I shared the beginning of my story of van problems yesterday. Today I’ll tell you the rest of the story.
It was four o’clock when we finally arrived at the shop. When I’d originally talked to the owner of the shop, he said he’d start the job that day and finish it the next, which seemed reasonable to me. Of course, that had been at 11am. Now it was 4pm. I figured he wouldn’t get started until the next day.
That was Monday. On Tuesday, I waited all day for a call. At 4:15 that afternnon, I called the shop and asked about the status of my van. The guy who answered the phone said he didn’t know anything about my van, but would find out. He took my phone number and said he would call back. He never did.
At 4:35, The Man and I decided to go to the garage to check on the van. The Man was opposed, but I was determined. The Man thinks mechanics get tired of people calling to find out if their vehicles are ready. He thinks mechanics get pissed when they’re bothered. I believe I’m in a business transaction with the mechanic who owes me basic communication about the status of my vehicle. He should have told me my place in the repair lineup when I dropped off the van. If the repair (which he originally said would take about four hours) was going to take more than one business day, someone should have called and let me know. And if the shop policy is that no information about the status of a vehicle is given over the phone, the fellow who took my call should have explained that to me. It’s not right for someone to say they’re going to call back but never do so!
I walked up to the counter of the parts store adjacent to the repair shop moments before closing time. When I asked about my van, no one behind the counter knew anything. The boss was in the office, one of the guys told me. He was busy, but I could wait.
I waited. I waited some more. I waited silently and looked at mysterious auto parts while I waited. I saw mechanics punch out and go home for the day.
Finally, the boss came out of the office. He looked at me and said, Ma’am, your truck is not ready.
Might it be ready tomorrow? I asked
I’ll call you when it’s ready, he told me.
I thanked him and left without another word.
That was Tuesday.
On Wednesday I waited. I waited and waited and waited. The Man was sure the van wold be ready by noon or 1:30 at the latest. I waited and waited and waited. There was no phone call from the repair shop.
On Thursday I asked The Man how late I should wait to call the repair shop and ask them if I should cancel my (only partially imaginary) appointment that afternoon in the city. The Man was adament I should not call and ask about the progress of the van. The man said he’d call you when it’s ready, he reminded me. You probably already pissed him off when you went in on Tuesday. I maintained the mechanic should communicate with me so I could make plans and organize my life. The Man and I agreed we should not discuss the situation any further.
The Man said the Universe was trying to teach me patience and acceptance. Maybe so, but I have to say, I’m a pretty lousy student.
By 1:30, on Thursday afternoon, I’d heard nothing from the mechanic, and even The Man thought the whole situation had gotten ridiculous. They’d had my van a really long time to do what I’d been told was a four hour job.
At 3:55, I couldn’t wait any longer. I’m calling them, I told The Man grimly. I’ll just say I need to know if I should cancel my plans for the weekend.
I called the shop. I told the guy who answered the phone the make and model of my van and said I wanted to check on it.
Oh yeah, he said. Your van is ready. He didn’t say they had finished the repair two minutes ago and were just about to call me. He didn’t apologize for the delay. He didn’t explain anything, but by then all I really cared about was picking up the van and hitting the road.
I didn’t talk to a mechanic when I picked up the van. I paid the young woman working in the parts store adjacent to the garage. On my receipt was a list of the parts used and their prices, but no indication that the back brakes had been adjusted as I requested when I’d dropped off the van. At The Man’s insistance, I went back in and asked the young guy working in the parts store if the brakes had actually been adjusted, and he assured me they had. He said he’d actually seen a mechanic doing the adjusting.
I got my things out of The Man’s vehicle and threw everything into my van. I was ready to go!
About 10 miles into my drive, The Man called me and suggested I stop the van and check for smoke or a burning smell coming from the brakes. I pulled over and hopped out of the van. I went to the rear tire on the drivers side. I saw no smoke. Sniff! Sniff! I didn’t smell anything weird. The drivers side seemed good.
I walked over to the passenger side. There was no smoke. Good. Sniff! Sniff! I smelled something artificial, plastic and hot, but it wasn’t overwhelming, so I decided to keep going. What else could I do? I was in the middle of nowhere out in the desert.
As I drove towards the small outpost of civilization that was the next town, I was paranoid (some would say hyper vigilant) about smells. Did I smell something? Was the smell coming from me or from another car on the road? How much smell from the brakes was too much smell from the brakes? The brakes seemed to be working fine, so I kept going.
When I got to the town, I pulled in at the truck stop to sniff at the tires again, then use the restroom. I went directly to the tire on the passenger side, and it definitely smelled hot and artificial. I’d never sniffed my tires before. Maybe that’s the way they always smelled?
I called The Man to confer, and as I came around the front of the van, I saw a dreaded puddle on the concrete just under my bumper. Had that come from my van, or had it been left behind by the previous occupant of the parking space? I crouched down to examine the moisture. It was very wet and seemingly fresh. Also, parts of the van’s undercarriage appeared wet too. As I watched, a few drops dripped from my van onto the ground.
I didn’t even cry. I was beyond crying. The whole mess kept going on and on and on, and it looked like I’d never go on the road trip.
After conferring with The Man and The Lady of the House, I formulated a plan. I’d sleep in my van where it was parked at the truck stop. First thing in the morning, I’d find a mechanic in the town to check everything out.
The next day, after a couple of false states, I found a shop where I could get the van checked.
The boss was probably in his 60s, pudgy with thin white hair. He had watery, red-rimmed blue eyes and a bulbous nose marked by tiny red blood vessels just below the skin. He told me where to park the van and said someone would look at it in about 45 minutes when the current job was complete.
The fellow who came out to look at the van was youmger, probably early 30s. He had a reddish brown beard and a face full of faded freckles. His unfortunate tangle of teeth seemed to make talking difficult. He slid under my van, and when I went over to give him some information, I saw he had the stub of a lit cigarette clutched between his lips. Is that a good idea? I wondered.
The mechanic found no leak, even after the van ran long enough to get the engine up to running temperature. The brake was fine too. He thought I was smelling the factory coating on the brake pads burning off. He posited the liquid on the ground had drained from the old water pump when it was removed. Ok. If he said everything was ok, I was willing to go with it.
What do I owe you? I asked the mechanic.
Ask the old man, he said, gesturing to the office where the boss had gone.
I went inside and told the boss his guy hand’t found any problems.
What do I owe you? I asked him.
Nothing, he said. We didn’t do anything.
Oh thank you! I gushed.
Finally, I could start my road trip.