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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Shop Item

Owning an auto repair shop in the demilitarized zone of East Oakland affords me the opportunity to cross paths with a varied assortment of fellow humans. While working on the undercarriage of a muddy 1999 F250 Ford truck, with rainwater dripping coldly onto my exposed body parts, I heard the shop’s motion detector go off. It has been a few years since I’ve been able to leap off my creeper (rolling travois for accessing underneath vehicles when one is too cheap to get a lift) so it took a moment for me to roll my aging carcass out from under the truck. Blocking my shop entrance, with engine running; and something in the Rap genre of music actually shaking my overhead fluorescent lighting, idled a mid eighties Buick POS (piece of s**t). Fortunately, the Buick owner shut the engine off; and with it, the sound system. I work on all American and Asian vehicles of any vintage, so I struggled gamely toward the car, allowing the kinks to work out of my joints, and the rainwater from the Ford to trickle icily down the back of my neck. When I reached the Buick, my ears ringing from the Buick’s now quiet sound system, I saw a young man of indeterminate age sitting in the driver’s seat with the cursed omnipresent cell-phone toggled to his ear.

“May I help…” I began, when what to my wondering eyes did appear, but the index finger of his extended left hand, jutting toward me in the universal wave off, can’t you see I’m on the phone gesture.

At that moment, the only thing keeping the young gentleman from being pulled through his driver’s side window was the comforting knowledge no matter what he said, or what he offered in payment, the chances of my ever touching his POS hung in the category of ice-cubes in hell. After a moment of suspended animation, where I bit the inside of my mouth hard enough to draw blood, the fellow told his caller to hang on, and then graced me with an irritated raised eyebrow look.

“When can I get a tune-up, and how much will it cost me?”

I gave him the wait one gesture, and went into my office, pretending I was in search of an appropriate estimate for his request; which in a way, I was: an astronomical one. I returned to his Buick with a polite smile and gave the gentleman the quote. His now bored expression turned immediately to outrage.

“You can’t charge that much for a tune-up,” he informed me.

I looked confused for a moment, and ducked outside, looking up at my building sign as if confirming something. I returned again to his driver’s side window.

“You are mistaken, young sir,” I explained, as his face reddened like a ripening tomato. “This is still my one-man shop, and I’m the only one quoting prices here, so if you want a different price, you’ll need to ask at a different shop. Have a nice day, and thanks for stopping.”

I turned away from him, and walked to my awaiting Ford truck. As I slid stiffly under the vehicle, I dislodged the last cooling raindrops from the undercarriage, my bare neck reaching out for them like a magnet. I heard the POS start, and felt the floor vibrate from the Buick’s blaring music system. The Buick owner pealed out of my shop driveway in a cacophony of sound. All was again right with the world. :)


December Quinn said...

Heh heh. Moments like that are priceless.

I dream of being like the Soup Nazi when I grow up.

BernardL said...

Thanks for commenting, Ms. Quinn. I'm not in the Soup Nazi category, because I still enjoy dealing with people; but I have borrowed his attitude on special occasions, for special people. :)

Jordan Summers said...

That was priceless! :) Great stuff.

BernardL said...

Thank you for commenting, Ms. Summers. Vehicle repair can be like writing. Sometimes you just can't conform to get a job, without ruining the reason you do it for a living. :)