It took two weeks for Sid Lanier to obtain a security clearance to repair the coffee machine at the nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon near San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Ushered in by gun-toting security guards, Lanier, who is now a Rogue River resident, was given verbal permission to park in a non-parking zone near the building containing the broken machine.
Job title: Specialized repair technician of coffee machines.
Job description: Repairs and services coffee machines
Salary: $59 per hour
Education: Some college classes and various specialized repair technician certificates
How long at the job: Six years
If you could have your dream job today, what would it be? "I'd like to restore vintage automobiles."
As he was being fingerprinted, an authoratative man came marching in the room and barked, "Who parked over there?"
An employee explained that Lanier was there to repair the coffeemaker.
" 'Oh, OK,' the man said and left," Lanier recalled. "It was like, 'National security? We need coffee.'"
"It drove home the importance this country places on its little fix," he said.
Lanier now services and repairs the coffee and espresso machines of Mellelo Coffee Roasters in Medford and Key of C Coffee House in Ashland, among many others.
He started his business, Sid's Service & Sales Inc., in Southern Oregon about three years ago after moving to the area from the San Joaquin Valley in California.
He took up repairing coffee machines after 25 years of selling automotive parts. While a volunteer firefighter at Yosemite, he was introduced to the owner of a beverage service company by a fellow volunteer. Swamped with work, the business owner was receptive to Lanier's interest in repairing coffee machines, hired him on and trained him.
His first assignment fixing an espresso machine by himself happened at 1 a.m. at a pastry shop in Cambria, Calif. Whenever he needed to call his boss to ask a question, he had to walk to the other end of town to find a cell phone signal.
"That was the inauguration," Lanier said. "Coffee brewers are pretty straightforward. Espresso machines are more mysterious," because they have more parts and functions.
Lanier moved to Southern Oregon about three years ago when a business associate asked him to run a seasonal rug shop at the mall. He used the money he earned to buy tools to start his own coffee machine repair business.
Each year, the business grows larger, he said.
Oregonians are particularly fond of coffee, he said. He's noticed a high density of coffee drive-through shops, some of which he rescues when equipment goes down.
On an average day, Lanier services or repairs five to 20 machines. Armed with wrenches, screwdrivers, a few specialized espresso machine tools and an amp meter to "take the machine's pulse," he travels up to 1,500 miles in a week. He charges $59 per hour plus parts.
Typical coffee machine malfunctions involve water that won't heat up or a leak, Lanier said.
Leaks can come from a variety of locations, including seals on espresso machines that have to be replaced every six months to a year, a hose or a loose joint.
Servicing coffee machines tends to be more rewarding than selling automobile parts, as the customers tend to be more appreciative, Lanier said.
He recalled one day walking into the Outback Steakhouse in Medford to be greeted by the owner who said, "Here comes my hero!"
"That was pretty awesome, a little humbling," Lanier said.
"Coffee seems to be in our veins," he said. "The aroma gets you going first thing in the morning."