An Afternoon at the Dealership

My apologies as SMS turns into the Sunday Evening Sermon.

The day before yesterday Jennifer’s car had a flat. I dutifully checked the tire like my father had taught me touching and caressing the tread looking for metal invader to no avail. I came to the realization that I needed professional help diagnosing the tire’s specific ailment.

Where did you carry your last flat?

Well, for me, I guess I have fully subscribed to the one-stop world of the car dealer. Yup, you can buy a car, get an oil change, fix a flat, buy running boards, get a car wash and while you are doing all those things you can even get a hamburger at the café. The hamburgers are to die for by the way. They grill them on a real grill with Dale’s sauce…

If you are into guilty pleasures, I would highly recommend the car wash and a hamburger.

I swapped cars with my wife in her work parking lot. Well, I swapped her a truck for a car but, that is another story. Soon I was in the queue at the Quick Lube at the dealership. A modern invention, the Quick Lube, allows you to get many services while minimizing human interaction. Instead of a waiting room you get to… no, you are required to sit in your car. You know, there are insurance regulations.

Have you ever seen the insurance inspector shewing people out of a shop?

IMG_1844It was a normal winter day in the south. Our winters could usually pass for spring anywhere else. It was funny though, you would have thought we were on Mars and there were precious life-sustaining atmospheres in each vehicle which might escape. People were only cracking their windows long enough to tell the attendant their malfunction. Once closed, they went about looking at their lap again. I reached the front of the line and when the attendant arrived with his clipboard, I asked him how his day was going. The attendants are called “service advisors” and you can tell them apart because they dress like Tiger Woods and have a conspicuous lack of oil staining. He was a young guy whose grimace turned into a half-smile to say, “man I am great.” His mouth said great and his face said… well, not great. I wanted to chat some more but, he quickly barked, “sir, can you give me your mileage.” After a few minutes, you guessed it, nothing wrong was found with the tire.

Is there some kind of force field around mechanics which temporarily fixes the brokenness in cars?

I decided to reverse my bad tire Karma by getting Jennifer’s car cleaned for her. The people in that line also had had something important going on in their lap. After my turn in the tunnel, I was greeted by the interior washer. I asked the young man how he was doing too. Unlike the service advisor, he apparently actually did the dirty work of cleaning cars. He was a little shocked by actual conversation but, quickly recovered. “I love pretty days, we are so busy, the day goes by really fast,” he said adjusting his toboggan with his blue hands. The day was pretty but, cool. I chatted with the nice young man for a few minutes then left the car for the waiting room. As I walked down the hall to the waiting room it sounded like a lively place. I could hear a conversation about college football and other little side conversations. I picked a chair next to a man in a suit and began to assess my surroundings for the best weather or football small talk. Sadly, the football conversation was on the Paul Finebalm show on TV. I was really looking foreword to discussing the finer points of the Clemson defense with an Alabama Fan.  Then I noticed the all the chit-chat I heard down the hall was with people not in the room.

Does it strike you as strange that of a dozen or so people, none of them were talking to each other?

IMG_1843I sat there watching Paul next to the tall guy in the suit. I learned that he believed gas would be less than a dollar a gallon unless there was a war. From the attractive lady in scrubs, I learned what Kim really needed was a reality check. From the lady with big hair, I learned that dogs wouldn’t walk themselves. Others were feverishly taping out texts. I tried to read what the young boy with the oversized North Face jacket in the black four-wheel drive was texting but, he turned his phone away when he saw me watching him. After ten or so minutes of being alone in a sea of people, I gave up and went outside. Some guy was griping to the nice blue-handed toboggan guy about unclean cup holders, crappy service and something about hard-earned money. I stood in another cluster of waiters and complemented a young man on his white Mustang. Before he could reply he had to take a call. Blue-hands waved me over. I complemented him on his thorough interior cleaning abilities and we chatted for a minute. Before I drove away he handed me a card to go online and fill out a survey. He said he got a bonus for each good survey. I took his card and drove away.

How many texters do you pass in the slow lane?

On the way home I passed quite a few.  Somehow, I think texters feel safer in the passing lane. I guess they don’t have to worry as much about rear-ending other slower cars. For the life of me, I have no idea what text would be so important to risk something soooooo dangerous. Believe me, I have seen the accidents and they are my least favorite part of being a transportation engineer.

Does the world seem a little more self-centered and alone to you?

I admit, I have been a little self-involved this week. It was a pretty tough week at work but, my outlook always changes when I can do or say something nice. Service for me is the antidote for the blues. Sometimes, in this world we have made, it seems a kind word can’t be shoved in edgewise. A wave or smile at a traffic signal is well, out of the question. We have made a world where it is easier to talk to your old friend in that town in Egypt than a new one at the car wash. My spiritual medicine for the blues seems to be in short supply. I can’t like that one bit.

 

 

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