I have to relate Friday afternoon’s short interlude with another nemesis of the independent auto shop: the borrowers. My drunken stop-in on Tuesday, Mr. Foul Mouth, already covered a few auto shop drawbacks all at once: drunken, surly, repair misunderstanding, and the liability of allowing someone in an inebriated state to drive away after being inside the shop. The borrowers represent a different breed in three categories: folks genuinely in need of something small like jumper cables or a funnel, folks in need who have no intention of returning what they borrow, and folks looking to borrow and get free repairs. I only loan out three things: funnel, jumper cables, or empty gas can. Although I don’t charge for the lend out, I do require the person leave a driver’s license or a twenty dollar bill. When I get my stuff back, they get theirs.
I’m writing in the back room late Friday afternoon when my motion detector heralds the arrival of someone without a vehicle (usually a bad sign). When it took me more than three seconds to get out of the back room, my new arrival began demanding recognition in the annoying way perpetuated over the last decade or so, by shouting:
“Excuse me! Excuse me…!”
The lady at my front door shouted over and over, even as I approached, until I thought perhaps I’d have to do a jumping jack with waving arms in front of her. Rail thin, with pasty white complexion and a bad case of acne, the woman wore a simple light colored blouse and blue-jeans. She took a moment to suck deeply on the cigarette in her right hand as I drew near, exhaling it in a cloud.
“Hi, can I help you?” I asked.
“I need your jumper cables,” Rail Thin stated. “I’m just across the street.”
I don’t react well to people who assume I owe them a service; but hey, it’s Friday.
“Sure, leave me your driver’s license, and I’ll get you the jumper cables.”
“I don’t have a driver’s license with me,” Rail tells me with some annoyance, pointing back the way she had come in. “I’m just across the street.”
“Driver’s license or twenty dollar bill,” I reply reasonably. “You get them back when I get the same jumper cables back in the same shape I lent them.”
“I’m just across…” Ms. Thin begins to repeat.
“Driver’s license or twenty dollar bill,” I cut in.
Rail looks at me in disgust for a moment, and then heads out the door without another word. I go back to my new YA novel attempt, and five minutes later, Ms. Thin is back, clutching money. I met her before she could announce her arrival with the familiar refrain.
“I’ve got eight dollars,” Rail tells me, waving the money.
“Driver’s license or twenty dollar bill,” I reply.
Her face twists up, and I’m wondering what the hell this could be about other than trying to get a good set of jumper cables. Someone at her vehicle must have a driver’s license. Maybe it’s Candid Camera, or a Reality Show. Off she goes again. This time I just wait in the office, because I smell Blog subject, so I start jotting down notes. Sure enough, my sixth sense is right on the money. Before I go any further, the reference I’m about to make concerns a blaxploitation film from the seventies, called ‘Superfly’. I really enjoyed Ron O’Neal in it; but later, I heard about how detrimental his terrific portrayal was. It may have been a B movie; but O’Neal did the character so well, he unintentionally gained a legion of real life imitators, cocaine and all. Anyway, into my shop walks the spitting image of Ron O’Neal’s Superfly, Panama hat, open necked fly away collar, sharp jacket, the works. I’m impressed as I go out to meet and greet the seventies Icon.
“Hi, can I…”
“Listen man,” Superfly says, waving his hand at the door, and edging toward me, “I need your jumper cables.”
Super is a few inches over six feet tall, and he ain’t happy. I don’t know why, since he could have easily had the jumper cables if he’d provided his surrogate with collateral.
“Driver’s license or twenty dollar bill, and you get them back when I get my jumper cables back,” I repeat again, marveling at the resemblance this guy has achieved to Ron O’Neal’s movie character.
Superfly looks me over with pretty much the same irritation his surrogate had. After a moment of eyeballing me, he takes his wallet out. He hands me a twenty dollar bill, and I go get him the jumper cables. Super heads out at a brisk pace, and I finally take a look outside and up the street where a beat up delivery van was parked near the corner market with the hood up. I remember Ron O’Neal’s character had a more Superfly like ride, but times have changed. I return to the office, and ten minutes later, Super’s surrogate arrives with my cables, and I return the twenty. She trots back out without a word.
“You’re welcome,” I call out, hurrying back into the office to get a few more notes down for the Blog. :)