Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Astro

It's been running rough! To be honest I can't tell you what is wrong with it. It shakes and shivers when I brake. I can smell gasoline every time I step out of the vehicle. There are small but growing spots appearing on the concrete under where my van rests over night. It's time to take it in. Not too long from now I will need to jam my family into it and head up north to Red Deer to visit my in-laws. Now I'm not clueless about vehicles but you could hardly translate my knowledge into any sort of real advantage when it comes to repair. There's too much that can go wrong and I certainly do not want to make my situation worse.

So I gotta take my beater into the garage – it has to be done. Now I have worked really hard to develop a relationship with a garage that I feel that I can trust. But I can't help thinking that I am sorta getting screwed – every time I leave. And the bills are never small. I should say that I know enough that if my mechanic were to suggest that my bumper needed replacing I could tell he was shafting me. But even if it is not something as obvious as that I have to admit that I am pretty suspicious every time I get the bill. That's partially due to my ignorance – but it's mostly due to my position – especially that of a customer. By bringing my vehicle in I am already giving over authority to my mechanic to tell me what is wrong. Sure I can tell him what the symptoms are but the basic reason I am bringing my van in is because I am unable (whether due to time or expertise or ability) to fix the vehicle myself. So he holds the conch. "You need a new gympson saddle on your left value deliberator!" he says. "Alright," I say, caring less at this point about whether I can figure out what his terms mean than what it is going to cost me. You know what is weird – the more the bill is the more I wonder about my mechanic integrity. And he's the good mechanic – don't even get me started on Canadian Tire! One time I even had a tow truck drag my van in - really reaching for the pity response. Stupid thing was that was the highest bill I ever paid on the van and you know what it never has run the same since. I'm the customer.

Then something totally weird happened to me. This guy flagged me down on the highway between Lethbridge and Coaldale. He came up to me – total stranger – and said he had been following me since the lights. He said he had noticed my van shaking as I pulled up to the light and said he could tell the engine was running rough. He asked me if I was looking for some help. I jumped out of the van not sure what to make of this guy but his diagnosis seemed trustworthy (not because it was any different than that of my mechanic but precisely because it came unsolicited). After some conversation and some rooting around under the hood he asked me if he could adjust the carburetor on the van. Then he said, "Listen here's my number – call me and let me know if that gas smell is still showing. And if you want we can talk about some time when I could come over and we could look at the vehicle in depth." While I was trying to wipe off the grease stain on his business card so I could put it in my wallet, he disappeared back into his truck. When I got home – the smell was still there but the van was running more smoothly – it did not want to stall mid-idle. I think I might give this guy a call…

Wouldn't it be nice if this is how the story goes? See what I mean.