A Place for me to Post my Thoughts and Other Things
- TFDUCD 24-B: The Aerial Maneuverby aroundincircles
The Aerial Maneuver
“C’mon, f*ckface, let’s go for a test drive.”
Felonious Monk and I had been going back-and-forth for more than a week about one particular silver VR6 Jetta in the inventory at Dishonest Used Car Dealership that had a clunk in its front suspension. He’d fix it, I’d test drive it, and the clunk would be back. Every time you went over a big enough bump you’d get an ugly clunk. These kinds of problems are notoriously hard to fix, since suspension systems on modern cars are complex and it’s impossible to simulate the kind of forces a suspension system sees when the car is on the lift. Usually what winds up happening is you just throw parts at the problem until the problem goes away, which is exactly what we were doing.
My technician hopped in the driver’s seat and I in the passenger’s, and we drove off on our test drive. Felonious Monk was a simply horrific driver. Lane markings and red lights were apparently only suggestions. We went a couple of miles around town in the car, him listening for the clunking noise, and me holding on for dear life.
FM: “Well? You satisfied? I don’t hear sh!t.”
Me: “I’m not convinced. Pull into that parking lot and hit some speed bumps.”
Clearly irritated with me, he did as directed, hitting a few speed bumps in rapid succession at about six million miles-per-hour. On the last bump, I heard it.
Me: “There! There it was. That little clunk when the suspension came down.”
FM: “What clunk? You’re making sh!t up.”
Me: “I swear. I’m still hearing it, man.”
FM: “Fine. Whatever. I still don’t hear it.”
Felonious Monk whipped the car around and screeched out of the parking lot. Instead of turning left back to the shop, he turned right.
Me: “Where are we going?”
FM: “There’s a little hill over here that has a bump on it. I want to see if I can hear it.”
A minute later, we arrived at said little hill. Except it was not little, not even remotely. The road dropped a good 250 feet in about a quarter mile and the “bump” Felonious Monk advertised turned out to be a set of railroad tracks. Something stupid was about to happen.
Me: “Don’t you f*cking dare.”
Felonious Monk grinned and stomped the accelerator to the floor. The six-cylinder under the hood roared and launched us forward. We careened down the hill toward the railroad tracks. I didn’t have the courage to look over at the speedometer, but we were moving. At the railroad crossing, the road flattened out for perhaps 25 feet. In the span of less than a second, the suspension came down, sprung back up, and as we left the flat section onto the remainder of the hill, the suspension crashed back down again with a bang. Felonious Monk slowed our descent and turned us off onto a side street. He grinned at me.
FM: “There, I heard it that time.”
Me: “You’re an asshole. That’s the car hitting its bumpstops.”
FM: “I know. Hey, guess what?”
FM: “I heard it in the parking lot too.”
He danced around in his seat a bit, clearly pleased at his victory.
Me: “Seriously f*ck you.”
He turned us around, and we went back to the shop for another round of trying to figure out what was clunking around in the suspension.
”Hey, y’all know anythin’ about that there black Jetta that came in on a flatbed this morning?”
Colossal Redneck was in my office one Monday morning, inquiring about a car that had just mysteriously appeared on the back of a tow truck. This happens more often than you’d imagine: you’ll just come in in the morning and there’s a car sitting in your lot with absolutely no information about who owns it or what they want done with it.
Me: “I poked my head under it. It’s missing its belly pan, and the oil pan looks like it’s got a gnarly crack in it. Other than that, all I know is that it’s an ’04 with a VR6. I punched up the VIN, and it’s one we sold a while back, but the number listed just goes straight to voicemail.”
Without a repair order there was nothing much we could do except let it sit in the lot dripping oil until the owner checked in with us.
Thursday morning. The phone rings.
Me: “Service, this is 36055512.”
On the other end of the line was the single fastest-talking human being ever made.
Me: “Whoa. Is this the black ’04 Jetta with the cracked oil pan?”
Thankfully, Mr. Ambulancechaser Esquire slowed his roll a bit so I could actually figure out what the f*ck he was talking about.
The Lawyer: “Yes, that is my client’s vehicle.”
Me: “Oh good, I’m glad someone called. It came in with no paperwork or instructions, so we weren’t sure what you would like done with it.”
The Lawyer: “Yes, my client is wondering when you will be replacing the engine in it.”
Me: “Uh… is that what your client wants done? I can build a quote for you and send it your way.”
The Lawyer: “Why is a quote necessary?”
Me: “So your client knows how much this is going to cost him or her?”
The lawyer laughed condescendingly.
The Lawyer: “No, you’re failing to understand, this will cost my client nothing.”
Me: “Oooookay. Why don’t we back up a bit and you tell me what’s going on.”
The lawyer went back into turbo-mode.
The Lawyer: “OnoraboutthedateofSaturdaythe21st,myclientwasdrivinginthe2004VolkswagenJetta,henceforthknownas”thevehicle”soldtohimbyanagentofDishonestUsedCarDealershipwhen,inhiswords,the”enginefelloutofthevehicleandoilwenteverywhere.”MyclientthenhadthevehicletowedtoyourlocationsothatyourcompanymayaffordrepairstothevehicleinaccordancetothewarrantyagreementsignedbymyclientandtheagentofDishonestUsedCarDealership…”
He continued on for some time.
Me: “Okay, so let me make sure I understand this correctly. Your client is claiming that the engine “fell out of the car,” which cracked the oil pan, and he wants a new engine under warranty, is that correct?”
The Lawyer: “That is correct.”
Me: “Alright, well, the engine “falling out” would be unusual to say the least. We’ll have to investigate and I’ll get back to you with our findings.”
I took down the lawyer’s information and promised him a call later in the day. I hung up and walked over to Colossal Redneck’s office to relay the situation.
Me: “So, that Jetta with the cracked oil pan. You ain’t gonna believe this, but I just got a call from the customer’s attorney.”
CR: “They got the lawyers on us already, huh?”
Me: “Yep. They’re claiming we somehow caused the “engine to fall out.””
CR: “Uh… huh? That’s… that ain’t really a thing that happens.”
Me: “Customer wants a new engine on our dime.”
CR: “Uh, that ain’t really a thing that’s gonna happen.”
Me: “Agreed. I told ‘em we’d look it over and be in touch.”
We went outside and popped the hood. Aside from the missing belly pan and cracked oil pan, everything appeared to be in order. All the motor mounts were holding fast, and the engine hadn’t migrated anywhere it wasn’t supposed to. The oil pan had huge scrape marks along its length, which combined with the conspicuously-missing belly pan led us to only one conclusion.
Me: “I’ve got a verdict.”
CR: “Customer dun bottomed his car out and wants us ‘ta pay for it?”
We went back inside and Colossal Redneck called the customer’s attorney. I couldn’t hear the other end of the line, but from what I gathered, the lawyer was having none of it. Colossal Redneck hung up and shook his head.
CR: “Sounds like he’s gonna come and make an appearance. I guess they wanna dispute this in person or somethin’.”
Later that afternoon, a black Passat pulled into the driveway and a man piled out. Even from all the way across the parking lot, I could tell this guy was some kind of intergalactic space douchebag. His polyester suit reeked of cheap and his person reeked of cheap cologne.
Me: “Hi, I’m 36055512.”
I held out my hand. He looked at it and refused to shake it.
The Lawyer: ”I believe you have my client’s car.”
I led him over to where we had the Jetta stashed. Colossal Redneck already had the hood open.
CR: “Howdy, sir. Name’s Colossal Redneck. We spoke on the phone.”
He held his hand out. The lawyer stared at him.
CR: “Y’all got a name I can address ya’ by?”
The Lawyer: “Sir is fine.”
CR: “Uh… okay, sir. We’ve had a look over yer Jetta, and there’s nothin’ wrong with how the engine is sittin’ in the engine bay. It sure didn’t “fall out,” anyway. It looks like yer client might’a hit a hard bump or somethin’ and cracked the oil pan.”
The Lawyer: “I doubt that very much.”
Me: “I’m not sure what to tell you. The engine is sitting firmly where it’s supposed to.”
The Lawyer: “Yes, and there’s a simple reason for that. As soon as your culpability in this was shown to you, you went and put the engine back where it’s supposed to be.”
Me: “One, no, and two, if you look under the car, the VR6 pan hangs down quite a bit. It’s also missing its belly pan, which indicates to me that something, most likely the road surface, contacted the underside of the car.”
The lawyer looked at me and rolled his eyes. He reached over and slammed the hood closed.
The Lawyer: “Watch this.”
He placed his palms on the hood of the car and pushed it down an inch or two.
The Lawyer: “Do you see that? That’s the car bottoming out, and it was nowhere near hitting the oil pan on the ground.”
Me: “Okay, there are so many assumptions you have wrong here, I don’t even know where to start. That was nowhere near bottoming out. There’s no way a 170 lb guy can exert the same kind of forces that the suspension sees on a hard bump. Also, roads have a crown to them and irregularities in the pavement that our driveway does not. It is entirely possible for the oil pan to have contacted the ground on this car, especially with how low the VR6 oil pan hangs.”
Before I had a chance to debate further with the lawyer, Felonious Monk came up and grabbed my attention.
FM: “Hey dude. I changed out the sway bar bushings in that Jetta to try and get that clunk out of the suspension. Let’s take it for a test drive when you have a minute.”
I turned to Colossal Redneck.
Me: “Hey, I’m leaving this in your hands. Have fun!”
For all the times he had thrown me under the bus or left me big steaming piles of sh!t to clean up, he could handle a difficult customer for once.
Felonious Monk and I got into the clunking Jetta and once again lurched out of the parking lot to try and chase down any remnants of the noise in the suspension. He drove us back over to the parking lot with the speed bumps, and for all the world, it looked like he had done it. The suspension was quiet. We pulled out of the lot, once again to the right instead of left. I protested.
Me: “Not again, you asshole.”
Felonious Monk just cackled. We pulled to the top of the giant hill. Felonious Monk slid the transmission into neutral and revved the engine to redline. He slammed the shifter back into drive, and the car launched down the hill as we were serenaded by howling tires and a screaming six-cylinder.
We came to the flat section where the tracks crossed. In a split second, the suspension crashed down and catapulted back up. The road dropped away. The engine roared, signaling our front tires were no longer in contact with the pavement. The nose came back down and the entire front of the car crashed into the asphalt with a huge bang. A handful of other noises followed as our car shed pieces of itself.
FM: “Oh sh!t! Oh f*ck! Oh sh!t!”
He whipped the wheel to the side and stomped the brakes, ABS jerking us to a stop on the side of the road. I got out and looked over what he had done. 50 yards behind the car was its belly pan, with the entire front bumper not far away. Most conspicuous, however, was a trail of brown liquid forming underneath the car.
Me: “You stupid f*ck. Are you kidding me?”
I pulled out my phone and dialed Colossal Redneck’s cell. He answered.
Me: “So, uh, I have good news and bad news. The good news is we have just found irrefutable evidence that a VR6 oil pan can indeed come into contact with the ground. The bad news is you’ll need to come over here with the tow rig to come get it.”
Felonious Monk’s test flight was at least enough evidence to convince the lawyer to go away for the afternoon, especially since as soon as we got back to the shop, the three of us immediately started yelling at each other and ignoring him. The lawyer left the shop with the threat of his client suing, but the threat turned out to be empty, and for reasons none of us could have expected.
It was the following morning, and Colossal Redneck was shouting at me from his office.
CR: “HEY, HEY, C’MERE AN’ LOOK AT THIS!”
I walked over. On the screen, Colossal Redneck had a photograph. For once, it was a picture of people who actually had clothes on.
CR: “So, ya’ know how Rom and The Amazon always are takin’ pictures a’ people they sell cars ta’? Look what I found!”
Rom and The Amazon had instituted a policy about six months before where every person who bought a car from us had to have their picture taken with their new ride. They were supposedly going to use these pictures for the giant multimedia extravaganza website that our Incompetent Tech Guy had been “working on” for the last six months. On Colossal Redneck’s screen was a photograph of a plainly-dressed man with his very suburban-looking family in front of a black Jetta.
CR: “That’s that there lawyer that came yesterday, ain’t it?”
Me: “So… what the f*ck? The client he was representing was… himself?”
CR: “This is pretty f*ckin’ weird right here.”
I pulled up the customer’s file and copied the name into Google. The first thing that came up was his employee page at the company he worked for.
Me: “Look at this. He’s middle management at a defense contractor.”
Colossal Redneck started howling laughing.
CR: “You mean not only weren’t there a client, he ain’t even a lawyer?”
Me: “I guess? I mean, if he calls again, I guess I can drop that on him.”
Colossal Redneck nodded in agreement.
Me: “I have to say, this is pretty god-damned weird, even for our customers. Like, what the f*ck?”
CR: “Yeah. What the f*ck indeed.”
- TFDUCD 28: The Exodus (Part 3)by aroundincircles
This is it, folks, the last part of the last story from my days at Dishonest Used Car Dealership. It’s been a hell of a ride, and I want to thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my cold, black heart for coming along with me, laughing at my dumb jokes and commiserating about the dark times. When I started posting back in February, I thought it would just be a fun thing to write up a story or two while I was sitting on my tail waiting for a job interview, and never expected anything approaching the kind of response I have received. And here we are, at the beginning of October, 26 stories across 27 posts, more than 64,000 words later. It has been a profound honor to get to share these little snippets of my life with you all. But, rest assured, the DUCD saga may be at an end, but after much cajoling, I’ve decided to drop at least a story or two from the places I worked after. I can’t promise quite as much drama, but we did get up to some nonsense. And thank you all so very much for all the kind words as I have shared these stories with you. I appreciate it more than you know.
I do have one brief bit of business, if you will permit. After many extremely kind requests to put my stories from DUCD into a more permanent form, I am actually getting off my lazy backside and doing something about it. I have gone and edited these stories into something a little more “book-like,” and as soon as I am happy with the manuscript, I will be self-publishing them in paperback and e-Book formats. I’ll have more news about that very soon.
Anyway, I now present the conclusion of the Dishonest Used Car Dealership saga.
In the fray at Dishonest Used Car Dealership surrounding the departure of The Diplomat and the necessity of the owners filling in for our now-missing sales staff, the one critical thing we absolutely required to do business had not gotten paid: our insurance. I can get cars fixed without running water or electricity. God knows I can do it without garbage pickup, since we hadn’t seen a garbage truck in weeks. But insurance we had to have.
We also now had a major cash-flow situation as well. With Lady Applebee’s having cost the company a good $10,000 on her car switcharoo, my former romantic prospect’s medical bills to pay (not to mention replacement shoes to buy), and a once-show-quality Mercedes that we were going to have to buy out-of-pocket, we had a lot of money about to head out the door. We also had no sales staff other than Rom and The Amazon filling in and were short two technicians. Felonious Monk should have been out of police custody already, but he wasn’t. The police wouldn’t tell us much, but the rumor around the shop was that he had failed a drug test while in custody and we would not be seeing him for some time. As with all rumors, it was impossible to know whether it was true or not, especially considering Felonious Monk always seemed pretty skittish when drugs would be found in customers’ cars. At the same time, he was also impulsive and didn’t think very far ahead, so who knows? In any case, we were going to be very far into the red with no real way to make it up any time soon.
That Monday morning, Rom and The Amazon called an emergency all-hands meeting. We piled into the conference room, not really sure what to expect. It certainly wasn’t going to be anything pleasant, that’s for sure. We all sat down and The Amazon broke the silence.
TA: “Good morning everyone. I think we all are well aware of the events that have transpired recently, and so I don’t think we need to rehash the unpleasantness of the last few weeks. But, as you are undoubtedly aware, whether by accident or malice or incompetence, the last few weeks have been extremely costly. However, what most of you are unaware of is that our insurance company has terminated our policy, which means the costs of these incidents will likely have to come out of our budget.”
There was a murmur among the technicians and Miami Vice.
TA: “We are currently in talks with our attorney as to whether something can be done about this situation, but in the meantime, we are going to have to tighten the belt considerably to survive.”
Lord Salisbury spoke up.
LS: “What, precisely, does that entail?”
TA: “I’m glad you asked. Colossal Redneck, Rom, and I have been discussing this situation over the weekend, and we all agree that sacrifices will have to be made in order to keep this ship afloat. Most of these sacrifices will be minimal. To save some electricity, we’re going to unplug the refrigerator in the shop and we’re going to ask that the technicians refrain from using the welders, the tube bender, or anything that runs off the phase converter. We’re also going to take a brief hiatus from restocking things like office supplies – we’ll just have to use what we’ve got until we run out. We’re also going to clear out our used car inventory and not purchase any more cars at auction for a while. So, most of the changes are going to be minimal and shouldn’t significantly affect the course of business.”
LS: “That all sounds very good, except… Except there’s a word in there you keep using that makes me nervous.”
TA: “And what’s that?”
LS: ““Most.” You keep saying most of the sacrifices will be minimal. It’s that “most” that’s bothering me.”
TA: “Yes, well, as I said, we are all going to have to make sacrifices if we want to stay afloat.”
Lord Salisbury was beginning to look irritated. Mr. Sarcastic spoke up in his place.
MS: “Are you going to continue farting around and avoiding whatever it is you’re trying to say, or are you going to get to the point?”
TA: “Fine. In order to ensure the company’s solvency, commissioned employees are going to have their commissions suspended until this crisis is over. You will still receive your base pay. Hourly employees – I guess that’s just Miami Vice – will receive minimum wage.”
The technicians leaned back in their chairs and shook their heads. I was completely taken aback – the entire pay cut plan had certainly not crossed my desk – and in my surprise I spoke up.
Me: “You’ve got to be f#cking kidding me. This is the plan you came up with? That is not a small pay cut you’re talking about here – it would be one thing to have some furlough days or for us not to work overtime, but that’s half my paycheck, and it’s more like 75% of the techs’ pay you’re taking away. Not one of us had a damn thing to do with everything that’s gone down in the last weeks, and it is ridiculous and entirely unfair to dock our pay to cover other peoples’ f#ck-ups.”
TA: “Well, you were driving the 240 when it burned that girl.”
Me: “Yeah, and when you can articulate how her getting hurt was my doing, let me know.”
TA: “36055512, I think you are failing to comprehend the magnitude of this situation.”
Me: “Okay, then. If the cash flow issue is that big, tell me, are you pursuing a business loan to hold us over? Or perhaps you could sell or mortgage or rent out one of the three houses you two own. Or perhaps Rom could sell that tacky gold Rolex on his wrist. Or maybe you could flip some of our inventory at cost just to get some cash in hand. There are a thousand ways to solve this problem, but what you’ve done is push the responsibility and the pain onto everyone but yourselves.”
TA: “Now that is completely unfair! All of us are having to make sacrifices.”
Me: “Really? So what kind of pay cut will the two of you be taking?”
TA: “I can assure you, Rom and I will be taking significant pay cuts as well.”
Me: “Yeah. I’m sure you will.”
Lord Salisbury chimed in once again.
LS: “Well, I’ve heard about enough of this, what about you, Mr. Sarcastic?”
MS: “Yeah, I’m with you. This is bullsh!t.”
Lord Salisbury reached into his pocket and fished out his keychain. He unthreaded the shop key from the ring and thunked it on the table. Mr. Sarcastic followed suit. Lord Salisbury turned to Colossal Redneck.
LS: “Post me my check.”
Colossal Redneck stood from the table.
CR: “Now, wait jes’ a minute, fellas…”
Lord Salisbury stood from the table and faced down Colossal Redneck.
LS: “Post me my check.”
Rom, seeing this, jumped from the table and blocked the door with his body.
Rom: “None of you are going anywhere.”
Lord Salisbury whipped around to face him.
LS: “Move. Now.”
Rom braced his hands against the door frame.
Rom: “No one is leaving without my approval.”
In all the time I had worked with Lord Salisbury, I had never once seen him angry, never once heard him raise his voice. He was the textbook definition of the charming English gentleman. All of the sudden the Lord Salisbury I knew vanished from the room, replaced by some sort of lesser demon. Absolute fury washed over his face and his body tensed. In a flash, he reached out with his hand and grabbed Rom by the neck and squeezed. Rom’s eyes betrayed his terror and he tried to scream, but Lord Salisbury’s hand crushed in around his neck. Rom released his grip on the door frame and Lord Salisbury tossed him aside into a heap on the floor.
The Amazon shot up from the table, but Lord Salisbury stopped her cold with a glare. His voice dropped into a deep, hissing snarl.
LS: “SIT. THE F#CK. DOWN!”
She immediately retreated to her chair and Lord Salisbury stared her down for a moment. He turned and disappeared out toward the shop, Mr. Sarcastic in tow.
The room was in stunned silence. Rom gradually crawled back onto his feet and we sat for a moment. I finally threw my hands up in disgust at the whole thing and went back to my office.
It was two hours later, and I was in my office polishing off a letter of resignation. I had already packed my things into a box, taken down the paintings off the wall, and deleted anything good off my computer. I heard a knock on the door and Miami Vice slipped into my office.
MV: “Look, uh… I don’t know how to say this…”
Me: “I think I know what you’ve got on your mind, but shoot.”
MV: “Well, I’ve been thinking about it, and… it’s the pay thing… I can’t live on minimum wage.”
Me: “I understand. Do you have something else lined up?”
MV: “I just called a friend of mine, he works at a bar up at the top of the lake. I guess they’re looking for someone to help in the kitchen.”
I stood up and reached out a hand.
Me: “You’ve been a terrific employee. I’m sorry it came to this. Let me know if there’s ever anything I can do for you.”
He shook my hand.
MV: “It’s been wild, it really has.”
I walked with him out through the bay and he disappeared beyond the sandwich shop toward the bus stop.
A minute later, two flatbed tow trucks rolled into the parking lot and idled up next to the shop’s bay door. Mr. Sarcastic and Lord Salisbury slowly rolled their enormous tool chests out toward the trucks. The tow truck drivers grabbed their winch cables and pulled the tool chests onto the trucks. The drivers strapped down their loads and the trucks pulled out of the parking lot toward their respective destinations. I ran into the shop, grabbed three beers, and intercepted the technicians. We cracked our beers and shared a toast.
Me: “Gentlemen, it’s been an honor working with you. I just want you to know, if you ever need a reference, if you ever need someone to vouch for your skills, you have my number.”
We chugged our beers and threw the cans into the back of Colossal Redneck’s pickup, and the two of them got in their cars and drove out of the parking lot for the last time.
I went back inside and printed my letter of resignation. I folded it in thirds and walked over to Colossal Redneck’s office.
CR: “This here has been quite a day, hasn’t it?”
Me: “It has. This is for you.”
I handed him the letter. He read it over.
CR: “You too, huh?”
CR: “I would’a thought of everyone on the staff, you would’a been the loyal one.”
Me: “Well, I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m never going to see a paycheck from here again, so…”
CR: “What if I went an’ got you yer paycheck right now, whatever’s outstanding, would that up an’ change yer mind any?”
Me: “I gotta be honest, you and I know that it’s just going to bounce. Plus, I ain’t gonna try and live off just my base pay from here on out.”
CR: “You and me, we kin sort out yer pay rate. As fer now, I’ll betcha there’s enough money in one’a the accounts ta cover what yer owed. Gimme a minute.”
Colossal Redneck disappeared down the street to the bank and came back a few minutes later with an envelope full of cash. He handed it to me.
CR: “That ought’a cover ya up to Friday. How’s that sound?”
I fanned out the cash on the table and counted it. It was all there, more or less.
Colossal Redneck handed me back my letter of resignation.
CR: “I don’t suppose I’ll be needin’ this, then.”
I flicked it back on his desk.
Me: “No, I’m afraid you still do.”
CR: “What? C’mon, man, ya’ can’t quit, ya’ got yer money!”
Me: “Look around you, man. We’ve got no technicians. We’ve got no sales people. It’s just you and me. Now, I don’t know what things look like from your vantage point, but this sure looks like a sinking ship from where I’m standing. You and I are clinging onto the top of the f#cking mast and you’re trying to tell me that because our feet aren’t wet yet, that there’s nothing to worry about. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s bullsh!t. There was a time when I worked here because I thought we were doing something special, that we were selling really cool cars that were going to help save the environment, that this was an up-and-coming business where I could build a career, but those days are so far behind me they’re on the other side of the horizon. If I can’t even rely on my paychecks coming in, then I’m not real sure what point there is to being here. How much more money is there to just up and hand out come payday? Enough for a month? Two weeks?”
CR: “Sometimes we all gotta make some sacrifices, though. I mean, y’all haven’t been the easiest employee, and it seems like ya ought’a show some loyalty, ya know?”
Me: “If you think you’ve got to do the “honorable thing” and ride this ship all the way to the bottom, you go and do that, but I’m not about to sacrifice even one second of my life on some made-up principle for two people who don’t have the slightest inkling of what the words “honor” or “loyalty” mean. Every f#cking day here has been a fight, you and I have never received the slightest bit of respect, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit here and have you try and tell me that I owe you or them or this f#cking company a god-damned thing.”
Colossal Redneck looked down at my letter of resignation. He paused, and then stood from his desk.
He held out his hand.
CR: “It’s been terrible havin’ y’all as an employee.”
I shook his hand.
Me: “You’ve been a horrible boss.”
He saluted me and I grabbed my box of things and walked out the big bay door for the last time.
It was a month after I left DUCD, a drizzly cold Friday afternoon, and I was loading the last of my possessions into a big box truck. On a lark, I had applied at a job in a city about three hours away, and strangely enough, they had offered me a position. The pay wasn’t quite as good, but it was a chance for something new, somewhere new, where I could clear my head and just start over. I had given notice to my landlord that I was leaving, given away the things I didn’t need, said goodbye to the few friends I had left, and sold the Jeep. As a final “f#ck you” to the dealership, I had also dropped a dime to the county about the illegal dumping going on behind the shop. The pile had gotten bad enough that we had started calling it “The Trasherhorn,” and between that and the dozens of gallons of old coolant and used motor oil the technicians had dumped on the ground back there, the county had told me that they were very interested in conducting an investigation.
On the way out of town I made one last swing past the dealership just to see what had become of the place. I pulled off to the far side of the road and idled for a moment. The lot was very empty. Rom and The Amazon’s car was there, but no others I recognized, not even Colossal Redneck’s. They had little inventory on display and even fewer cars that appeared to belong to customers. The service bay was shut tight and the lights were off inside the service office. As I idled, Rom and The Amazon appeared from the sales office, shouting at each other. The Amazon got in Rom’s face and screamed something, then turned and marched back inside. Rom stood for a moment and then started kicking a Honda over and over again until there was a big dent in the back door. He stopped and stood there alone, shoulders drooped in the rain.
I put the box truck into gear and pulled away. I turned onto the highway, pointing the truck toward the edge of town. I switched on the radio and turned it to max, slid the transmission into overdrive, and put the pedal to the floor. I drove south, far beyond the horizon, away from it all.
Many months later I came back north with a girl I was dating to show her the city that had defined so much of my adulthood, a city that has so indelibly dyed the very fabric of who I am that all these many years later I still dream of warm summer nights, windows down, driving on the bridge across the lake; that the smell of food still transports me back to the little ramen bar just south of downtown, the one I never knew the name of because the sign was in Japanese, windows fogged from the warm soup and the cold rain. And to this day when I drive through the big city to the north I choke up and my voice catches, because when I came the city broke me and molded me and made me new, and when I left I left so much of me there. Most of me still stands there on the pale sands on the shore, feeling the wind just this side of cold, looking out across the water to the islands beyond and watching the boats come in for the night as the sky turns orange, then red, then blue, then black, standing there waiting for the rest of me to come home.
I turned off the highway in the big Dodge I now drove and pulled into the dealership’s parking lot. It was empty save for an abandoned Oldsmobile decaying silently in a corner. The windows to the offices were hastily boarded up and graffiti covered the bay doors. The sign for the dealership was dingy from the rain and moss was beginning to grow over the letters.
I drove around back and we hopped out of the truck. The empty lot behind the service bay had been mostly cleaned up. The girl looked around and turned to me.
”What is this place?”
”It was a car dealership. I used to work here.”
”It looks awful.”
I gave the place one last look as I climbed back into the truck.
”It was. It really was.”
- TFDUCD 27: The Exodus (Part 2)by aroundincircles
”I think it is all fixed for you.”
”That seems… extremely unlikely.”
It had been a weird week at Dishonest Used Car Dealership. On Monday, a customer had stabbed the wrong pedal in our parking lot in their new-to-them 325i and gone through the plate glass window at the front of the building. Apparently this was somehow our fault, because the car was “European,” which means the brake is in a different place somehow? I don’t know. Then on Tuesday, a hotshotter showed up with a trio of Camrys from Florida, but nobody could be bothered to cut a check for the delivery. In his anger over not being paid after a week of driving, he lit off with our cars still on the back of the truck and dumped them under the freeway over in a super sh!tty neighborhood on the far southwest side of town and then promptly disappeared. By the time the police found the Toyotas on Thursday, they had already been trashed.
We were also now down by a total of five employees. In the absence of Lady Applebee’s, Mr. Ferrari had been asked to pick up the slack. Mr. Ferrari was a lazy sh!t, but his reluctance to fill in her hours was understandable, since what Rom and The Amazon were asking was for him to go from 40 hours a week to 72. Since both of the owners styled themselves as salespeople, they easily could have picked up at least some of the slack, but they instead tried to push a twelve-hour, six-day workweek on Mr. Ferrari. He was not having it. There was a big blowup one Monday and he had departed with a middle finger and the words “go f*ck yourself,” which was perhaps the perfect exit. Rumor had it he had called in a favor and was now hawking Audis. We now had no full-time sales staff, leaving Rom and The Amazon forced to stretch and cover full-time sales duty in addition to running the show. You can well imagine what this did to our general efficiency in getting paperwork pushed through the office or getting things paid for in a timely manner.
It was now Friday, and Splinter the rat-obsessed kung-fu technician and general strange human being was in my office dropping off paperwork on a car he had been fussing over for a good week. It was a diesel Volvo 240 wagon that we had purchased from another shop. This other shop specialized in converting diesel-engined cars to run on vegetable oil and Rom and The Amazon had gotten the idea to pick one up from them and reverse-engineer it so we could do our own conversions for customers. Prior to this, we had worked on veggie oil conversions a half dozen or so times, usually replacing a lift pump or a heater element or something equally simple, but this would be the first time we would have one of the cars in our shop long enough to tear the system down completely, write down part numbers, and figure out if there were any real tricks to it. It wasn’t a terrible idea, not that a veggie oil system is all that complicated in the first place, but sadly they had chosen the very cheapest place they could get a converted car from and had purchased the very cheapest car they had.
Oh, cosmetically it was fine – the 240 actually looked pretty nice from the outside, save for a few dents and an unfortunate set of chrome wheels – but the veggie oil conversion was a disaster. The oil tank appeared to have been made out of duct tape and scrap aluminum stolen from a construction site, and the welds were just basically aluminum bird sh!t scabbed onto the tank. It leaked. Bad. Near as I could tell, the tank temperature gauge just simply didn’t function, and Splinter had gotten into the wiring to find someone had used solid-core copper stuck together with wire nuts. This is a big no-no in automotive applications and it’s pretty much just begging to pop fuses if you’re lucky or start a fire if you’re not.
Of course, since the car was pennies, it came with absolutely no warranty, and since the shop we bought it off of was just as much a bunch of con artists as we were, they basically laughed in our faces when we tried to get them to clean up their work. The Amazon threatened to involve the legal system but Colossal Redneck and I had prevailed upon her that we didn’t really want the same people that had created that kind of a dead-fetus wiring job to try and repair it. After all, if we were going to get in there and reverse-engineer it anyway, why not just fix it all at the same time?
Splinter was pretty convinced he had the car all patched up, so I let him get to work on another project and started writing up his repairs in the car’s file.
It’s later that afternoon, and I’m hiding from my responsibilities in the bathroom when the phone starts ringing. It makes it to the fourth ring when Colossal Redneck starts bellowing.
CR: “Are you going to answer the phone?”
Me: “I’m in the can!”
CR: “Are you going to answer the phone!?”
Me: “I’M IN THE CAN!”
CR: “ARE YOU GOING TO ANSWER THE PHONE!?”
Me: “ANSWER IT YOURSELF, YOU LAZY F*CK!”
The ringing stopped, meaning either Colossal Redneck had answered the phone for the first time in his career or the customer had given up. I came back into the office to find Colossal Redneck blocking my path.
CR: “Guess what.”
CR: “I done just sold a veggie oil conversion. The guy’s got a Mercedes he wants it done on.”
Me: “Are we prepared to do that? Splinter only just finished cleaning up that 240 a couple hours ago. I don’t know if we’ve got a veggie oil conversion in us yet.”
CR: “It’ll be fiiiiine. We’ll up an’ figure ‘er out.”
This seemed like a bad idea. I mean, yeah, veggie oil systems aren’t that complicated really, but we had none of the parts in stock nor really any experience putting a system together. It seemed to me like it would have been a better idea to convert one of our own inventory first, just to get a feel for how it all went together, but who was I to argue with the boss?
”What are all those gauges and switches?”
It was now Friday evening and I was over on the other side of the lake. I had decided that the 240 needed a good shakedown run, so I left my Jeep stowed in the bay and snagged the Volvo for the evening. In my passenger’s seat was a lovely brunette that tended bar at one of the dives I hung out at up on the hill just east of downtown. She was smart, sharp-tongued, and made a mean Manhattan. Totally my type. I had been trying to get her attention for ages, and she had finally let me take her out.
Me: “This car has been converted to run on vegetable oil. You can get old fryer oil from restaurants for free, filter it, and then this car will run on it.”
Her: “I was wondering why it smelled like Chinese food.”
Me: “Yeah, you know the Lucky Panda just north of the university? This thing’s running on their spring roll grease.”
We drove down toward a Middle Eastern restaurant on the north end of downtown. I knew one of the ladies who worked in the kitchen and I had pulled a favor to get the VIP treatment.
We turned off the main avenue toward the street the restaurant was on and started climbing a hill. The little D24 engine seemed a little low on power, though it was a D24 so it had very little power to begin with. I gave it all she had and the car inched up the incline. We had just crested the hill when my date got my attention.
Her: “Is it just me, or does it really smell like Chinese food in here?”
I gave the air a good sniff.
Me: “Uh… yeah. Either this car has an exhaust leak or…”
Before I had a chance to finish my sentence, my passenger started screaming. I stomped the brakes and jerked the wheel to the side, slamming into the curb. My date whipped open the door, fell out onto the sidewalk, then tore a shoe off and flung it to the side. On her foot was an angry red strip of fresh burn. I grabbed my bottle of water out of my bag in the back seat and had her pour it over the burn while I dialed an ambulance.
”How is she?”
”Second degree burn. The doctor thinks that the fact that the oil had to soak through both the carpet and her shoe probably let it cool down a little and kept her from getting burnt any worse.”
It was Monday morning. My date had spent Friday night in the hospital having the burn on her foot tended to. The Volvo had gotten towed back to the shop to figure out how on earth 160º vegetable oil managed to make its way into the passenger footwell of the car. I had offered to drive my date home from the hospital, but needless to say, she was not particularly interested in getting in one of my cars ever again.
Rom, The Amazon, and I were in the sales office with our counsel discussing what had transpired over the weekend.
TA: “What did the technician find?”
Me: “Those jackasses at that shop ran the veggie oil lines right through the passenger compartment. They snaked the lines between the transmission tunnel and the passenger’s seat, and it looks the feed line chafed until it rubbed through. Why you would run a fuel line through the passenger compartment, and why you would use unprotected soft line, that’s all beyond me. I’ll tell you, though, that interior is a disaster. There’s a good inch of grease in the footwell.”
Our attorney spoke up.
Attorney: “Because 36055512 was test-driving the vehicle, the young lady in question would have a strong case for the company’s liability under the doctrine of respondeat superior. In addition, since the vehicle had a mechanical failure which caused the injury, rather than, say, a collision, that could also be a strong case for a negligence claim. Had your technician not significantly repaired the vehicle, it’s possible we could push the claim to the company that performed the conversion, but I’m not sure that’s going to be possible now.”
TA: “What is your recommendation?”
Attorney: “I’m going to speak to the young lady this afternoon and see what she will be seeking in damages. At a minimum, you should be prepared to reimburse her the cost of her medical bills. In the future, instruct your technicians to be more diligent. This could have been much worse.”
The attorney snapped closed his briefcase and exited. Rom and The Amazon turned to me.
Rom: “We’re going to have to have a talk with Splinter about this.”
Me: “Don’t be too hard on him. He should have caught where the lines were running, I agree, but that car was a mess. I’d really rather you guys not tear him apart on this.”
It was now Friday. Splinter’s morale was at an all-time low, not that it ever was particularly high in the first place. Apparently the conversation with Rom and The Amazon had gotten heated. Splinter was extremely intelligent, but he could get very defensive when he had made a mistake. He also was sort of minimally-communicative at the best of times, which made trying to have a discussion with him that much worse. I also doubt very much that the bosses were particularly diplomatic with him, given their track record and general complete lack of tact.
In any case, his big project for the week was the Mercedes that he was converting to run on veggie oil. We had snagged a basic kit from a company across town and Splinter was doing some tricky business to integrate the kit with the Mercedes’s fuel system, promising me that the fuel lines would run nowhere near the interior of the car. The Mercedes itself was a beauty, a soft egg-yolk yellow with a beautiful baseball-glove brown leather interior. I am not normally much a fan of the W116 chassis, the modifications to make them US-legal being a pair of unfortunate googly-eye headlamps and bumpers long enough to serve as reasonable aircraft carriers, but the owner had spent a fair amount of change on the car, bringing over the proper European headlamps and bumpers, lowering the car a hair, and setting it on a set of beautiful cream-colored BBS mesh wheels. The car was a stunning, regal object, every bit befitting of some sort of despotic tyrant.
Splinter came into my office that afternoon with the news that the conversion was completed and it was ready to go home. I followed him out to the shop to look over his work.
Me: “Where are the other techs?”
Splinter: “Colossal Redneck took them to the strip club.”
Me: “Great. Won’t see them for a couple of hours.”
Splinter showed me what he had gotten up to over the week.
Splinter: “…so here is where we put the switchover valve for the injection pump’s feed. The lines run under the car, right alongside the factory fuel lines…”
The work looked very clean, almost factory.
Me: “Where did you hide the gauges and stuff?”
Splinter: “Well, I have been wanting to learn to use the new TIG welder, so I made a gauge pod for the dashboard out of aluminum.”
He opened the passenger’s door and showed me the gauge pod he had made. It looked… horrible. The welds were irregular and it looked like the material had moved around on him a bit as he welded. The thing wasn’t even remotely straight, the gauges weren’t aligned with each other, and worst of all, he had screwed it into the dashboard.
I pulled Splinter aside and I sat down on an upturned bucket.
Me: “Hey, dude. I know you put a ton of work into that gauge pod, and I love that you went the extra mile on this project. I also love that you’re trying to learn the TIG welder. But, I am a little concerned about the aesthetics of that gauge pod. I suspect, given the condition of this car, that this is a picky customer, and I just don’t want you to be upset or disappointed if he wants it swapped for something different, okay? And if he does, I want you to hang onto this gauge pod and we’ll use it in another project.”
Splinter sighed and his shoulders slumped. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.
Me: “Look, I’m gonna present it to the customer, and he’ll probably love it. I just didn’t want to blindside you if the customer happens to want something different, that’s all.”
Splinter said nothing. He merely looked at me, clenched his fist, and then turned and walked over to his workbench. He stood there silently, wiping his wrenches down with a rag. With nothing else to be said, I hopped in the customer’s car and pulled it out into the parking lot.
The customer did not love the gauge pod. I had called him a moment after popping the car out into the lot and he was so excited to see his new veggie oil system that he had appeared about 30 minutes later. But his excitement had been tamped down considerably by the carbuncle screwed to the dashboard.
Him: “Can I be honest with you about something?”
Him: “That… thing on the dashboard. It looks like dogsh!t. Did that come with the kit?”
Me: “No, my technician made that.”
Him: “It’s… uh… it’s not the best, is it?”
Me: “If you’re dissatisfied with it, we would be more than happy to come up with another solution for you.”
He climbed in the car and ran his hand over the pod.
Him: “Tell me your guy didn’t drill holes in my dashboard.”
Me: “I know, I know.”
He sighed and shook his head.
Me: “Tell me what you would like to have done. Tell me what would make this right.”
Him: “That… thing… has got to go, for one.”
Me: “Of course. We can order a nice textured plastic pod that will blend better with the dash.”
Him: “That sounds great. The other thing is, look, I came in here with a pristine dashboard, and now I have one with holes in it. That was not something I was anticipating.”
I nodded my head.
Him: “I’m really not trying to be difficult here, but I would like the dashboard replaced. I can source one in a matching color and have it delivered here. Then you can just take the price of the dashboard off my invoice.”
Me: “That is perfectly fair. What we will do is go ahead and remove the dashboard from your car and strip the wood trim off and such. That way when the new one arrives, we should be able to have it in in a day or two. We’ll also secure the new pod with double-stick tape, that way no damage is done to the dashboard.”
We shook on it. Frankly, I had expected him to be considerably more furious. I would have been.
The customer left, and I pulled the Mercedes back around and into Splinter’s bay.
Me: “Hey dude. Look, uh… the customer does want to swap out the gauge pod. I’m going to get a different one ordered for you.”
Splinter just looked at me.
Me: “The other thing is that I want you to get a start pulling the dashboard out of the car, and I want you to salvage all the trim on it. The customer is going to have a different dash delivered in a few days that we’re going to put in.”
He looked at me and shook his head.
Me: “You alright?”
He finally spoke up.
Splinter: “I’m fine.”
I left him in the bay and went back to my office to order parts.
”YO, GET THE F#CK OUT HERE NOW! muffled Jesus f#cking Christ, chill the f#ck out! YO DUDE, WE NEED HELP!”
Mr. Sarcastic’s voice bellowed over the intercom about 30 minutes later, meaning apparently Colossal Redneck and the bulk of my technicians had finally run out of dollar bills and were back from the strip club. I hauled ass out to the service bay to find Colossal Redneck, Felonious Monk, and Mr. Sarcastic doing a fairly poor job of restraining Splinter. Felonious Monk’s nose and lip were bleeding, Splinter was screaming for everyone to get off of him, and Lord Salisbury was on the phone with the police. Mr. Sarcastic shouted over to me.
MS: “Get the f*ck over here and help us get him to the ground!”
I ran over and helped try to get Splinter off his feet. He was hyperventilating with rage and was far stronger than he looked. In the fray he managed to get a fist free which connected hard with my jaw. To this day, my jaw pops if I open it just right. Felonious Monk got a foot behind Splinter’s knees and toppled him to the ground, where Colossal Redneck pinned him. Thinking fast, Mr. Sarcastic grabbed a couple of zip ties off his workbench and cinched them around Splinter’s wrists and ankles. Colossal Redneck kept him pinned to the ground while Felonious Monk grabbed a rag to try and clean up the blood.
Me: “What the f*ck happened?”
Mr. Sarcastic filled me in.
MS: “We came back from lunch, and Splinter was over there going apesh!t on that Mercedes with a breaker bar, so we tried to pull him off. That f#cker is strong! Anyway, he got in a few punches, a couple connected with Felonious Monk. Jesus f#ck, man, what do you think set him off?”
I looked over at the Mercedes. It was a wreck. Splinter had swung his breaker bar into every panel on the car. The dashboard was a smashed pile of plastic and there was broken glass everywhere. It looked like he had taken a knife to the leather as well. What had only an hour before been a show-quality example of 1970s German engineering was now going to be headed to the scrapyard.
Shortly thereafter, the police arrived and hauled off Splinter. As a parolee, Felonious Monk was taken in as well, and although we all gave statements that Felonious Monk’s involvement was justified, apparently he was fairly notorious for breaking the conditions of his release and the police wanted to sort things out for themselves. Hopefully the police would take our statements into account and we would have Felonious Monk back within a day or two, but for the time being, we were now down by seven employees.
I walked inside to go call our insurance company. If I was going to have to call the Mercedes customer and tell him that his pride and joy had been destroyed by an out-of-control technician, at the very least I wanted to be able to tell him that we had a fat insurance check coming for him. I dialed the number for our insurance agency and the other end of the line picked up.
Me: “Hi, this is 36055512 with Dishonest Used Car Dealership. My policy number is 8675309. I need to submit a claim on a 1979 Mercedes-Benz 300SD.”
There was a long pause.
Insurance Agent: “It appears, sir, that we have not received a payment on this account since August.”
Me: “You’re kidding me.”
Insurance Agent: “I am very sorry, but your policy was cancelled over a month ago.”
To be continued…
- TFDUCD 26: The Exodus (Part 1)by aroundincircles
Things were quiet and tense around Dishonest Used Car Dealership in the weeks following the revelation that our Incompetent Tech Guy had been stalking The Diplomat. Both of them were gone, ITG to a holding cell and The Diplomat apparently into the aether, as no one had heard a word from her. None of us had quite fully realized until then how much The Diplomat had been the glue that held the office together. I don’t just mean in just an interpersonal way, though she was a fun person to be around, but that just about every single piece of paperwork that the dealership created passed through her hands one way or another. Nobody in the office really knew much about all the loopholes and idiosyncrasies of car licensing or dealing with loans, and in her absence, things were beginning to fall apart. Absent her, cars and loans and bills were falling through the cracks left and right. One of our main suppliers ceased delivery, forcing us to come to their warehouse on the other side of town every day with cash in hand for the parts we needed. The garbage company didn’t get paid and the trucks stopped coming. Rom and The Amazon had us dump all our garbage instead in the empty lot behind the service bay.
The situation had escalated to the point where we were beginning to hemorrhage employees. The Raver was the first to go. Rom and The Amazon’s horrible treatment of The Diplomat was one factor. He had been uncomfortable with the level of dishonesty and scummy behavior they were up to under ordinary conditions, but the fallout from ITG’s stalking had finally revealed that his bosses were not just chaotic neutral, but truly, truly evil. Other factors conspired as well. With everything falling through the cracks in her absence, the level of tension in the office was at an all-time high. Nobody talked much anymore, and when we did, shouting and fighting were the normal mode of conversation. The whole thing had “harshed his buzz” enough that he simply stopped coming in. A month later, I received an e-mail from him. Some acquaintances he had made on a trip to South Africa had bought a huge chunk of land somewhere near the border with Botswana. Or maybe it was near Zimbabwe. In fact, it might have been South America. He wasn’t quite sure. He was heading to the airport that afternoon to go help them found some sort of agricultural commune. I e-mailed him back to tell him to keep in touch. It was the last I ever heard from him.
Nobody missed ITG.
”God, that’s not confusing at all, is it?”
Mr. Sarcastic, one of the technicians, and I were outside unloading a couple of Golfs off a hotshotter’s trailer. They were both 2004s, both silver with black interiors, and the VINs were very close: one ended in 4064, the other 4046. But they did have a couple of key differences: One was a very clean TDI, and the other was a rough base model with a woefully-underpowered 2.0L gas engine. On the used market, the difference was easily five or six thousand dollars, maybe more.
We checked in the cars and Mr. Sarcastic got to giving the two of them an inspection. The diesel turned out to be an absolute peach, which meant we had exactly one decent car on the lot. The gasser, on the other hand, was rough. In fact, mechanically-speaking, it was one of the rougher cars we had had in recent days, though it looked clean enough on the outside. Mr. Sarcastic came into my office a couple hours later to relay the news.
MS: “Okay, so every suspension bushing is completely shot. Looks like it sat for a while, and everything’s got signs of dry rot. It needs tires and ball joints and the brakes are metal-on-metal. And who the hell knows when the timing belt was done last. I threw a few parts at it already to get the check engine light turned off, and there’s a report in the system on what I did. Looks like a good three grand worth of work total.”
Me: “Cool, I’ll let you know.”
Mr. Sarcastic went back to his bay and I got on IM with Rom to let him know what was up with the 2.0L Golf.
Me: “Hey, can you get into the system? Check the estimate on car 4046, the gasser Golf we just got in.”
Rom: “ur estimatng 3k?”
Me: “Yep. Whatcha think?”
Rom: “go ahed withit”
This didn’t sound much like the Rom I knew. I could only assume Miami Vice or one of the technicians was over in the bosses’ office f*cking with me. I picked up the phone and dialed Rom’s extension.
Rom: “What do you want?”
Me: “You’re okaying $3k in repairs on the gasser Golf?”
Rom: “Yeah, is that a problem? Just go and do it.”
Me: “I mean, I’m not trying to argue, I just want to make sure we won’t wind up backwards in it.”
Rom: “Yeah, we’ll probably lose a few bucks on it, but the diesel we got with it turned out so good that I think we can easily make up the difference there.”
Me: “Makes sense. 2-liter VWs are pretty hard to get rid of.”
Rom: “Yep. Let’s just make it as clean as we can so it doesn’t sit on the lot forever.”
Rom had clearly taken his happy pills this morning, but I wasn’t about to squander the opportunity to actually do a good set of repairs to a car. I let Mr. Sarcastic, who was just as incredulous as I, know he had the go-ahead and he got to work.
”When can I have that silver Golf done?”
It was the next morning and Lady Applebee’s was calling me from the sales office.
Me: “Which one? We’ve got two on the lot right now.”
LA: “The gas one. I have customers real interested in it.”
You’re kidding me. First I’m allowed to repair everything wrong with this car, and now someone actually wants to buy it? Being that the only people who purchase 2.0L Volkswagens are people who don’t know any better, this was more than a little surprising.
Me: “The 2.0?”
LA: “Yeah, yeah, that’s the one! #4046! C’mon, when is it going to be done?”
Me: “Uh… I guess you can have it tomorrow morning if you want it. Out of curiosity, why the rush?”
LA: “Haven’t you been on the website? Rom priced it a good $2000 under market value. I’ve had three calls already about it.”
I punched the car up in the database, and she was right, even as rough as it was and even with a god-awful 2.0, it was a screaming deal. I flicked over to the diesel one and immediately figured out how Rom was going to make his money back: he had it priced a good couple thousand above the other diesel Golfs on the lot. It was a very clean car, though in spite of the better engine and nicer condition, I wasn’t quite sure whether it was worth a $10,000 price premium over the gasser.
We terminated the call, but five minutes later she was back on the phone with me.
LA: “Hey, I’ve got a customer on the other line that’s just dying to check that gas Golf out today before anyone else has a chance to. Is there any way we can just let them crawl around the car and take it for a quick spin?”
Me: “Uh… well… maybe. According to the tech, most of the work is done, but it hasn’t gone in for alignment or tires yet. So, it’s drivable, but it might wander a bit on the road. That’ll be fixed by the time we deliver it, of course.”
LA: “Hang on, let me put you on hold.”
I hung up on her. I hate being put on hold. I mean, it’s one thing when you’re calling the cable company and they’ve only got one almost-English-speaking person per million customers, but if you’re the one asking me a favor, you can f*ck right off with that hold business. Two seconds later, she rang back.
LA: “You’re an asshole. Can they come by at 2:00 to look at it?”
Me: “That’s fine. I’ll let the tech know.”
2:00 came and so did the customers, a friendly enough couple with a newborn daughter who were looking for their first family car. Lady Applebee’s and I explained that the car might have a little bit spooky handling but that tires and an alignment would solve it. They took the Golf on a test drive and immediately fell in love with it. We scheduled them to pick up the car the next afternoon.
“You know, the whole time I’ve worked here, I’ve been wondering, what is that on the wall?”
Miami Vice was helping me clean up a little bit in the office the next afternoon. In the absence of ITG and The Diplomat, the bill for the cleaning crew had gone unpaid, and like any wise businesspeople, they dropped us as a client. This meant office cleaning duties fell to me, since no one else would do it. Colossal Redneck was out, probably at the strip club down the street, so we were cleaning up the sty-hole of an office he inhabited. Ordinarily I’d just let him continue to wallow in his filth, but the smell from his office was beginning to permeate through the building. Next to his desk on the drywall was a yellowy brown patch that defied all efforts to clean up.
Me: “This is pretty f*cking gross, but you know how Colossal Redneck eats KFC everyday?”
Me: “When he’s done eating, he wipes his hands off on the wall.”
MV: “No way! That’s f*ckin’ grody, dude!”
Me: “I know, I’ve seen him doing that sh!t too! F*cking nasty.”
Before either of us had a chance to retch from the thought, Lady Applebee’s kicked open the back door and did a pirouette in the hall.
LA: “The gas Golf is gone gone gone!”
Me: “I still can’t believe you managed to flip a 2-liter Golf that fast!”
LA: “They were overjoyed with it! They were saying this morning that it looked even better than they remembered it from yesterday. Easiest sale of my career.”
This was shaping up to be a good week.
”Hey dude, can you come have a look at this?”
Miami Vice was poking his head in my office door that Friday.
Me: “What’s up?”
MV: “Well, you know the silver Golf? Rom wanted me to move it around to the front of the shop, and I put the key in to start it, but the glow plug light isn’t coming on on the dash.”
Me: “That’s weird. I’ll come have a look.”
One key difference between how diesel and gasoline vehicles work is in how exactly the fuel is made to explode. On a gas-powered car, it’s pretty simple: you put an igniter in the combustion chamber. We call it a spark plug. Diesels, however, don’t have spark plugs. Instead, they operate exclusively off the ideal gas law, which (among other things) states that if you compress a fluid (in this case, a mixture of fuel and air), its temperature will rise. Eventually if you smash said fluid small enough, its temperature will rise above its flashpoint, and you get an explosion. But, that’s harder to do if the fluid is very cold, so diesel engines typically include some way of heating up the incoming air before you start them so that an ice-cold engine can actually get going. These heaters most often take the form of what are called glow plugs (though there are exceptions – the Cummins grid heater system is a notable one). Without these glow plugs, starting a diesel would be very difficult in all but hot weather.
I followed Miami Vice out to the bay. He hopped in the Golf and turned the key to the second detent to wait for the glow plugs to heat up. The rest of the gauge cluster lit, but no little glow plug icon.
Me: “Huh. Well, it’s pretty warm in the bay, and sometimes when it’s warm the glow plugs don’t need to run very long at all, so maybe that’s what’s going on. Why don’t you try kicking it over?”
Miami Vice put his foot on the brake and turned the key the rest of the way. The car immediately fired up and settled to idle. I started howling laughing.
MV: “What’s so funny?”
Me: “Lady Applebee’s just f*cked up big time. That don’t sound like any TDI I’ve ever heard!”
The reason this Golf’s glow plugs didn’t fire up was simple: it didn’t have any. Lady Applebee’s had given the customers the wrong car.
We ran back inside to my office and I grabbed the mic for the PA.
skreeeeeeeeeee “LADY APPLEBEE’S TO THE SERVICE DEPARTMENT, LADY APPLEBEE’S TO THE SERVICE DEPARTMENT IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Miami Vice looked at the mic with awe in his eyes.
MV: “That thing is loud.”
MV: “Can I try?”
I tossed him the mic.
skreeeeeeeeeee “ATTENTION CITIZENS OF EARTH. Um… EARTH PEOPLE, NEW YORK AND CALIFORNIA, EARTH PEOPLE, I WAS BORN ON JUPITER…”
Lady Applebee’s burst through the door, interrupting Miami Vice’s lyrical flow. Her usual indignation was on full display.
LA: “What do you want? And what was all that weird stuff about Jupiter?”
Me: “I want you to listen very carefully. Go to your office and get every bit of paperwork on the Golf you just sold and bring it back here.”
LA: “Why? I’m not going all the way back over there. You go do it.”
Me: “I don’t want to argue with you right now. There is a situation that has developed, and I’m hoping to God it can be salvaged. Go and get the f*cking paperwork. Now.”
LA: “Well, if you messed something up, I’m not going to fix it for you.”
I reached over to the PA.
skreeeeeeeeee “THE AMAZON TO THE SERVICE DEPARTMENT, THE AMAZON TO THE SERVICE DEPARTMENT PLEASE.”
The Amazon poked her head in a second later.
TA: “I was on the phone with a customer. This better be important.”
Before I had a chance to respond, Lady Applebee’s interjected.
LA: “36055512 screwed something up, and he’s trying to get me to fix it for him.”
Me: “Actually… You know the silver gasser Golf that we just sold?”
TA: “What about it?”
Me: “Lady Applebee’s gave them the wrong car. Looks like they went home in #4064, the silver diesel, instead of #4046.”
There was a very long pause. The Amazon’s vision panned over to Lady Applebee’s.
TA: “Tell me you just handed them the wrong keys and that the paperwork is all correct.”
LA: “I… uh…”
The Amazon’s voice was slow and deliberate. This was a rare occurrence, when her voice would move down from her usual trumpet-like alto bellow and transform into a low hiss. At this point, you were no longer dealing with impotent anger, but with true fury, the kind of fury that might actually hurt someone.
TA: “Go back to your office and collect every bit of paperwork on the car and bring it back here now.”
Lady Applebee’s eyes were wide with fear and she backed out of my office and slinked back to hers to gather the paperwork the customers had signed. I sat at my desk while The Amazon paced back and forth. I tried to break the tension.
Me: “So… how’s the rest of your day going?”
TA: “Shut the f*ck up.”
A minute later, Lady Applebee’s came back in and thunked a file folder on my desk. I peeled it open and grabbed the photocopy of the sales form. At bottom were the signatures of Lady Applebee’s and the customers. I pointed to the VIN.
Me: “4064. You sold them the wrong car.”
LA: “What… what about the title?”
I pulled it out of the folder.
Me: “Matches. 4064. They own the diesel, free and clear.”
Lady Applebee’s slumped back into a chair. The Amazon snatched the forms out of my hand and read them over, then flicked them back onto my desk. She turned to Lady Applebee’s and pointed a finger toward the door.
TA: “MY OFFICE. NOW.”
The two marched back toward the sales office. I glanced back over the paperwork for a moment. Lady Applebee’s had indeed accidentally sold the customers the diesel Golf for the gas Golf’s price. Not only had she cost the company the $10,000 that she threw away on the sale, but we still had a 2.0L Golf to try and get rid of, one that we had thrown way too much money into.
On a whim, I called up the customer. There was no way this was going to work.
Me: “Hey, this is 36055512 at Dishonest Used Car Dealership. Look, uh, our salesperson made a mistake and accidentally sold you a diesel car instead of a gas one. I was wondering if you’d want to swap it out.”
Customer: “Wait, but I already went to the DMV and had the car registered. All the paperwork is correct.”
Me: “Yeah, that’s the thing. She filled out all the paperwork correctly, but it’s for the wrong car. The car you guys were trying to buy was a gas one and the one in your paperwork, the one you took home, is a diesel.”
There was a long pause.
Customer: “Yeah, but the diesel ones are better, right?”
Customer: “Look, you wouldn’t be calling me if the mistake wasn’t in my favor, right? Like, if it was the other way around, you’d tell me ‘tough sh!t.’”
He had a point.
Customer: “So, I don’t mean to be an ass, but tough sh!t.”
Me: “Well, I can’t force you to swap it out if you want to keep it. Just make sure to put diesel in at the pump and let the glow plugs run for a little while before you start it each morning.”
I hung up with the customer and snuck over to the sales office to eavesdrop. Even with Rom and The Amazon’s office door closed, I could hear the bosses’ incoherent screaming and Lady Applebee’s wailing. I heard someone walk toward their office door, and I ducked behind a pile of boxes. The door opened and The Amazon’s voice echoed through the office.
TA: “Now get out. GET OUT.”
Lady Applebee’s slunk into the hall, sobbing. The office door slammed, and Lady Applebee’s went over to her office and grabbed her things. I slipped over to the service bay and watched her load a box of possessions into her Toyota.
And so ended Lady Applebee’s’s incredible career of incompetence. During my tenure as service writer she had insulted my technicians in front of customers, filled diesel cars with gasoline numerous times, destroyed a perfectly good Cummins 6BT engine, misplaced keys to cars and to the office more times than I could count, wiped off her dogshit-covered shoes on the carpet in a customer’s BMW, backed into another customer’s Forester, broke the feed tray on my copier, knocked over a half-full 55 gallon drum full of motor oil, told a customer that Passats come with a third-row seat when they clearly do not, stolen someone’s lunch almost every single day, and lost far more sales than she ever made. And finally we had reached the last straw.
As the Toyota drove out of the parking lot, Lord Salisbury, one of my technicians came over to see what I was looking at.
LS: “What’s going on?”
Me: “Lady Applebee’s just got herself fired.”
LS: “I see.”
And then Lord Salisbury punctuated it all just perfectly.
LS: “Well, no big loss there.”
The Toyota disappeared into the grey, and we returned to work, now down four employees.
To be continued…