I know nothing about cars.
I wish I did. It seems like a cool thing to know shit about it.
You would always have a job. I loved the opportunities for altruism. I imagined it would be nice to be able to keep your parents or grandparents cars in tip top shape. I imagined it would be an attractive quality to a potential mate. “He paid for dinner AND he fixed my air filter!?”
Full disclosure: Is an air filter something that can be fixed. THAT’S how little I know about cars.
I thought owning a garage would be a satisfying way to spend a life. You could make the place look super cool, you could set your own hours, you could leave work at work.
I don't know. Maybe as an NPR fan, I've listened to too much Click and Clack. But I’ve thought that having your own garage would be a cool thing to do.
For the past couple of months, Jaimie’s steering wheel has been making a click. I was going to get it taken care of when I got back from Iowa, but you know that old saying about global pandemics ruining the best laid plans.
On Wednesday, I took it in the Triple A, but got annoyed when they couldn’t get to me right away. This is a trait I inherited from my mother. My mom takes personal offense when you have to wait for a table at a restaurant. It’s gotten better over the years, but growing up if there was even so much as a five minute wait she would turn to us and say, “I guess they don’t want our business.” Yes. You’re right. This establishment should have held open a table for six on the off chance that the Nelsons were going to be coming in and ordering water with lemon.
So when I went to Triple A a few days ago and they asked, very politely, if, due to high volume, I could bring my car back at 2pm the next day, I said, “Yes of course,” but inside I was steaming. “What do you mean other people got here before I did??!! This is an outrage!!”
I made the appointment but had no intention of keeping it. That would show them what happens when they can't take care of a Nelson!
So yesterday I called a different garage. An independent place, because as a good liberal, should I really be supporting the likes of Triple A? I told them about the steering wheel and that I needed an oil change. They assured me they could get to me that day. At 10 a. m. my mom and I dropped the car off and about my day I went.
And it was a lovely day. I didn’t feel nauseous. I wrote. Had a lovely conversation with the brilliant writer Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder about one of her new projects. My sister came over for coffee. (Socially distanced, with a mask of course.) Then, at about 4:15 p. m., I got the call.
“Hey there, we got the oil changed in your car.”
“That’s great, what about the steering wheel? What’s wrong there?
“You know, we didn’t get around to doing that. We didn’t have time today, and we’re not gonna have no time tommora’.
“Oh. It’s just that, when I called this morning you said you could do it. That’s the whole reason I brought it there.”
“We were just gonna have to get in there and take things apart and we didn’t have time.”
I wasn’t thrilled, but this certainly wasn’t something I was going to let ruin my lovely day. My sister drove me to the garage, and this is where the real fun began.
I don’t know why, but my sister decided to come in with me. She’s younger than me, and I’m 41, so clearly she didn’t think I needed help completing the transaction. I just think something inside her told her she needed to witness this for herself.
The office was a mess. Well, a garage version of a mess. It was strewn. Everything was strewn about. Manuals. Receipts. Calendars. This proved to be a problem, because when she looked for my keys, she couldn’t find them.
“Where is the key for the Elantra,” the woman asked one of the mechanics.
“I handed it to you when you were on the phone,” he answered back in his thick Greer accent. For those who don’t know what a thick Greer accent means, just close your eyes, picture what you think it means, and you’re probably right.
“You did not hand it to me,” she said. “And it wasn’t a key, it was a fob.”
“That’s right, it was a fob,” Greer accent replied.
Sensing I was starting to become annoyed with the situation, Greer accent decided to lighten the mood. “Where do you think they came up with the word fob?”
Doubting he really wanted to get into an etymological back and forth about the word fob, I simply turned my head and said, “I don’t…”
I looked at my sister. She looked at me.
“What do you think was wrong with that steering wheel?” the woman asked the other mechanic sitting in the room.
This is probably the time in the story when I should tell you that the average age of the employees was around 87.
“You know, everything looked ok,” the other aged mechanic said.
“Did you take anything apart?" I asked
“No, didn’t have time for that. How long's it been happening?”
“I don’t know. A while.”
“And is that a car you drive everyday?”
HOW MANY CARS DID THIS GUY THINK I HAD??
“I mean, it’s my car. We drive it everyday”
THIS 2012 HYUNDAI ELANTRA, WITH DENTS IN THE BUMPER, THIS IS ONLY MY THURSDAY CAR. AS MY THURSDAY CAR, I CAN PROBABLY LIVE WITH THE CLICKS. I CAN MAKE IT A FUN GAME! THURSDAY CLICK DAY!
They still had not found my fob by the way.
“Yeah,” the receptionist said, “maybe it’s one of those problems that will just go away on its own.”
That’s when my brain actually exploded. This woman, who works at a garage, and based on her age had worked there a long fucking time, said that this click in my steering wheel might be something that will go away on its own. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the old ass mechanic agreed with her!
“I mean it started on its own, maybe it’ll go away on its own too.”
I don’t know the official name for his accent, let’s just call it "dumbass."
“Ah! Found the fob. That’ll be $36 for the oil change.”
I paid and asked where they parked my car. The one with the Greer accent told me he parked it right out front. My sister and I exited, unsure of what had just happened, and didn’t see my car. I popped back in, “Right out front?” “Yeah just right out front.
The car was not out front. So I walked to the side. I walked all the way back into the garage.
“Where is my car??” I asked the Greer accented mechanic with the very last ounce of my patience.
“I parked it right out front,” he said for the third time as he pointed to the side of the building, down a different driveway, blocked by two vans and a tractor. Maybe we didn’t need to get to the bottom of the history of the word Fob, but he certainly could have used a deep five into the etymology of the word front.
And then I left.
I tried to figure out how I felt.
I wasn’t upset. How could I be when I came away with so weird a story. I felt a little relief. I can’t imagine what they would have done to my car had they actually tried to find the click in the steering wheel.
I think what I felt was a little hope. One of the sad things about getting older is that we have to start crossing things off of our list. We can no longer to this. We can no longer do that. But after leaving that garage, I knew there was one thing I could still do. That was learn to fix cars. And maybe having my own little garage was something not yet out of the blue.