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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fighting The Demon

I’m in the middle of a real life incident I’ve seen before in my industry. It’s really not something to illustrate a ‘holier than thou’ attitude about toward the rest of humanity, but only a slice of observing human nature. Mentioning the way it happens stirs me as a writer, because I pick up on everything when I interact with people. I have to. I use everything I see, hear, touch, and feel in my novels – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Writers are a combination of Vampire and Succubus. We feed off the living, without having to sink our fangs into their necks or suck so much from them we leave only an empty husk. We’re much more subtle. Ever wonder why when you read a fictional story you’ll run across a character so like you in either thoughts or deeds that you feel like someone has plagiarized your life in some manner? Yep, that’s us, the vampire/succubus/writer. We’ve fed on you or someone very much like you. It’s a startling reminder that we human animals are not as unique as we’d like to think. There will be no names, pointing fingers, or judgmental renderings in the following Gatekeeper’s saga – only a wistful recital of awkward humanity, fed on by the parasitical beast within me.
As the Gatekeeper in my small world of automotive repair, the version of what took place will of course be my own, and subjective to reflect my own inner visions. The story starts in a usual mundane way: a phone call. A long time customer who hadn’t been in for years called me up to make an appointment for her daughter’s Mitsubishi SUV. It wouldn’t start and the battery was drained. I said sure, have it towed in. The daughter arrives with the tow truck, but when I motion for the driver to put it in my shop, he tells me it will run, and he’ll set it down and jump it with his portable battery booster unit. It’s not unusual for the tow truck drivers to resist backing vehicles into my shop. The real pros back them in without any hesitation. I figured this young guy didn’t want to take any chances so it’s okay with me, just so I don’t have to push it in. I don’t do that anymore. He drops it in front, and pops open the hood as I’m watching. This is where things go horribly wrong.
The tow truck driver puts his portable booster up next to the battery, hooks it up, and lets the hood rest on it. The Mitsubishi starts and he drives it up my short ramp into the shop. Propping the hood open, I notice steam coming out and coolant pouring onto my shop floor as the driver unhooks his booster. It’s then I see he rested the rather heavy portable booster unit directly on the radiator inlet and busted it off from the radiator.
“Oh man,” the young guy I will refer to as Tony Unfortunate for my blog exclaims. “Looks like she has a coolant leak too. Maybe the upper hose blew. That’s an easy fix.”
I held up the upper radiator hose with the busted radiator inlet clamped inside of it. I look at the kid. “It’s broken off.”
Tony peers at the piece and the radiator, shaking his head. “I guess she’ll need a new radiator.”
The daughter is standing there listening to all this. “How… how much will that cost?”
I gazed at Tony, seeing the moral conundrum flitting around in his brain. He’s young, and I’ve been right where he is. We all have. We make mistakes. Cover ups and lies are part of human nature just like Dr. House repeatedly claims on TV. Tony has that beseeching look. He knows what the right thing to say is, but he can’t do it yet.
“It’s pretty rotted,” Tony says, glancing at the broken piece.
Sure, I admit the impulse to go along with this occurs to me, because I’ve been around long enough to know this is going to be a big hassle. I’ve fought that demon before. He’s easier to beat with practice. “It’s made of plastic. It’s not rotten, kid. You put the booster directly on it, lowered the hood to rest on your booster, and drove it up over the bump into my shop, snapping the inlet off. Look, we all make mistakes. Stuff happens. I wish I’d seen where you were setting the booster down. Hell, I’d have run out and stopped you. It’s done now. What are you going to do about it?”
Words form, but nothing comes out for a moment. Tony’s fighting the demon. His shoulders slump a little as he takes out a card and hands it to the daughter. “I’ll call my boss. Sorry about that. You’d better call the number on the card too.”
The daughter nods. I see in her face she knows this will be a big hassle too.
Later, a huge guy arrives in another tow truck after I’ve put the SUV in the corner and cleaned up the coolant mess. Although about my height, this guy is over three hundred and fifty pounds easy. I shake hands with him, and the funny stuff starts. I’ll name him Rollo for the blog.
“I just need to take some pictures and figure out what happened,” Rollo states, showing me his camera.
“Sure thing.” I see no reason to get defensive before I know how Rollo deals with the demon.
Rollo starts taking pictures of the spot I’d already cleaned that’s still visible before taking others of the droplets leading up to it I hadn’t cleaned yet. He goes outside where the SUV had been let off the tow truck and investigates the area as if he were on CSI. Unfortunately for Rollo, I already know where he’s going with this. He doesn’t disappoint. The demon has him.
“Looks like it may have been leaking when it was dropped off,” Rollo tells me.
I’m a little short on time so I decide to make the situation plain. I walk outside. “Okay, show me the droplets you’ve seen out here you think it leaked before going up into my shop.”
Rollo’s eyes narrow and he does a cursory dance outside. “I did see them, they’re-”
“There’s no droplets. The driver put his booster on the upper hose inlet, rested the hood on the booster, bumped up into my shop, and snapped off the inlet. That’s why there are only droplets at the inside of my shop. Come with me.” I lead him back to the SUV where I had extracted the broken piece from the hose.
“Wow, that looks pretty rotted,” Rollo says, still in the demon’s grasp.
“It’s plastic.” I hold it up so Rollo can see it real clear. “If plastic wears, it gets very thin. This is just as thick as it was when it came out of the factory. Your driver knows what happened. You know what happened. It was an accident, but there is someone at fault here and it’s not our customer. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve fixed them.”
I can see the demon’s losing its grip on Rollo. He takes some more pictures of the radiator and broken piece. “Yeah, I know. I’ll have to go back and talk to my boss.”
“If you want me to fix it, I’ll only charge you my cost on the radiator, clamps, and coolant plus labor. If your boss wants to do it, I’ll let you know when I have what my customer originally wanted done fixed, and you can tow it back to your shop.”
Rollo nods. “I’ll let the boss know.”
We’re in the middle of it now, but the details are the boring stuff of hassle and runaround. They are admitting to it because they don’t have a choice, but the solution is of course a major project.
It’s a process. Anyway, I’ve satiated my inner beast, having fed on the living, and now rendered my Vampire/Succubus account of the feeding.  :)

Oh yeah, I'm reaching the 50,000 word mark in my DEMON sequel by the weekend.  :)


RJ Parker said...

Ah yes, the little demon who sits on our right shoulder, who often tempts us to be dishonest. We've all been there brother and can relate. That's a good story, I laughed my friggin ass off when you mentioned Rollo going out to the parking lot like the CSI looking for evidence. I can picture him in this 4X size white jumpsuit lol.
Good one bro and really looking forward to reading your new book.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

Thanks, RJ, Rollo was very officious. :) When I finish the sequel, I'll send you both DEMON and the sequel fully edited. I think you'll get a kick out of them. I'm glad you liked this installment of 'As The Automotive Repair World Turns', brother. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

i see the demon all the time when my students try to get out of responsibility for their own actions, or lack of them, in class. they miss class but don't want it to count against them. I try to hold the line. Last week I was overruled in one case. A student played the sympathy card with the Vice president. I had already given her a break for the sympathy issue and all it did was get her close to the grade she wanted, an "A." I decided I couldn't give her even more breaks but she felt she deserved them. She got them. I feel like crap because it wasn't fair to the other students.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

That's a great life lesson the VP taught by undercutting you with that student, Charles. She's learned whining will get you anywhere, and the rules don't apply to her. I'm afraid she'll need Buffy the Vampire Slayer to get out of her demon's clutches. :)

raine said...

Good on you for forcing the truth out there, Bernard. Would've hated to see them roll over that poor kid.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

We've all been on both sides of this one, Raine. Battling the demon takes training. When you give in to the demon, it sinks its claws in, and it's a hard road to shake the sucker off. There are a few steps I've seen illustrated over the years to the dark side:

1. I wasn't there - but you were.

2. I don't know how that happened - but you do.

3. I can't say for sure - but you can.

Once a person streams past step three, the demon has 'em. Caught in an outright lie, they will then add the real scumbag addition of 'such and such did it before me' or they pull out all the stops and hit you with 'it doesn't mean anything, everybody does it'. When they utter that last one, you know they have been fully possessed. :)