Friday, June 1, 2012
2003 Kia Optima
In HARD CASE news, two more five star reviews went up, so at least I’m getting some feedback. Please take a look at it and give the very nice reviewers a YES for helpful. 67,000 words done in DEMON INC, so I’m shooting for the 70,000 word mark by Monday. Then it will be day to day until the end, 75,000 is the upper mark for YA novels. DEMON was a little over 77,000. I figure on this one to hit the 77,000 mark and then trim it during editing. It’s always exciting drawing to the close of a new novel. Now, on to the automotive Twilight Zone entry.
My across the street neighbor Fred had three banditos sledgehammer his front door in and shoot off six shots before Fred’s barking dogs drove them off. No one was hurt, thank God. It looks like another cycle of released parolees gone wild for the neighborhood. That explains the tagging incident increase.
I was in the back writing on DEMON INC when a tow truck backed a 2003 Kia Optima into my driveway uninvited. It’s not the tow truck driver’s fault I’m not informed. He unloads the Kia, telling me the customer will be in shortly. It’s a good thing I don’t have a shop full of cars because someone would be heading for the street, and it wouldn’t be my appointments. I’ve never seen this particular Kia before so I knew it must be a new customer.
A guy comes jogging in, looking like he had been posing for Backyard Bob Magazine: greasy tennis shoes, coveralls, hands, and face. He’s about my height, weight I’d guess at about two hundred. If I do whatever needs done on the Kia, I’ll have to build in an extra twenty minutes for cleaning whatever Bob deposited. Like I’ve pointed out, it’s a rough economy. BB smiles at me, sticks out his hand, realizes it’s got a layer of dirt, and pulls it back.
“Sorry, I don’t want to give you that. I’ve been working on this car for a neighbor. It cranks but won’t start. I have a code reader but it won’t communicate. Can you give me a hand with it? The lady doesn’t have much money.”
“That will probably be a problem. I can do a diagnostic check on it and tell you why it won’t start.” I give him my fee, which is easily fifty dollars under any of the reputable places in town. He goes into shock, mouth open, and hands waving.
“Just to look at it?!”
I love this set up, because still after well over thirty-seven years in the trade I get a kick out of my snappy answer to the ‘Just to look at it’ question. I glance at the Kia. “Looking at it’s free. Finding out why it doesn’t run isn’t. I’ll tell you something else that we need to get clear. I am not the bank, nor the welfare department. If I ran my business as if I was, my doors would have been closed decades ago. Another thing is I can’t take an authorization from you on any major repair. I get that from the owner. You can pay the diagnostic fee up front in cash and that would be all right. If any of what I’ve explained doesn’t work for you, I’ll help you push it out on the street.”
Bob’s stunned. “Couldn’t you steer me in the right direction?”
“How? You do understand this isn’t a magic shop, right? I have to do tests in order to write estimates for repair.”
“I’ll have to come back with the money for the check. I hope you can fix it for that price.”
I do too. “I doubt it, but I will if I can.”
I write down the actual customer data on an invoice from the car registration before going back to writing. BB comes in with the money and I give him a copy of the diagnostic estimate after getting the customer’s phone number. I push the Optima over and get started. BB’s right. No communication with my scanner. Check fuses and find a burned out 15 amp one. I put my test lamp across the terminals with the blown fuse removed. There’s no short with just the key on, so I hook up my scanner again with a new fuse and I get communication. There’s a PO335 – crank angle sensor code. I then take the fuse out and crank it. It’s making a bad sound.
After removing a few things I find out the timing belt on the balance shaft broke and wiped out the crank angle sensor and wiring. BB is not going to be happy. I phoned the real customer to give her the bad news. She asked that I do the job at cost. I said no. She asked for credit. I said I don’t do that, but I do take credit cards. She says she’ll call me back. BB arrives ten minutes later to see what the hell costs so much. I took him through it.
“Can you loan me a shop manual. I need to do this to help the lady out.”
“First off no, I don’t loan anything out. Secondly, I have everything on the computer. Another thing I have to warn you about. If you tear into this and screw up, find somewhere else to take it afterwards. I don’t do the patch ups anymore after someone else. Make sure if you decide to do it, buy a real manual and have the proper tools.”
“Well shit!” BB stumbles around in a circle for a moment. He looks back at me with his arms folded over his chest. “Are you a Christian, Sir?”
I’ve been asked this before. I don’t like having my religious beliefs thrown in my face when someone wants a free ride on my back. I smile. “No, I’m a lion.”
“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”
“If you have to ask then you don’t need to know. If you’re not paying for this job in cash up front, please go back to your neighbor and find out what she’d like to do.”
BB started to bristle up.
“Look Bob, don’t say anything that’s going to get both you and the Kia thrown out of here. Go back to the lady and have her call me.”
A half hour after that Ms. Kia called and gave me the go ahead. I finished it yesterday and called her to come in. A middle aged lady arrived, dressed to the nines. I won’t even bother with a description.
“Look,” she pleads in the office, “can I give you half now, and come back next week with the rest?”
“Sure, but the car stays here until you come back with the rest.” I’ve been working in East Oakland for thirty-six years. The vegetable truck I fell off of left a long time ago.
Ms. Kia glanced at my Vulcan Death Stare, sighed, and took out a credit card. “Fine, here.”
I looked over the card. “Driver’s license please.”
“What do you need that for?”
“I don’t really, because I saw your real name on the registration. This is not your card. If you don’t have a credit card with your name on it that matches a valid California Driver’s license, I’ll have to ask you to get cash.”
We had a stare down again. She pulled out an envelope from her purse and shoved it at me. “Here.”
It was the exact amount for the job in cash. I marked her invoice paid, and gave her the keys and receipt. “Thank you.”
“I’m never bringing any business in here again… ever!” Ms. Kia swiveled out the office door, over to the Kia, got in and slammed the door with the proper amount of outrage. Lucky for her I’m not Backyard Bob. The Kia started right up and out she went.
Like my old boss, Norris Nilson used to say, “now we got it fixed, now we get paid.”