When you’ve been a mechanic for more than 20 years, you get a sense when something’s not right.
The newest hire at Victory Automotive has a wealth of knowledge and experience and a habit of sniffing a vehicle’s fluids to detect if it’s past it’s prime.
“I’ve been doing that all my life,” said Christopher Goodman. “Smelling oil, smelling coolant, smelling power steering fluid.”
That sense is more important than ever.
Goodman is legally blind.
He can see light, but no shapes.
Yet he is determined to keep doing the job he loves.
“It’s challenging, whether you can see or not,” said Goodman. “It's rewarding in a lot of ways. It really is.”
Goodman, who was raised in Oregon, first realized his vision was failing in 2010 when he went to get his driver’s license renewed.
An employee there told him to go to an eye doctor when he couldn’t read a sign.
Soon, he started to experience trouble with his vision at work.
“[You] come in with a car and park it and open the hood,” he explained. “By the time you get things written down on the paperwork, your eyes are usually adjusted. Well, mine wouldn't recover from the light, so I'm looking at a black engine compartment.”
By 2012, detached retinas and untreated glaucoma robbed him of his sight.
His father, a U.S. Marine, raised Goodman and his siblings to adapt and overcome challenges.
When surgery to re-attach one of his retinas didn’t work, Goodman decided to focus on adapting to his vision loss rather than trying to fix his eyesight.
“I wanted to make my mind superior to what it was before, my attitude superior and my body superior,” he said. “Because when you go blind you become vulnerable and you get this thing in your head, a fear.”
Goodman, then living in Idaho, sought help through the Idaho Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
After moving to Salem, he received vocational training from the Oregon Commission for the Blind and Blind Skills of Salem.
A job counselor drove Goodman to auto shops throughout Salem to look for a job.
He found one at Victory Automotive in June.
“I said, ‘Wow, if you think you can do it, by golly, I want to see it,’” said owner Dan Hammond.
Hammond said Goodman’s positive attitude and work ethic matter more than Goodman’s vision.
“Every day I'm surprised with something new he can do,” said Hammond.
Goodman works in the shop’s office, answering phones and helping customers.
He uses a special program to input information into a computer.
He helps other mechanics in the shop when he can, relying on his senses and a memory bank of past experiences with vehicles to offer suggestions.
“First thing I ask is what are we working on and they tell me,” Goodman explained. “Then all of the sudden my mind just builds up this little package.”
He also utilizes tools like a talking gauge to check tire pressure.
He is still learning to adapt and is eager to do more work in the shop.
While Goodman has always enjoyed fixing cars for people, he finds the job rewarding for a new reason.
He’s hopeful his experience will inspire other people with vision loss.
“All these people need to know, and I want to be one the people that shows them, if we just make our minds up to go do it and work, we can do it and work,” he said.
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