Auto Repair Charade

As I write this posting, I am sitting in the waiting room of my local Toyota dealership. Milton, my 2007 Matrix, is receiving his scheduled 5,000 mile maintenance service today. It hasn’t actually been 5000 miles since his last visit, but when the red reminder light goes on I faithfully bring him in anyhow.

My knowledge of car repair is based on dashboard lights only.  If there’s a pinging or rattling going on, I wouldn’t know because “Supper’s Ready” is most likely blaring from my speakers loud enough to drown out the engine noise.  When it comes to driving, I have always placed the highest priority on the radio first and foremost.  The air-conditioning is next in line, of course.

I don’t know an alternator from a starter, nor a fuel pump vs. a crankshaft.  I sort of get what brake pads are because I had a ten-speed bike once.  But usually when the names of auto parts are mentioned, my eyes glaze over, and I nod with the fatigued expression of a poet prodigy sitting in algebra class.

I take my car to the dealer for service because I choose to believe that they understand my vehicle better than a neighborhood garage would.  When I pull into their service entrance and am greeted by their “service advisors,” I don’t have to say anything other than “the light came on.”  There’s none of that fake bluster of a man who understands his car.  I am not that man, nor have I ever been.  I just greet these guys as if they’re all former college acquaintances.

After a few cordial exchanges and handing over my keys, I go happily on my way to the relative comfort of the service area waiting room.  All I hope for in there is free coffee and complimentary WiFi.  Oh, and if I’m lucky they’ll have a celebrity talk show, soap opera, or a retro network playing rather than the now-compulsory and omnipresent Fox News.  I always end up sitting in close proximity to someone who becomes a little too animated when Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s persona is in range.  I liked it better when I ignored her on “The View” instead of “Fox and Friends.”

Of course, at some point I always brace myself for the appearance of my pal the service advisor coming back to pay me a visit.  His earlier conviviality is now portrayed by a sincere look of concern for my well-being.  Milton is now at 98,000 miles and it’s pretty much a sure thing that our visits will not be limited to a standard oil change and tire rotation only.  Things break over time.  Last year prior to our cross-country trip from Oregon, both the water pump and the battery were replaced.  Today I’ve learned it is a drive belt. The advisor tells me in a hushed tone that it’s time to swap it out for a new one. The cost will be approximately $170.  I look at him squarely in the eye and with a steely confidence say, “Okay, let’s do it.

Honestly, he could have said it was $300 and I would have still paid it.   I just refuse to play that macho car repair charade.  As I prepare myself for a couple of hours in the waiting room, I am holding my laptop securely under one arm along with a classic Roger Kahn hardcover on the Brooklyn Dodgers.  I’m not fooling anyone in the service department. With a better haircut and a cool-looking sports coat, I might fare okay with the barista up the road.  But certainly not here.

Back in my younger days, though, I would fake my part of that interaction.  I would have furrowed my brow and made a fool of myself by asking about a completely different part of the car in a pathetic display of trying to show that I knew something, anything about car repair (“Yes, but what about the exhaust manifold?”).  Then, with the service advisor maintaining a straight face while answering my question, I would give him the exact same answer I gave today — “Okay, let’s do it.

Growing up, I was always impressed by my dad’s abilities at car repair shops.  At this point I’m sure he’s most likely spinning in his ashes each time I return to a dealership for car maintenance, believing, perhaps correctly, that they over-charge.

Dad had a knack for sniffing out an obscure repair shop that was four towns away and three different expressways from our home, usually after eavesdropping on someone who mentioned it on a Sears store escalator.  If you were a perfect stranger you almost always had more credibility than a family member or friend.  Sure enough he would find the place, and I would watch in amazement as he interacted with the mechanics.  He always seemed to understand exactly what they were saying in spite of the fact that he himself wasn’t a gear head.   Afterwards, I would listen to him when he told everyone about this great new mechanic he discovered.  Until that is when the car broke down eight weeks later, as it seemed to do like clockwork.  But the man had swagger in a repair shop, I’ll give him that much.

I had previously considered buying a new car this year.  Instead we’ve decided to keep Milton.  My rigid adherence over the years to Toyota’s maintenance schedule has provided us with a car that thankfully has not given me any trouble.  Although Gorgeous and I salivate on a regular basis at vehicles that are bigger, more comfortable, and sportier, it now seems to make more sense to keep this one until it’s finally ready to sputter someday into a used car lot to its final resting place.  Fidelity to something so loyal has merit.

Instead of a swagger, I will soon cooly sidle up to the cashier and pay for my repair bill. I’m now a proud owner of a new drive belt, Baby.  As good ‘ol Chuck sang, “Now you can’t catch me; ‘Cause if you get too close, you know I’m gone like a cool breeze.


22 thoughts on “Auto Repair Charade

  1. Hate car repair shops. Hate buying cars. Hate that whole thing. I just want to drive a red car that goes, with enough gadgets and upgrades (most of which I have no clue what to do with) to make me happy. I glaze over when the word car is mentioned. A long time ago I had a VW with a fuel injection engine. It’s was the first year they made them and there were issues. The kind of issues where I would get stuck somewhere and couldn’t start the car for 20 minutes. I knew way more than I ever wanted to know about cars. This was during my poorer days and I had that car for almost 10 years. Soured me on cars for life.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry for intruding, Marty…Kate, I love your comment. I have a Honda Fit with over 150k miles on it. When I was in market for a new car, the dealership has plenty of Fits, but none in red. I told them that color was non-negotiable. They had one delivered from someplace.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Milton? How did you come up with that name. Oh what conversations you two must have! ^_^

    My experience with cars is based on what I learned from dad (he was an auto mechanic). He taught me how to identify certain sounds of car defects (we were quizzed regularly during car rides …that was his thing): bad starters, sparkplugs, mufflers, and in older cars I learned about how pumping the gas pedal too much can flood the carburetor causing the car to “choke” and not start.

    Don’t know much of the new models since dad had left the maintenance portion of the business to his staff and had moved over to to the supply store and shortly after that I moved away. But I’m sure I can change a tire , and of course open the hood and look around all ‘knowledgeable -like’ in hopes that just the sheer fact that my dad was a mechanic would fix the problem (lol).

    Although I never owned a car (had my bosses on the wknd or rented for trips etc) I do prefer the dealership in theory but I’m sure there would a local, upstanding mechanic I could learn to trust in honor of dad ^_^

    Thanks for helping me unearth those good memories. ..they had been buried for a while . Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, let’s see. Prior to Milton “Miltie” Matrix, there was Robbie Ranger. The last car my dad owned was “Goldie” Taurus (because she was gold), and he ended up selling her to us because he could no longer drive. Before that there was Tina Tempo. I’ve had lots of Fords. There was also “Pokey,” my 1981 Chevette, which was another castoff from Dad. Before Pokey was the unfortunately named “Arrow” (a Plymouth Arrow), and my first car was “The Old Geezer,” a 1969 Plymouth Valiant. Each of my cars have always been named, some better than others.

      Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m with you. There are few car noises that are loud enough to be heard over the stereo. I did hear it when I backed into a tree, though. Of course that might simply have been my husband blowing a gasket.

    When I was in high school, my parents bought a new car — they were really excited about it, and drove from the dealership to pick me up at school. In a powder blue Plymouth Valiant — the ugliest car I had ever seen.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I love when people name their cars. Funny enough, I’ve never done it myself, but as a teenager I drove one that all my friends had named for me. My eldest sister had driven an old brown Honda Civic belonging to all three teenage girls in the house straight into a pine tree. My dad spent a good month in the garage like Caratacus Potts fixing the darned thing. When he finally rolled it out for us all to see, it was the same old brown car, but with a bright red hood.
    My friends dubbed it: The Bloody Nosemobile.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ahaha at why do they always have FOX news on. I was in the shop last week. My cat shield came loose and was hanging by a clamp. I asked them to clamp it back up. Because they took me in without an appointment and I live out of state, I let them sell me 200$+ of service. But Hahaha at FOX news. Between dealerships and dentist offices, they will never go off the air…no offense.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. PS. The show was so ridiculous. It was called outnumbered# or something. It had this guy surrounded by four barbieish ladies. They had dresses of different colors. The dresses were so short and the ladies kept their legs crossed the entire time. If the legs crossed over, it would be. “Basic Instinct” moment. I wonder if they had tape to keep their thighs stuck together. Apparently this kind of attire is okay per FOX News wardrobe people. I couldn’t care less, but on a conservative station, it seems a bit ironic. Oh yeah, a fellow customer laughed at ky reaction then apologized.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks. I can’t complain. The clamping plus oil change would have cost something like 60$, but since I came in with no appointment, I let them do a B service plus coolant flush, which added more $. My beloved “baby” has over 150k miles…yay!

        Liked by 1 person

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