"What a wonder life I've had! I only wish I'd realized it sooner." Colette

Apr 2, 2014

Gentle Men

“Thanks, Gents!”

I actually said that yesterday, leaving the mechanic after a $ 140 oil change.  I knew it would be expensive, because I was warned by the former owner that (a) the truck’s never guzzled anything but full synthetic, and (b) during a previous oil change, someone made an ‘oops’, and rather than spend a small fortune on replacing the pan (the same 6 hour job I possibly faced), some mechanic jerry-rigged the drain plug with baling rope and spit.

I made the appointment for April Fool’s because if I waited much longer I might not have enough.  Up north last year I was quoted almost 80 bucks, and I added another twenty just ‘cause.  The manager estimated the cost to be half of what I budgeted; yeah, well, that would be nice, but Murphy’s Law.  My landlords might let me slide a bit if necessary (since I’m watching the cat), or I could always stand on a street corner.

Anyway, before Trigger was even on the lift, I told the mechanics that they might run into a problem.   I tried describing something as familiar to me as a space rocket; therefore, when they fired specific questions I couldn’t possibly deflect, they stared at me like some dumb broad.  I’m used to that; most women are.  But fortunately my advancing age has been accompanied by a muzzle of sorts, so I don’t spew everything at once.  Rather than get annoyed from frustration, I simply said,

“Look, I don’t know what I’m talking about.  I was told me there might be a problem whenever I had the oil changed, an event I’ve been postponing for almost two years now.  My point being, (despite their reassurances) I already anticipate problems.”

Upfront; honest to a fault; they detected my limited financial means (I suspect my dinged, ’86er might tip people off).  So when the premonition came true and they confronted my automotive abortion, they put their collective know-how’s together to save me money they knew they wouldn’t get anyway.  Can’t get blood from a stone.

Several factors were in my favor:  one mechanic was a former neighbor; the manager had also been forced to move his 5th wheel off private property (same county code I ran into); and the young Illustrated Man just thought I was funny.

Well, I’d been there when I finished and sent off my last (published) article, so I said perhaps they bring me luck; I’ll rub the walls like a Genie’s Lamp.  I pulled out my laptop, patiently working on art projects to upload to an online site, as one hour turned into two.  I was not in a carpeted waiting area with free coffee; several airport chairs were scattered around a four-foot counter in the linoleum-lined, 9 x 12 office.  I brought my own coffee.

Chit-chatting a bit with the manager, I tried to impress him after a customer dropped off his car, complaining about its high idling speed.

“I used to have an MG that did that, and a mechanic showed me an easy fix by turning a screw.”

“Yeah, when they used to have carburetors.”

“Whaddaya mean, used to?  What do they have now?”

“They’re fuel-injected, or (something else I’ve never heard of).”

“When did they do that?”

“Early ‘90s; no, 80’s.”  My Midget was a ’79; the model’s final year.

“About the time they got rid of points and condensers, huh?”  I’d learned that in the past year, too.  “What do I have?”

“Probably the (thing I never heard of).”

I recognize the words fuel-injected, but I don’t know what they mean, nor do I care; and I certainly didn’t realize they replaced carburetors, a word I particularly like pronouncing.  That disturbs me as much as losing Pluto…as a planet (scary to have to add descriptions, but I find myself making wisecracks to more and more young people who can’t relate).

I don’t know my blood type, either.  It’s an ego thing; I like to imagine I have some rare pigment flowing through my veins.

So, like my MG?  I dug these photos out of Mom's attic last summer.  Mine was an end-of-year model, and when the dealer said "six-thousand," to his astonishment I slapped down the cash.  No one ever told me you bargain for a car.  I was 25; worked for Uncle Sam; no kids; and I wanted a sports car.  Thank goodness I got it, over-priced or not, because while I’ll admit that’s the one thing I may covet from a neighbor, I won’t regret never having owned one.  Everyone should at some point, preferably before the age of retirement.

What’s so disappointing to me now is to see some hot car pull up and an oxygen tank is the first thing out the door.  Sure, it's a Bucket List item, but what's the fun if you can't take full advantage of owning a rag-top?  OK, let's grandfather-in my contemporaries, but for the future, there should be some caveat which declares:

Must be young and/or reckless enough to fully enjoy.

Give 30-year-olds a discount.  Sis, pal Gayle and I took a day trip to visit White Sands National Park, New Mexico; gypsum as far as the eye could see.  The three of us took turns squeezing in the space behind the leather bucket seats; laughing and flirting as we zoomed past semi’s.  Aahh, the G.O.D’s.

The manager drove me home at 11am, and picked me back up at 3:30.  They explained their fix:  a better jerry-rig than the last (one which another mechanic would undoubtedly scoff at), but  I’d have instructed them to stuff cotton batting in the hole rather than a five-hundred dollar oil pan replacement job.  Considering I’ve gone this long without a single oil change, I think I got away pretty cheap.

Thus my, “Thanks, Gents,” which impressed the kid and left the manager speechless.  I was impressed the kid got it.

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