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Thursday, February 8, 2007

Hey, Sparky

I’m on my way to the office, when a voice calls out from the sidewalk.

“Hey, Sparky, got a minute?”

I love it when I get called pet names. It makes me want to be incredibly helpful. Glancing over my shoulder, I see a medium sized man in his mid thirties standing at the corner of my large metal pull down door. Why he doesn’t take a couple more steps to be inside the shop, I don’t know. I turn around to face him, but stay where I am.

“Yes, can I help you?” I ask politely.

“I want to ask you about my car.”


He doesn’t say anything for the next two minutes, which is already one minute past what he asked for.

“What about your car, Sir?” I prompted him finally.

“C’mere, I’ll show you,” he gives me a come hither hand motion, and begins to turn toward the street.

“Just tell me,” I inserted noncommittally. “Give me make, model, year, and what your problem with it is, and I’ll tell you what it will cost for me to take a look at it inside the garage.”

“I just want to show you something,” he says, his voice rising, and taking on a more belligerent tone. “It’s down the street a little, and I want you to give me some ideas why it don’t start. Then I’ll decide what I want to do.”

“Sorry, I don’t work like that,” I explain. “I don’t look at vehicles outside my shop, and I don’t look at them for free. I can give you a few general ideas as to why it won’t start if you tell me what make, model…”

“All you got to do is c’mere, and you’ll see. I’m tryin’ to give you some neighborhood business.”

“I’m no good at guessing, Sir, and never have been. If you’ll…”

“I thought you was a mechanic,” he decides to take a shot across my bow.

“I am, and I have been professionally for thirty-five years.” His bow shot thuds into my armor plating, and falls away harmlessly. “I never could tell makes and models by looking at them, mostly because I never cared to memorize all the different trim lines. Finding out what’s wrong with them, and fixing them, is a different story. I’m real good at that.”

“Well I ain’t payin’ you shit unless I know what’s wrong to begin with,” he persists.



“Well what?” I ask. “You’re not payin’ and I’m not givin’, so I’d suggest you find someone else to look at your vehicle. I can give you one of my cards in case you change your mind…”

“*&^$ You!”

“I don’t get romantically involved with my customers,” I fire off a return volley just in case he ain’t mad enough.

“I’ll be back, !$% hole!” He storms off.

I’ll be glad when it starts raining again, I’m thinking to myself, as I head into the office. The rain keeps the sidewalk traffic to a minimum, and usually doubles my appointments. My quota of deadbeats and freebie stop ins goes down exponentially when the rains come. Ahhhh, nothing like the service business. At least he didn’t want to hug me. :)

Friday, February 2, 2007

Morning Visitor

I first hear somebody mumbling incoherently, and then my motion detector chimes. Pulling my head from the maw of a 1999 Ford F250 truck, I glance around the hood to see a guy in his middle thirties gyrating by himself to some unheard sound. He didn’t drive in, so I’m on alert as I walk over to give him my welcome to Nilson Brothers Garage spiel. The distinct scent of bourbon assaulted me as I drew near. Glancing up at the wall clock, I see happy hour started early this morning.

“Hi, can I help you?” I ask with my most concerned and interested look. I’m neither.

He looks at me, spews out a few paragraphs of street lingo I can’t decipher, and then holds his arms out. The man walks toward me, mumbling, with a crooked smile on his face, and glazed over eyes.

Oh my God, he thinks he’s going to hug me, as I bend slightly away and put out the stop sign.

“Woe there, hoss, I don’t even hug my wife,” I explain, as he gets a disappointed look on his face. Oh no, I’ve hurt his feelings.

He gestures in a come hither motion with his hands, zinging out fifty or so unrecognizable words as he tries to maneuver past my extended left arm, personal air space palm protector. Not going to happen.

“Step back, Sir, and slow the speech down,” I instruct him forcefully. “I have no idea what you’re saying, and there won’t be any hugs, kisses, or hand slaps. Back off, and explain slowly how I can be of service. You do know this is an automotive repair garage, right? On the other hand, I hope you ain’t driving.”

I hear a few things as he drops his hands to his sides like he’s crushed: something with man, neighbor, and giving him bus fare. Not going to happen.

“Sir, I don’t give out money here. I fix cars and trucks. I’d suggest you walk down to McArthur Blvd, and sit down on the bench there until you can…”

“I ain’t walkin’ to McArthur, you *?$##%^^*!”

I start grinning, because he’s straightened, and his eyes have become clearer mysteriously. “Suit yourself, Sir; but if you don’t have a car, we have no further business to conduct. On the upside, I did understand what you said.”

He gets a mean look on his face, and stands there glaring at me for a moment. Deciding he’s wasted enough of his 9:30AM buzz, he turns and dances out, glancing back with a string of epithets every few feet. Wow, Friday starts out with a bang. Things could be worse. I could be walking drunk down 38th Avenue in Oakland at 9:30 in the morning. :)