I heard it said that in California all you need for happiness is a good doctor and a good divorce lawyer. I would like to add that you also need a good auto repair mechanic. Once the magic of the warrantee wears off, this person will become one of your most intimate confidants. As in all crucial relationships you must learn to choose wisely. Although some people have more than one mechanic at the same time (poly-mechanicogamy) most of us practice the serial version. The rest of this work is devoted to cataloging and describing these important men in my life. I have altered some of the identifying information as to avoid large lawsuits and perhaps a tire tool across the back of my head.
I was young, it was spring and it was my first car when I met Henry– my first mechanic. Henry worked for my step-father who ran a small auto and lawnmower repair shop. Henry was a short, phlegmatic alcoholic, shaped sort of like a compact bowling pin. Always dressed in oily coveralls, he wore one of those train engineer striped hats. Taking to him was usually an exercise in futility, but when sober he had a knack for instinctively identify the source of auto problems. Returning from senior skip day I managed to tear the oil pan off my Corvair by backing over an old concrete gasoline pump island. Henry became my hero when he savaged a replacement part in the local junkyard. A short time later, however, my step-father fired Henry for almost burning down the garage trying to barbecue a wild pig with a blowtorch.
When I graduated from college the first thing I did was impulsively buy a brand new MG Midget. I was thrilled with my “sports car”, although my mother said it look like a god damn roller skate and feared for my life. I soon learned that the MG had a clutch the size of an aspirin and was constantly in need of repair. That’s when I met Harold, my English mechanic, down at British American Auto Repair. Harold had this cool Ronald Coleman accent and event the most mundane oil change sounded like something from a Regency novel. “It was a far far better filter that I replaced than I had ever replaced before.”
I liked impressing other people saying I had to call Harold, my English mechanic, but unfortunately I found my self saying this constantly. Soon Harold had acquired all my shillings and I had to dump both him and the MG.
After this continental fling I settled down into a more mature relationship with Chuck from Chuck’s AMACO. From the very beginning Chuck acted like we best friends. By that time I was married with two kids and the MG had been traded in for a used Chevette Hatchback. This car always had a strange haunting odor that lead the kids to call it the “cheese car”. Chuck faithfully tended the “cheese car” for several years until the fateful day it threw an oil plug and cooked the engine. Chuck towed it in and emotionally incapable of separating from the Chevette, he ended up buying it from me. I think he dropped new engine in and managed to find a buyer without a sense of smell.
We eventually moved and there was a period of time when car repair became just a series of one-night-stands involving muffler shops and quicky lubrication places. We managed to upgrade our automobiles and a quiet period of mechanic celibacy followed until disaster struck and threw me into the arms of Eddie from Quadruple-A Transmission Universe. Eddie recommended a complete transmission replacement and we were committed. For the next two years our car called Quadruple-A its second home. Due to some inscrutable torque converter problem, Eddie and the guys at Quadruple-A replaced the transmission at least three times. They even had to pay for a replacement Transmission when it broke down on our vacation inTennesseejust outsideNashvillenear the machinegun factory. After that Eddie grew standoffish and I think he wanted to break up. While in the mist of this looming relationship crisis, I was sitting at the lunch table at work and someone said, “Hey look at this article about these crooks at Quadruple-A Transmission Universe.” To my horror there was a photo of Eddie on the front page being arrested by investigators from the attorney general’s office for auto repair fraud. Eddy unsuccessfully tried to disguise himself by putting his hands in front of his face, but the transmission fluid stained fingers, dark slick hair, and the enormous name tag reading “Eddie” on his work shirt pretty much gave him away. Eddie was never heard from again.
Quadruple-A closed its bright yellow doors and a few months later they painted the building blue and opened a taco stand which I always figured was just a front for another transmission repair shop. I always got a sinking feeling wherever I drove by there, sort of like my transmission was slipping.