Tuesday, May 16, 2006

more tuition in the School of Hard Knocks...

I've been driving my 20-year-old son, Chris, to and from his job every day for a little over a week now, because his car has been in the shop for repairs. Chris has to be at work by 8:00, so this means that I have to be at his apartment by 7:20, and then in the afternoon I have the pleasure of driving down to pick him up and drive him home in rush hour traffic. I’m not an early riser by choice, and yet I’ve enjoyed the unexpected pleasure of having some regular one-on-one time with Chris. Also, I’ve been bringing him breakfast most mornings. He’s tall (6'4") and painfully thin (about 150 pounds), so it gives me great pleasure to provide some simple breakfast and see it accepted so eagerly. He reminds me a little of a young bird still in the nest, as he scarfs down whatever I give him.

I went with him to drop off his car a week ago last Saturday at a garage in Rowlett, a zillion miles from where we live. "Why such a far away garage?" I asked. Chris has a Mazda. He explained to me that his buddy, Kevin, "knows all about cars, and especially Mazdas," and Kevin recommended the obscure garage. A word about the garage: I’m not going to reveal the name, because I don’t want to get sued for libel, but as I looked around the place, a quote from Nelson Algren (who was no stranger to trouble) leapt to my mind. The Algren quote was this: "Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom’s. Never sleep with anyone whose troubles are worse than your own." Uh-huh. I stood in that garage, thinking that both Chris and Kevin needed to read some Algren.
Chris asked the mechanic to call him with the estimate before they started to work on the repairs, and the mechanic agreed to do so. The mechanic told him he could expect to have his car back by last Wednesday. Ha!

Never play cards with a man called Doc. Chris hadn’t even received a call giving him an estimate by last Wednesday, and although he called the garage repeatedly himself, he could only get through to an answering machine. Thursday afternoon, however, his persistence paid off. After getting the answering machine a number of times, Chris actually got through to one of the mechanics, who said that the estimate still wasn’t available because the garage owner was out, "test driving" the car. On Friday, Chris spoke with the owner of the garage. The guy placated Chris by promising to have the parts "Fed-Exed overnight and I'll pay the shipping, so your car will be ready by Monday afternoon for sure."

Uh-huh, and the check is in the mail, etc. Today, when I drove Chris to work, I asked him to call the garage and make sure the car was ready before we drove a zillion miles after work, to pick it up. Chris called me at 4:00 and said, "Mom, you’re not going to believe this: the phone at the garage has been disconnected!"

But I did believe it (Never eat at a place called Mom’s). Many thoughts went through my head, not least of which was that if the garage owner is so far behind on his bills that his phone service gets disconnected, I don’t want him working on Chris’ car, because I worry whether he would actually replace the parts that needed to be replaced (struts, brake pads, etc.). One of Chris' co-workers teased Chris that the car was probably in pieces in a chop shop as they spoke.

I picked up Chris after work and we drove out to get his car. We arrived at the garage at a little after 6:00, which is pretty amazing, considering that I’d picked Chris up just south of the city at 5:00. At the garage, we discovered that although they’ve had Chris’ car for 10 days, no one had even begun to work on it yet. The garage owner hemmed and hawed, and studied the floor and refused to meet our eyes. He said the phone was turned off because his bookeeper hadn’t paid the bill "because he’s been too busy." Uh-huh. He said that the requisite parts hadn't come in, and as soon as he said that, his two mechanics, who'd been hovering, hurried away, as if to distance themselves from him. Chris said he thought he'd arranged for them to be shipped Fed Ex, overnight. "I did!", he said, "and I paid $42.00 to do it, and they were supposed to arrive Friday, but they didn't, and then they were supposed to come today, but they didn't, and I have no idea where they are!" I said, "Well, if you paid Fed Ex for overnight shipping, it should be easy to figure out exactly where they are, because there'll be a tracking number."

He wouldn't meet my eyes. He ignored my comment about a tracking number, and simply repeated that he had no idea when the parts would come in.

Chris took his car (Never sleep with anyone whose troubles are worse than your own), and I followed him back to Dallas. Sometime this week, we'll start all over again, at a different garage...preferably one that’s closer to home, and not recommended by Kevin.

In the meantime, I’ll be driving him to and from work the rest of this week. And for tomorrow morning, I have a bottle of orange juice and a blueberry muffin on a shelf in my refrigerator, all ready to go.


Tammy said...

I know this was not funny, but the way you write a story always makes me laugh. I love those sayings. lol Chris is very lucky to have you :)


dreaminglily said...

What a wonderful mom.

And yep, before you even went into everything a little red flag went up in my mind. Guess I've had enough experience with "iffy" people like that to know it lol I'll thank my parents for making enough mistakes that I don't have to. Oh well, it's a lesson he needed to learn and hopefully has now. Just thankful it wasn't a chop shop.

Like Tammy said, such a lucky kid to have you for a mom. ;o)

emmapeelDallas said...


I'm glad you got a chuckle out of it, because I fervently believe that humor is essential to getting through stuff like this. And Lily, I'm not surprised that you have a good dose of common sense about stuff like this, and I eagerly await the day that Chris develops that same common sense (oh, PLEASE let it happen soon!).


Paul said...

This was an entertaining story, but as I read it I became more and more conscious of how engagingly it was written. I shal stalk on.

Lisa :-] said...

Yikes! It IS lucky that he still had a car to reclaim and take to another mechanic. You gotta wonder what this guy and his "staff" actually do all day...

Melissa said...

Oh, Judi, when will our children learn to listen to their mothers? My mother used to have the "knowing" and I think it gets passed down in every family generation by generation. I remember once when the girls were going to a football game, I strongly suggested that they take a blanket with them. They, thinking this would be very uncool didn't want to take the blanket. They were mad at me for making the suggestion and this is the reason my daughter gave me. "Mom, why did you have to go and say that??? It would not have been cold enough to need a blanket before, but now that you said that, it will be cold just to prove that you're right AGAIN!" I just smiled my "Mother knows best" smile and found them a blanket.

Is the car fixed now?

Deborah said...

You are a rocking mom, not only for the driving and the breakfast...but because it appears you didn't berate your son for being duped by Kevin.

TJ said...

unbelievable!! Panic would have struck me into the greatest of rude to the bone customer which we all know does no good.
Time ya pack a lunch and hang out at the shop. hell wear bibs and offer to help...maybe they will get it fixed under pressure. eweee hate that!
I once parked my brand new van with Lemon right in front of the show room at the dealler ship locked! Funny how they took the time to deal with my complaint...in time they bought it back as it never could be fixed but man did that dealership owner fight it every step of the way.

Chris said...

Jeez, what a joke of a business. You were totally right on your intuition. At least this is a good life lesson for Chris. You seem to be a great mother because you coach him but don't tell him what to do.

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