Not at ALL What You Thought

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Women Just Don't Understand Cars

Yesterday, temperatures reached the 90’s, and it became more obvious than ever that my car’s missing its air conditioner, but, honey, not more than I’m missing it. My rolling mechanic tried to charge it up (or however you mechanics put it), but, while the air coming out of the vents was cooler, it wasn’t true air conditioning, you know? My rolling mechanic couldn’t find a leak. He didn’t know what the problem was.

So when he texted me that some other mechanics were offering “Free A/C Checks,” I decided I’d run up there (it was only a little ways from home) and see what they were talking about.

Now, you may ask, “Why didn’t your rolling mechanic do the check?” And it’s a good question. The reason is that my rolling mechanic, while a professional whose employer owns several garages, does not have a garage in his own possession. Also, his employer services and repairs only gigantic trucks exclusively, not Buick Rendevouses, so dragging my Buick to his place of work, asking specifically for “My Rolling Mechanic, who reveals the sacrosanct mysteries of automechanutiae to me” would be unutterably inappropriate, don’t you think? Any more questions? No? Can I go on with my story now? Thank you.

So I went to this joint, found it by the “Free A/C Checks” sign on the van outside the joint, and went in. The “lounge” had double rows of comfortable seats, but to the left of the comfortable seats was a door marked “Enter,” through which I had to go back outside: the service desk was adjacent to the service bays. And it was cold and raining out. And I had a sore throat. But the guy at the desk was nice looking and personable, at least.

I had decided that I wasn’t comfortable with asking only for a free service. I hate taking something for nothing. I get to thinking about folk feeding their families. So I made a stupid decision. Kind of. I decided to get an oil change. This joint offered a $19.99 oil change, and, frankly, it was time I got one, so I told the gentleman, “I’d like an oil change and the free air conditioning check.”

“Which oil change?” he asked. “’Good,’ ‘Better’ or ‘Best’?”
“Prices?” I asked.
“’Good’s’ $29.99, and ‘Best’ is $69.99.”
“I’d like the $29.99 one, please.” I should have said, “What about the johnbrown $19.99 one? The one on the banner outside?” but neither Christina nor Elayne was with me, so I didn’t. Stupidly.

“How many miles you got on your car?” he asked.
“’Bout 50,000,” I said.
“Well, then, you need the 50,000-mile oil change,” he said. This was, of course, the $70 change. So I said, “No. I want the $30 change.”
“All right,” he said and took my keys.

I went back into the “lounge” and sat down. I pulled out a novel I had brought just for such an occasion and tried to stay awake. But I was exhausted and sore throated, and I kept zoning out. One time, I dreamed I had run into a passing friend and she waved at me. I woke up and found my hand up, waving back.

“How ya doin?” said another customer in puzzled response.

I went back to my book. It’s a pretty good detective story, actually. About fifteen minutes passed, and the young man at the desk came into the “lounge” and told me the mechanic was having problems figuring out what was wrong with my air conditioning.

“If we can’t find out what’s wrong by looking at it, we’ll have to put it on The Machine, which will cost you $70,” he said. “But the good thing is, the cost of repair will include the $70. It won’t be extra.”

“No,” I said.
“All right,” he said and went away.

Five minutes later, another, older gentleman came in, bearing a clipboard.

“Did somebody talk to you about your car?”
“We haven’t found the problem with your air conditioning. We’ll have to use The Machine, and, since it cost us $10,000, you have to help pay for it. It'll only be $70, and that's included in the repair.” I really appreciated his candor, but I told him no, too.

Five minutes later, another, gentleman, black, came in, bearing a clipboard.

(I was beginning to imagine the bay conversations: “She won’t listen to me. Maybe you, Joe. You’re older and have more presence.”

“She didn’t listen to me, either. Maybe she only trusts black mechanics.”)

“Did somebody talk to you about your car?”
“We were about to do the oil change when we realized [Greek], which meant [Chaldean], which will result in [Mandarin]. You need the 50,000 oil change.”
“Are you talking about the Buick?”
“No. I want the $30 change, like I said when I came in here.”
“Yeah, well, they won’t wanna—“
“Are you telling me that you’re not gonna do the oil change?”
“Yes. That’s right.”
“Well, give me my car, please.” I hoisted myself up and went back out to the bays.
“What do I owe you?”
“Oh, you don’t owe us a thing, ma’am,” the first young man said. “Did he, uh, tell you that you can go to Jiffy Lube, and they’ll do the change, but only because they don’t care?”

Oh, brother.

I could see the third man backing my car out of the bay, so I just thanked the first man and walked away. When I got into my car, I called my rolling mechanic and told him everything. He snorted and scoffed at all the talking (and the little work) those mechanics had done, and then he asked me, “Did you have a book?”

Did you have a book?”
“Yeeeessssss. . . .”
“Good, cuz I'd hate to see the kind of hell'd break loose if you hadn’t brought—“
“Shut up,” I said.
I think I should’ve charged that joint for the hour they’d stolen from me.

Dear Jesus, my brother, thank You for the book.