Monday, November 24, 2014


Yes, reader, I drive. I live in a world that gives me little options. I am not particularly fond of driving and resisted it until my child needed me to drive. I also drive a hybrid; it is my first truly new car, and I am fond of the car. However, unlike my child, I realize I cannot take care of my car on my own; I need help from what has turned to be the most unreliable cross section of my species: car mechanics. I have come to believe that when forced to deal with a car mechanic, one must operate from the position that one is going to be cheated, and one must concentrate only on damage control.

A couple of days ago, what began as a normal chore day turned into a nightmare, thanks to the mechanics I have patronized for the past few years. Actually, it is a dealership, since I am told that no one but a dealer knows how to handle a hybrid, and now, I wonder at the mythologizing of the dealers.

This dealership has middle managers who receive the car and behave as liaisons between the owner and mechanics. The one I saw on my last visit, R.V., is the one I am always "placed" with, although he makes me vaguely nervous. He fancies himself a smooth talker, his smile just a bit too wide, and his eyes always calculating and shifty. He is always eating something or has just finished eating it. He likes to talk about the Indian restaurants he takes his expanding family to, every week, thinking to strike a kinship with me, which contributes greatly to my nervousness, since I do not frequent Indian restaurants every week and I can feel no kinship with a man who is so obvious in his efforts to put me, woman customer, at my ease by keeping conversations within women's domain, like food.

On Friday, however, I made a mistake. R.V. had claimed something wrong with my brakes that would take a lot of money to fix and asked me if I had the deductible for my extended warranty if it gets fixed.

I nodded and agreed.

Yes. I realize I should have somehow channeled a distressed female from my acting repertoire and stared at him in dismay over wide, tear-filled eyes at the prospect of the deductible.

However, I agreed without much fuss and I regretted my agreement immediately, as I saw the cogs and wheels behind R. V.'s eyes suddenly come alive. I knew I'd pay for it.

Well, the service is not covered by the warranty and I told R. V. to just do the regular maintenance, which should cost me about $36. He said he'd have the car ready to go within the hour, perhaps a couple of minutes over. It was my chore day and I shrugged my agreement.

After over two hours, when I finally caught his eye, he called me to his desk. The mechanic, C or G, I never did catch his name properly, awaited me there with his singular giggle. In fact C or G's speech is hitched with this giggle. R. V. and C or G claimed that the car's 12 volt battery had died.

You could have knocked me over with a sneeze.

I had just replaced it last year. What had they done to have murdered the battery so soon? Car batteries do not die every year, especially not the ones that cost about $300! I had been told that I was set with my battery for a few years when I'd changed the battery last year. I'd had no trouble with the car battery at all, until the car was taken into the shop on Friday where C or G did horrible things to it and killed the battery.

I had no choices, of course. So I used up all I had saved the last couple of months, more than twice what the deductible would have been. Within less than 10minutes, the car was ready to go. This was suspicious behavior, indeed, since it would take at least 20 minutes to change the battery, n'est ce pas? Trying to smooth over my feathers, R. V. walked me over to the payment department, complimenting me on taking such good care of my car.

I was quite upset and to compound my foolish behavior, I flounced off the dealership, vowing never to return.

I belied myself as I was back before five minutes had gone by.

Before I reached the first traffic light, all the lights on my dashboard came on alarmingly. I reached the dealership and was scolded soundly by C or G that there were way too many things wrong with my car.

Another sneeze would have done me in.

This was the first I'd heard of many things going wrong with my car. After all, had I not brought it in regularly, spent thousands at this very same dealership to ensure that nothing much would go wrong with my car? Had not R. V. himself complimented me on just the very thing? Leaving me on the curb, C or G drove the car off again behind forbidden doors.

R. V. finished eating something and threw the wrapper as he sauntered over behind closed doors, no doubt to confer about the problem my car was, with C or G. When he returned from the shop, I got another scolding, disguised as an explanation about how my car was a computer and as such, very complicated.

"But I understand how computers work!" I protested to no avail, of course. This was R. V.'s territory and if I had no tips to offer about which Indian restaurant was the best, I should mostly hold my peace and agree with his greater wisdom.

The lights on the dashboard are silent now. But as I left the dealership, dire warnings about how short lived the car was, rang in my ears. R. V. and C or G offer me no warranties or guarantees on the work done. Horrible things could happen at any time, horrible things that could cost me everything and then, whom would I depend on? I'd have to return to R. V. and C or G because, really, in the wide, wild world, no one understood my car but they!

On Friday, I knew I was being cheated. I have analyzed, re-examined, and re-lived this experience over the weekend, an exercise that has rendered me unable to do much else. I can see only one pivot on which the encounter spun: my acknowledgement that I could meet the deductible for a hypothetical repair.

This has been an expensive lesson.

I should have paid more attention in physics class.
I should have learned to play the distressed female par excellence, a mask that would rival Nirupa Roy's Mother roles.
I should have stopped enjoying chess and just concentrated on mastering the strategy of war manipulation.

Perhaps then, I would not be sleepless, at 5 a.m., wondering from where I can conjure a reliable mechanic for my hybrid, or if I would be forced to go crawling back to R. V. and C or G, and how much dignity there was in eating that crow.


1 comment:

  1. I feel your pain--and regret that you're feeling it!


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