25 April 2007

Where I work* ...

Sometimes it's good to be the hero.

So, Dr. D (the chiropractor) drops his Lexus off for some work and needs a ride to his office. No prob. I have Mrs. F's Explorer and I toss his laptop and bag in the back and take off with him. We're not 3 blocks from the shop on the Avenue and I see the guy in front of me slam on his brakes and swerve right. I tell the Doc to hold on and hit the brakes. What do I see walking down the middle of the double-yellow lines but a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel pup.

Now, there are trucks and cars and crazy soccer moms zipping up and down and I know he's gonna be killed so I throw the car sideways and put on my 4-ways. I jump out and run over to the little guy and he flops on his side and wags his tail. I scoop him up and run back to the car, the Doc screaming that somebody's gonna run into us (it's a curvy road and I'm parked in the middle, just past a curve). I hop in and toss the dog into Shayna's spot, throwing the car in gear and taking off.

"What are ya gonna do?" The Doc asks.

"I'm gonna drop you off and then bring him back. I'm sure I'll find some sad looking people wandering around near where we found him," I say, looking back to see the little guy already got comfortable and was sound asleep. I drive the Doc to his office and as I pull into the parking space the pup wakes up, hops onto the center console, and into my lap. I look at his collar for the first time and I see a rabies tag; a smile crosses my face as I see they use the same vet Shayna does. And then I see the next tag:

My name is:

My phone is:
(516) 676-XXXX

"Hi, Otis," I say as he licks my face.

"What's the number?" The Doc says as he whips out his cell.

I read it to him. He calls and leaves a voicemail saying that Otis was safe at the shop and giving the address. I thank him and head back, Otis on my lap, his chin resting on my arm as he looks out the window. It took about 10 minutes and as I come up the Avenue, I see a car pull into the lot and a woman and a little girl get out. They go over to Indian and Harry as I drive up and I knew they were Otis' family, his tail was beating it's way through my chest when he saw them.

Now, Indian and Harry knew nothing of this and I saw Harry shrug to the woman as I lowered the window. "Are ya looking for this?" I said as Otis stuck his head out the window.

You know, I'm a pretty tough guy, but I melted when I saw the little girl's face light up when she saw her pup. When she said "yay, Mister, you saved Otis," it made my year.

Even our idiot President dancing around like Boris Yeltsin on crack couldn't ruin my mood.

*Part of an ongoing, semi-regular series.

09 April 2007

My friend said ...

One of the easiest ways to annoy me at work is to bring a car in and say "my friend said (whatever) is wrong with my car". I know I've bitched about this before but I'm too lazy to dig it up.

Case in point today, guy comes into the shop, says he needs an inspection but the 'check engine' light is on. His friend tells him it's the oxygen sensor. I asked him if his friend was a mechanic. He said no, but his friend has a 'code reader' and that's what it said the car needed. He "wasn't gonna pay for extra stuff he didn't need in order to get a sticker."

Now, it's my first instinct to tell a guy like this to get the fuck out and bother some other shop, but NY state law says I can't refuse to inspect a car. As regular readers know, I've had enough problems with the state in the last few months to push the issue.

I tell him "nothing personal, but being that I've been in the business for 35 years, maybe I should pull the codes and see for myself."

His reply: "I'm not paying extra for that."

"Fine," I say. I don't charge for scanning a computer but most shops do, at least $40, some $75. I go to the phone and call my parts guy and ask him what an oxygen sensor costs for the car. $110 each. I tell him to hold on and turn to the customer. "It's $110 for the part and $85 to install. You'll need 2 of 'em."

"So much? Why two?"

"Because the car has 2 of them and you don't want me to scan the computer. How do I know which one is bad?"

He looks at me and gets it that he's wasting my time. I tell the parts guy I'll call him back.

"How much to scan it?" He asks me.

"Nothing," and I plug the scanner in. Gives me back a 'system lean' code. "It's not either of the oxygen sensors," I tell him. I pop the hood, take out a can of brake kleen (alcohol based), and start the engine.

"How do you know? What are you doing?" He gets worried when I start spraying the shit all over the engine. Let's just say that, using this method, if a car has bad spark plug wires, you'll know it quick enough.

"I'm saving you $400," I say as the engine rpm goes up. I spray again and get the light to get a better look at what I'm spraying. As I thought, he had a shitty vacuum hose. I cut a piece from the roll, replace it, clear the code and tell him to drive the car for 2 hours and come back. He comes back, no 'check engine' light on, and he gets his inspection sticker. Cost: $10 for the hose, $37 for the inspection. I probably have a regular customer now.

Look, I realize a lot of people think mechanics are crooks. There are a lot of 'em out there, a lot of guys who don't know what they're doing, and there are a lot of guys who'll sell you what you insist on, even though you don't need it. I realize auto repairs are expensive and you don't want to spend more than you have to.

That said, walking into a shop and telling the mechanic what your buddy says is wrong with the car is not gonna get you on the mechanic's good side. You see, the good ones, like me, have as much schooling as a masters degree candidate and equating what your idiot friend knows with my expertise is downright insulting. Assuming I'm gonna rip you off, and making it known, is too. And, regardless of what your friend knows, if I wanted to rip you off, you wouldn't know it.

By all means, ask questions. Any mechanic worth a damn will answer any questions you want until you have a full understanding of what is wrong, what you'll need to fix it, and how much it will cost. There should be no surprises when you come to pick up your car. If you can say that about your mechanic, stick with him and don't break his balls. There's enough legitimate work out there to pay the bills without my having to rip anyone off.

04 April 2007

Old sleds ain't just fer lookin' at...

Modern trials bikes weigh about forty pounds, you can't sit down on them, and they can turn around in a phone booth. See this if you don't believe me. Ride one of these old bikes into a phone booth, it's good-bye phone booth! This is fun to watch and also to listen to.

It's good to see some Early Iron gettin' all dirty and being used as originally intended instead of housed in a collection where all the owner worries about is concours points and value appreciation. Ridin' 'em's a lot more fun.

Mixed footage over two sections of the Manx classic weekend trial in 2006. Various old motorcycles (and riders, with some younger ones too), from 1940s bikes through to the 70s taking on the elements.

Thanks to The Manxman. Keep 'em comin'!

02 April 2007

You are what you drive...

Good article in Newsweek:

From their Beetles to their boxy SUVs, Americans who grew up in the '60s and '70s defined themselves by what they drove.

Long article. Go read. Take the 30-question quiz, too. I got 63%, which was in the largest percentile.

01 April 2007

More Station Wagons

Sometimes, Fixer inspires my ass with a very few words. See previous post.

The coolest station wagon ever built:

I picked a customized '57 to show, but all the Tri-Chevy Nomads were, like, way bitchin' dude! Many more at Chevy Nomad Association.

The coolest station wagon never built:

The '54/'56 Corvette Nomad. More at (Where else? Yeesh!) Barrett-Jackson and Corvette World.

And of course, the one they shoulda built but din't.:

The 2004 Chevy Nomad Concept Wagon. This appears to be from the same page that Mustang Bobby got the Edsel Bermuda.

I think they woulda sold like hotcakes if they'da put a honkin' little V6 in it, but they went with the retro HHR instead. The HHR's OK for an underpowered little sneezer on an existing econobox platform, but I think perhaps old panel truck styling might not have the same cachet as early 'Vettes do. I think they erred slightly by trying to counter the popularity of the PT Cruiser, which got there fustest with the mostest, so to speak. It's getting easier to understand why Toyota is breathin' down their neck.

Let the engineers build 'em, not the bean counters!

Station wagons?

I'm not a big fan of station wagons, though I know a couple guys who built some cool hotrods out of 'em. Mustang Bobby on the other hand ... I agree with him when he says the new 'crossovers' suck.