing to forget. Right about the time that the last flame was snuffed out, Queso came walking out of the office to see Tig emerge out of the smoke and white powder.

"What the... Tig! What happened?!"

Tig just looked at me, and all I could do was look at Queso and hope that I didn't hear those two little words, "You're fired."

"I should have known better" were the only words that came from Queso.

After all the smoke cleared, we surveyed the damage, and I thank my lucky stars that what had appeared to be the wall on fire wasn't. However, what was burning was a 6-foot wood pole that Tig was carving into a totem pole. Once the old guys took the smoldering remains outside, I knew that I was in trouble.

After staring at it for a few moments, Tig got back to work and Queso sent me to the auto parts store. Needless to say, the drive to the store was a long one...