Collision repair all in a day’s work for quantum mechanic

collisionFive years ago, Dave Bankit was an auto body specialist trying to make ends meet with a collision repair shop.

“These are tough times for the small independent,” he says. “Business was terrible, and I knew I had to make some changes. Most of my work was coming from subcompacts, so I thought, why not go smaller. And nothing’s smaller than subatomic particles.”

Dave made the switch from car and truck bodies to baryons and mesons.

He hasn’t looked back.

Dave’s prime location on Plaine Rd, across from the Large Hadron Collider, means that physicists and researchers are constantly walking through his door with large hadrons that need large repairs.

“We see it all,” he laughs. “One lady physicist came in here with a old Pi Meson that had a big dent in it from where it got hit by a Lambda. She says, ‘How much to fix this?’ I tell her, five hundred bucks. She says sure, so then I give the pi meson a whack with my ball peen hammer, and, bingo, the dent is gone. She says, ‘I’m not paying five hundred for one hammer blow!’ I said, ‘The hammer blow was a dollar. The other $499 is for knowing where to hit it.’ Well, she had to laugh as she handed over the money.”

But working on subatomic particles poses some problems that Dave didn’t face when he was fixing cars and trucks.

“We mostly work on hadrons, but we get a few leptons in here, and those can be trouble. One time, we spent eighteen hours fixing up a Tau Electron. We got the dents out of the shell, applied undercoat, sprayed, resprayed, polished her up. She looked beautiful. Then my assistant Sam is looking for his torque wrench, and he shines a light on it. Oops! Right away, the Tau Electron does a big quantum jump, uncertainty principle kicks her into top gear, and that puppy is gone for good. The customer was pretty mad, I can tell you. Of course, we gave a full refund.”

But while a few customers may not appreciate the challenges of Dave’s work, there are many more who owe him a debt of gratitude.

“Back in September of 2008, two teenage physicists came in here looking very worried.” Dave remembers. “They’d been told to look after an expensive high energy proton belonging to Stephen Hawking. It was one sweet baryon – seven tera electron volts and a racing stripe. I guess the temptation was too much, and they took it for a spin around the LHC. Bad idea. You can guess what happened. Not only did they break the Large Hadron Collider, but they also smashed up Stephen Hawking’s favorite proton. And Hawking was back in town the next day!”

“I worked on that proton overnight, free of charge. We finished up just in time, and the boys were able to hand Hawking his proton as he rolled off his jet helicopter.”

“I’ll tell you, it was two very relieved physicists who left my shop that day.”

The world of physics is full of mysteries, but sometimes Dave encounters mysteries that even a trained quantum mechanic cannot explain.

“I was working late at night, when two guys in dark suits come into the shop and ask me to work on a particle they’d brought in. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before – it was apple-shaped and seemed to pull on everything around it. After the repair was done, these guys paid cash, loaded it on a truck and drove away into the night.”

Dave frowns as he remembers the incident. “I know what I saw, and what I worked on that night was the the elusive Graviton,” he says. “But was it real, or did I dream it? Maybe it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is that my customers were satisfied.”

Dave’s Large Hadron Collision is located at 3141 Plaine Road, between the Large Hadron Collider Mini Mart and Torus Baryonic Donuts. Hours are Mon-Fri 7:30am-6pm. Sat 9am-1pm. Closed Sundays and Feynman’s birthday.

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