This happens occasionally. A new customer drove into the shop with a 2001 Nissan Sentra. Middle fifties, well dressed, the lady slipped out of her car, and wanted to shake hands without even a word. I always get a queasy feeling when people do this; because it makes me thing they’re mutes, or they’re trying to give me a false sense of security. I smile as if I know what the hell she has up her sleeve, and shake hands politely, reigning in my paranoid mini-me.
“Hi,” I break the ice, “can I help you.”
She still doesn’t speak. Instead, she walks around to the driver’s side door, and leans in to start the engine. Okay, she’s a mute, and now I’ll either have to play charades for the next few hours or read hastily written cue cards. She pops the hood, lifts it up, props it, and steps back gesturing at the engine with a smile. Good, I know this one.
“Engine?” I ask questioningly with a bright smile. If she is a mute, I am going to burn in hell.
She looks perplexed. She leans in the open maw of Mr. Nissan, and holds a hand up to her ear, glancing at me while she does it. I’m hooked. I lean in too with an intent look on my face. After a few minutes of this, the woman straightens.
Holy crap, she can talk. I try to cover up for whatever the hell I’m doing under the hood by getting an even more intent look on my face. Finally, after a moment more, she breaks the silence.
“What do you think that noise is?”
I straighten; but remain with my hands on the fender, and the now comfortable intent look on my face.
“I’m sorry, I just don’t hear any out of place noise,” I admit truthfully. “The engine sounds real good.”
“You can’t hear that?!” The woman gasps in astonishment.
Okay, now I’m the mute.
“Not really, can you describe it for me? Is it a squeak, a metallic noise, or…”
“That whirring sound!” She doesn’t finish her exclamation with, ‘you idiot’, but I know she’s fighting the temptation.
I lean over the engine compartment once more, inching around the outside of the car, listening for any hint of a whirring noise out of place. This little Nissan is running like a Swiss watch, with only the usual sounds an engine has to make to run on gas and compression. I tell her so.
“I can’t believe you don’t hear it,” she comments with a disbelieving shake of her head.
I decide on a different tact.
“When did this noise first start?” I ask.
“Ever since I bought it last Wednesday,” she answers. “I thought it would go away, but it’s driving me crazy.”
“It may be you’re not used to the way this car sounds normally,” I suggest. “This Nissan may sound a lot different than your last car.”
She stared at me for a moment, let the hood prop down into place, and then closed the hood. She walked around to her driver’s side door, and faced me once more.
“You really don’t know what you’re doing, do you?” She asks in all seriousness.
I’m game. I shrug and say, “apparently not, in this case.”
“Fine.” She gets into her Nissan and backs out of my garage.
I count my blessings. She could have been mute. :)