When I saw who was exiting the 2002 Cad inside my shop door, I almost laughed. Before I go on, let me explain I have been cursed or blessed with an almost photographic memory for everything pertaining to events, people, and business dealings I have lived through. This particular gentleman, now exiting his Cad dressed in a dark gray business suit, had been in his early twenties back in 1984 when I last saw him. I will label him Dead Beat for the remainder of this post.
Mr. Beat had owned an old 1965 Chrysler with a 440 engine, and one of those ancient four barrel carbs I used to rebuild on a regular basis. When he had it towed in the first time, I showed him after a few moments someone had filled his fuel tank with water. This required a gas tank draining, carburetor overhaul, and new fuel filter. Needing the car that day, he refused to let me order a locking gas cap, I told him would be a necessity, because he had an enemy living around him. Dead promised he’d find a locking gas cap as soon as I finished. He came in the next week, all smiles, to let me know how happy he was with the way his Chrysler was running. I checked, and he had not put a locking gas cap on. Dead promised to get one right away. The following month, the Chrysler came in on the hook, full of water once more, and no locking gas cap. Mr. Beat was not happy, but he gave me the go ahead to redo the job. This time I kept the car until the locking gas cap came in for it. Dead Beat paid by check as he had done before and left. Check bounced, and Dead Beat was no where to be found: one of only two people to ever get away with stiffing me on a bill.
Here he was, exiting his Cad, all smiles and sure no way in hell I’d remember him. Oh contraire, Mon Ami.
“Hi,” Mr. Beat said amiably, gesturing at the Cad. “I have a check engine light coming on in my Cad, and I’d like to get it checked out.”
“I’d be glad to,” I reply, leading the way into my office, and checking the calendar. “I can get you in tomorrow to find out why the light’s on.”
“Fine,” Dead agreed happily. “Can I drop it off when you open?”
“Sure, let me get your name, address, and phone number.”
Dead Beat gives me the data, and starts walking out the door.
“Just a second, Mr. Beat,” I call him back in, having quickly extracted the invoice, with stapled on bounced check from twenty-three years ago out my drawer. I hand it to him. “This will have to be taken care of first, along with a fifty dollar charge for the time you allowed the bounced check to remain unpaid.”
“I…I…” Mr. Beat is stunned, his face begins draining of all color as he looks from the invoice to me.
Now folks, I know the slick way to have handled this would have been to check the Cad out; and somehow come out of the transaction with all the money owed for both the present day repair as well as the past, but I ain’t that slick. Sometimes you have to get your enjoyment of life the old fashioned way. The look on Dead Beat’s mug was worth the old bill’s value.
“I’m not paying this,” Dead stated, handing me the old invoice back hesitantly; because the gears are turning in his head, reminding him I now knew where he lived, and he didn’t know what that little factoid would mean.
“Well, I’m afraid you’ll not be getting your Cad fixed here until you do,” I reply, looking at the calendar. “I have your address just in case you change your mind. Get out, and have a nice day.”
Closing the circle on these little anecdotes using the Klingon method of serving it up cold, is probably not the proper way of handling these situations. If you’re not an old curmudgeon with all your bills paid off, it’s best to laugh at my post, but disregard my philosophy. Oh sweet Jesus, it was so good though. :)