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Thursday, August 30, 2007

When Free Is Not Enough

“Bernie, this is Connie Goodcustomer.”

“It’s nice to hear from you. Did your trip go okay?”

“We had a problem with the Crown Vic. Not anything you worked on,” Ms. Goodcustomer said with a sigh. “The AC went out just as I hit the all nineties, all the time climate on the way back, and I had the dogs in the car.”

“That is bad,” I commiserated. I’d found loosened bolts on their driver’s side upper control arm, causing the Crown Vic to make a metallic thud noise when braking, before they left on the trip. “Weren’t you and your husband going to only make one more trip in the Crown Vic, and then get rid of it for a new vehicle?”

“Oh, we already bought the new one, and it’s beautiful,” Connie told me excitedly. “I just wondered how much it would be to fix the Air Conditioner on the Crown Vic. It started making noise, and quit cooling. Do you work on that?”

“Yea, but when they start making noise, the cost can be astronomical,” I replied, and told her about a similar vehicle I had done a week ago which ended up costing over a thousand dollars.

“Wow,” Connie gasped, “that much?”

“Why don’t you get rid of the Crown Vic now, and forget about it? With over two hundred thousand miles on the original engine and trans, coupled with the age, it’s going to turn into a Black Hole.”

“We know,” Connie sighed again with regret, “but my husband was going to give it to a co-worker.”

“Great, what’s the problem then?” I reasoned. “Give it away now. It runs, and it just passed smog. Dump it.”

“Uh… but… she’s a single mom, and kind of needy.”

“Well, boo hoo,” I reply without hesitation. “You and your husband are doing the mom a favor giving a running vehicle to her at no cost. We don’t need AC around here most of the time anyway.”

“She lives in Concord,” Ms. Goodcustomer adds, naming a known Northern CA hi temp area.

“What has she been driving?”

“A…a borrowed old pickup truck,” Connie answers reluctantly, seeing where I was headed.

“There you go. She’s used to no AC. If she whines about the AC, throw in a little cheese with the deal,” I counter coldly. Some days I feel like I’ve heard every one of the million stories in the naked city. “What happens when you pour in a small fortune fixing the AC and the transmission gives up the ghost? If she complains about the AC, she’ll sure want you to make good on the trans and engine. Maybe you should just cut to the chase and buy her a new car now.”

By this time, Connie was laughing.

“Okay… okay, I get your point,” Ms. Goodcustomer is still chuckling. “My husband thought it would be nice to give her a car with AC.”

“You two have worked your butts off, saving and driving old cars till you could afford to buy a new one. It’s working out just in the nick of time before the old Crown Vic goes to the happy hunting ground with all your hard earned money inside. Don’t crab your good luck, Connie. You’re getting out from under the Vic at the right moment, and it’s not like you’re charging anything for it.”

“I think we’ll take your advice. Thanks Bernie.”

“Hey, enjoy that new vehicle.”

Sometimes being generous can progress past the good deed category into self-flagellation. :)


raine said...

Glad you took that whip away from her, Bernard, lol!

BernardL said...

The lady and her husband are generous to a fault, Raine: literally. :)