I woke up this past Wednesday with great energy. My feet hit the floor around 4 a.m. I sauntered down to the kitchen to make the morning coffee and settle into my computer for a couple of hours of uninterrupted writing. My computer screen was the only light which illuminated the room.
Sipping on my second cup, I was just putting some finishing touches on a piece I was writing when my wife Mary Ann came down the steps of our home and while walking past me snuggled up with my computer, mentioned, “Oh, don’t forget to check out my front left tire…it’s low on air.”
After returning from Virginia the previous week from visiting my son and his family, I remembered we had stopped on more than one occasion on that trip to put air into that tire. I began a search online to see what tire stores were open early. I found one…a national brand company; (which I will not name) and saw that they opened at 7 a.m. “Perfect” I thought to myself…I’ll swoop in, be the first one there, and get it fixed! Knowing I would be in and out in no time, I was out the door.
Driving into their parking lot, I saw the “Open” sign lit up, and four guys sipping on coffee behind the counter. Explaining the trouble to the guy behind the counter, he began typing…and typing…and……………typing into his computer. For the life of me, I don’t know if he was finishing a letter to his mother, or if he had an inordinately long password, but after what I surmised to be about chapter four, I asked, “Did I catch you at a bad time?’ “Should I speak with one of the other gentlemen?” trying to be a reasonable person. He looked at me and scowled.
As a child of the 70’s I was fully aware that you don’t tug on Superman’s cape, spit into the wind, or pull the mask off that Old Lone Ranger…but when I looked at the name tag of the employee, I realized I HAD MESSED AROUND WITH JIM! On his forearm was a tattoo of a snake crawling through the eye socket of a skull…oddly enough it kind of looked like MY skull. Hell had arrived 15 minutes before I had pulled into that tire dealership…and his name was JIM!
A slight smile appeared on Jim’s face…he looked me up and down, perhaps wondering how much of a mess I would make on his clean floor when he clubbed me to death with a tire iron. I’m pretty sure the veins sticking out from his neck formed a road map to Sturgis. Finally, it spoke; “My company requires me to type exactly the description of your problem into my computer.” To my recollection, up to that point I believe I had said, “Good Morning, my car has a low tire…could you help me?”
Summoning my courage and seeking to show him I was not easily intimidated, I replied,
“Great! I believe it is a bad valve stem…I’ve looked it over pretty well and see no nails or damage.” Jim reached under the counter and it occurred to me, that if it was a tire iron he was reaching for; my flight skills not being what they used to be, would not be enough to save me. He produced a form and began writing, he said nothing. Occasionally he would look at me, then look back down at his form.
After what seemed like 10 more minutes of silence, Jim put out his left hand, palm up and said, “KEYS!” I obediently handed them to him, and he then said, “SIT!” pointing to a chair surrounded by Marie Claire magazines. I sat and picked up the latest issue to see what Oprah had to say about bean sprouts.
I had arrived at the tire dealership around 7:01. I would peek through the window in the customer waiting area from time to time, just to see how they were doing with my car. Jim had reappeared and began typing once again into his computer. At exactly 8:05 a.m. Jim looked at me with a look that said, “Don’t make me come over there!!!” Walking up the counter, Jim said, “$9.65”
asked, “What was the problem?” Jim made a low guttural sound, like an
ape ready to rip a limb from an annoying monkey. His left eyebrow raised
and his head slowly, in a Simian like way, raised from the paper and
looked at me. He said NOTHING…A thought raced through my mind at that
moment…”Don’t look him in the eye!!! I reached for my debit card and
swiped it fast. Handing me the receipt, he pointed at the window, where
my car had appeared. Thanking God I had survived, relief swept over my
face and I’m sure I muttered a perfunctory
“thank you!” and got into the vehicle and drove away.
Living only 3 minutes from the dealership, and sitting at a stop light, I looked at my receipt which had printed the time I had arrived and left and the very detailed line Jim had spent so much time typing…”Front left tire low 24 psi”. I glanced up at the dashboard to make sure the low tire indicator had turned off and there…I saw to my horror, “Front left tire low 24 psi.” The light had NOT gone off. “Maybe it had to have time to turn off” I thought to myself. I drove around the block now realizing that this so called “ten minute fix” was going to make me late for work. As I was just pulling up to my driveway, I called the dealer I had just left from my cell phone.
Jim answered and put me on
hold for 5 minutes…without giving me a chance to say anything. Now I was
getting really angry and for good cause. Allow me to explain, that I am
married to the sweetest, most understanding, and beautiful woman on the
face of our planet. Birds bring her flowers in their beaks, much like
Cinderella, and the clouds part when she walks under them.
BUT… Jim’s angriest day was mere milk and water compared to getting a butt whooping from my wife for not getting that tire fixed! This man knows which side his bread is buttered on! New boldness filled me at this point and nothing could deter my purpose!
Jim finally gets back on the line, and I say, “JIM, this is the guy you just spent an hour fixing my front left tire for…and my tire is still low!” This time, Jim’s guttural belches meant nothing to me…I am now a motivated man…nothing is going to get in the way of getting an “Attaboy” from Cinderella! I advise him I am driving back to the dealership to get this fixed and RIGHT NOW!
Turning my car back to the dealership, I whip into a parking place and begin to walk into the waiting area…the showroom still bereft of customers. Jim had blood in his eyes…he stared at me as if to say, “I got a razor in my shoe and I pity da fool that messes with me!” He walked out into the parking lot before I could walk in the door and I handed him the keys and spoke the obvious truth…with confidence…
”You fixed the WRONG tire JIMBO!” Fire flashes from his eyes,
“I’ve been doin this for 10 years…and I NEVER fix the wrong tire!” shouted Jim screwing together his custom pool cue in order to crack me in the head with it.
“UNTIL TODAY JIMBO!” I shouted…”UNTIL TODAY!”
We stood, staring at each other in the parking lot. A tumbleweed blew past us in the street, the sun hid behind a dark cloud and dealership employees hid behind stacks of Michelins and Sumitomos to see the showdown. Somewhere in the distance a dog barked…
Today…my name was Willie McCoy…a pool shootin boy and I had come to get my money BACK!
Jim looked at me at one end of the parking lot…beads of sweat run down his face…I stood like Clint Eastwood on the other end, chewing my little tiparillo. He looked at the car, then me, then the car, then me…I pointed to the tire and said, “THAT is the front left. He mocked me, “I know my right from my left!” He called his tire guy and asks, “Is THIS the tire you fixed?” Nervously, the young man figeted and said, “No, it was the other one!” Jim stood dazed…and like a bullet shot through the heart, the big man hit the floor and the only place that wasn’t bleeding were the soles of the big man’s feet!!!
My car was pulled back in to the garage where they fixed it. I turned out of the parking lot and in my rear view mirror I saw Jim; a broken man…and all I could think to myself was…” No butt whoopin’ from the wife today…no sirey Bob….!”