A couple doors down in the industrial park from Dishonest Used Car Dealership was a shop that built canoes and kayaks. We hated each other. When I got hired on as a service writer, the guy I was replacing pulled me aside and shared some wisdom, saying,
”Look, kid. There’s three things you gotta get if you’re gonna work here. 1. Rom and The Amazon are a$$holes. 2. Sales wins every argument, and 3. We hate those f#ckers at the kayak place.”
The war had been going on so long that no one could even remember who had fired the first salvo nor what specific disagreement had even sparked the conflict. We only knew where the current front in the war was, and that front was in the parking lot. Those animals at the kayak place for some reason absolutely hated how many cars we had in the back lot. It shouldn’t have been an issue: the back lot was galactic in size and was never more than half full. Our lease specifically granted us use of 60 parking spots and we never used more than about 40. And you know, guess what: if you move into the same complex as a used car dealership, you shouldn’t be super surprised if there are some used cars parked around.
None of these facts mattered to the barbarians at the kayak place. Each morning I would come in, park the Jeep, and walk into the back door, with eyes like daggers glaring out at me from the kayak place’s shadowy back door. Some time around noon, like clockwork, the tribal elder over there would march out to the lot and painstakingly count the cars that belonged to us, grumbling the entire time about how many there were. Twice a month or so we’d get a snarly phone call from the landlady, telling us that she had received complaints that we had upwards of 100 cars on the lot, in spite of there only being a third of that. It had all gotten a little ridiculous.
One Friday, it boiled over.
This particular Friday was unusually slow for us, slow enough that I actually had some downtime. The defrost switch in the Jeep was on the fritz, and it doesn’t come out without removing the entire god-damn dash bezel. Late pre-facelift Cherokees are just complete mongrel cars – the dashboard is all AMC, but some jackass put a parts-bin Chrysler steering column in, and the two do not play well together. Now age the plastic 15 years in the sun until it’s good and brittle.
Getting the extremely fragile and yet completely enormous dash bezel out is a careful ballet of nervous sweating and cursing, lest you snap the bezel in two around the narrow steering column cutout. I’ve been at it for a good ten minutes trying desperately to sneak the tiny column cutout on the bezel past a steering column the size of the moon when someone starts shouting.
”Hey! HEY! Who’s the f#ckin’ boss here?”
I peered over the dashboard and saw the alpha male of the kayak herd standing in the bay door. I rolled my eyes and acknowledged his existence.
Me: “Hey, I’m in here! What can I do for you?”
Chief Kayak: “Yeah. Yeah, you the boss?”
Me: “Sort of. Look, I’m kind of in the middle of something delicate, can this wait?”
CK: “Yeah, well, look, you f#ck, I wanna talk to the boss about all these f#ckin’ cahs out here.”
Me: “In that case, we’re an anarcho-syndicalist commune…”
CK: “I’m sick’a all these f#ckin’ cahs in the f#ckin’ lot! There’s too many f#ckin’ cahs!”
Me: “My count says there’s 36 that belong to us today. I can recount ‘em if you want, but we’re well below the 60 we’re allowed on the lease.”
CK: “36! 36, that’s horse$hit. There’s gotta be a hundred out there!”
Me: “Yep, and not all of them belong to us. It might surprise you to learn this, but we don’t own every single car in the world. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m trying to do something very delicate here, and I need to concentrate.”
I turned and started back trying to coax the dash bezel out past the column. Maybe he’d take the hint.
He didn’t. My ignoring him only further fueled his rage, and he began shouting directly in my ear.
CK: “I’m sick’a this $hit. You know what? I’ve been talkin’ to my lawyer. Yeah. We’ve been talkin’ all day about what to do about yous f#cks. You get all these f#ckin’ cahs moved NOW, or you’re gonna hear from him. AND WHILE YOU’RE AT IT, YOU CAN GO F#CK YAHSELF!”
F#CK. F#CK F#CK F#CK.
It was all I could do to keep from taking the broken pieces of dashboard bezel and smashing them over his head.
Me: “I’m afraid you’ve said the magic L-word, and at this point, I’m forced to terminate this conversation. Any further contact with any employees of this company will need to be directed through our counsel. I will also have to ask you to leave the premises. Have a good day.”
CK: “No, I ain’t done with you. You get in these f#ckin’ cahs and you move ‘em now! NOW!”
By this point, Colossal Redneck and The Raver had come out to the bay to see what all the commotion was about. Colossal Redneck walked up to Chief Kayak and got up in his face.
CR: “The man told you to leave. This here’s private property and y’all is tresspassin’.”
The dictator of Kayakistan started to say something, but Colossal Redneck just stepped back a pace, flipped out his phone, and dialed.
CR: “Howdy. This’s Colossal Redneck at Dishonest Used Car Dealership. We got ourselves a trespasser. Y’all po-lice wanna come take care of ‘im, or should I just do it myself?”
Colossal Redneck would have easily weighed in at 300 lbs after a month of starvation, and he had a good foot on the savage from the kayak place. I’ve been in enough fights to know that you don’t take on the big guy, and the primitive standing in my bay apparently had gotten the memo as well. He retreated and Colossal Redneck called off the cops.
The owners, Colossal Redneck, Miami Vice, and I rolled into the lot at about the same time the next Monday and found a disaster. About 10 of our cars had been keyed. And not just keyed, but keyed. Two windshields were smashed, tires were slashed… it was a mess.
Of course, we immediately knew who had done it. Colossal Redneck filed a police report, The Amazon got in touch with our insurance agent, who surely was going to drop us this time, and Rom and I dug into the security camera footage to see what it caught.
A blurry pickup pulled into the lot late Sunday night and two blurry humanoids in blurry hoodies piled out. The humanoids had blurry items in their hands and did blurry things to blurry cars.
Rom: “Why can’t we see anything?”
Me: “How much did you pay for this camera?”
Rom: “It was on sale at Radio Shack.”
Me: “That’s why.”
We had nothing we could pin him with.
pfoot BANG… pfoot BANG… pfoot BANG
Oh goodie, weird noises coming from the service bay. I walked out and discovered Felonious Monk molesting a pile of splice connectors.
Me: “What… what would you say you are… doing?”
FM: “Check this out. You take a splice connector, and you fill it full of hot glue, and then once it dries you stuff it in the tip of a blow gun. And then watch this $hit!”
Felonious Monk grabbed one of his hastily-constructed missiles and stuffed it in the end of a blow gun. He connected the blow gun to the air compressor and pointed it outside.
The blow gun launched its projectile at somewhere approaching the speed of sound, sending it all the way to deepest, darkest Kayakia, slamming into their bay door and leaving a golfball-sized dent.
The back door of the kayak place opened and a face peeked out of the shadows.
CK: “Hey! Hey yous f#cks! I know it’s you making that racket! Quit f#cking with my bay door!”
I smiled and waved. Felonious Monk did a little jig.
CK: “F#ck all you f#ckin’ a$$holes!”
The door slammed. Felonious Monk stuffed another missile into the launcher.
Felonious Monk shot me a grin.
FM: “I figure I just do that every once-in-a-while and maybe he’ll go crazy.”
Me: “He’s already crazy.”
FM: “Well I dunno. Maybe he’ll kill himself.”
Me: “Well, I obviously can’t condone this kind of behavior, but it does look like you’re getting a little low on splice connectors. I’ll order another couple of boxes for the afternoon delivery.”
Things were quiet for the next couple of weeks. A couple times a day, Felonious Monk or one of the other technicians would launch a few splice connectors over toward our mortal enemies, just enough to keep them on their toes over there. Their bay door was beginning to look like it had a bad case of acne.
Then one rainy Tuesday, I got a call from the landlady.
Me: “Service, this is…”
LL: “60 cars. That’s how many you can have. 60 cars. 60.”
Me: “We’re aware. I’ve got 43 out there right now, give or take one or two. You can drop by and count them if you want.”
LL: “I don’t care how many you’ve got, I’m sick of getting these calls that you have too many cars. 60. You get 60.”
This was fairly typical for the landlady. Any conversation eventually devolved into her just repeating the same few words, Rainman-style, until you hung up.
Luckily, just then The Diplomat walked by my office on her way to lunch. You may remember her as the young lady we hired to handle red tape for us. She was unbelievably persuasive. I waved her over.
Me: “Hey, Landlady, just real quick, there’s somebody here who can handle this issue better than me.”
I put her on hold and filled in The Diplomat. She took the phone and worked her magic.
TD: “Hi! Hey, look, we know you’re sick of making these calls, and we don’t want you to be burdened with this kind of stuff. You’ve got a lot on your plate to handle, and a dumb parking dispute has got to be unbelievably trivial for you to have to bother with. Look, we know it was Chief Kayak filing the complaints because he’s been over here threatening us with lawyers over the same issue. If you’d like, and the complainant is willing, we would like to sit down with you and him and see if we can come to some kind of amicable agreement. Really? Great! Hey, when you come, can you bring a copy of everybody’s leases? I just want to go over them with the group to make sure we’re in compliance and not treading upon what they have promised in their own lease, you know? Great! Friday at noon? Awesome. Thank you!”
She tossed the phone onto the hook, gave me a grin, and disappeared.
Noon on Friday rolled around and I found myself with The Diplomat, the landlady, and Chief Kayak all crowded in my office. The landlady pulled out our lease and slid it across the table to The Diplomat.
TD: “If no one minds, I’d also like to see the lease for the kayak place. You don’t mind, do you?”
TD: “I’m guessing what’s going on here is that you’ve been given a bunch of spaces in the lot, and we’ve been given a bunch of spaces in the lot, and together, it’s more spaces than there are parking spaces in the lot, you know? And then you come in, and the lot is full with our cars…”
I had no idea what she was up to. The lot was never even close to full. Half full at most.
She smiled at Chief Kayak.
TD: “So you don’t mind if I just have a quick look, do you?”
CK: “No… I guess not.”
The landlady shrugged and looked through her briefcase, pulling out the kayak place’s lease.
While The Diplomat slowly read through the two leases, Chief Kayak amused himself by working himself up into a froth. Horrendous, hateful, deeply untrue accusations were levied against us.
CK: “Yous f#cks always have all these f#ckin’ cahs in the lot! There’s hundreds of ‘em! And worse yet, now yous f#cks are shootin’ some kinda thing at my bay door! It’s all covered in dents from you f#ckin’ assholes!”
I bit the inside of my cheeks to keep from grinning.
CK: “I’m sick’a all the f#ckin’ cahs! They gotta go, all the f#ckin’ cahs! They’s makin’ my shop look like it’s in a junkyahd. It’s like we’re on the set of The Jeffersons or somethin’!”
Me: “Sanford and Son.”
CK: “The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, whateveah!”
The landlady chimed in with her usual admonishment.
LL: “60 cars. You can only have 60 cars! No more than 60 cars.”
Before the landlady could repeat herself once again or Chief Kayak could work himself up into another crazed rant, The Diplomat chimed in.
TD: “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I think I’ve found something. As everyone will note, our lease does show we can occupy up to 60. What I’d like to do is go outside with everyone and count how many we’ve got, just to show everyone we’re in compliance.”
We walked outside and I counted our cars for everyone. 35 today.
TD: “So, there’s still a bunch of other cars on the lot. 36055512, who do those belong to?”
Me: “I’m not sure. I see a couple parked in front of the gravestone place – I suppose those belong to them. And then the florist over there has five or six. And then the rest, I assume, belong to the kayak place.”
TD: “Is that right, Chief Kayak? How many cars do you have on the lot today?”
CK: “I dunno, there’s the workahs, and me, and the delivery vans, so that’s like 20 cahs. So what?”
TD: “Well, that’s interesting, because your lease only gives you fifteen parking spaces.”
The look of “oh $hit” on his face was delicious to watch.
CK: “What!? Lemme see that.”
Chief Kayak snatched the lease from The Diplomat, and she indicated where in the fine print she was reading. The landlady immediately chimed in.
LL: “Fifteen! That’s how many cars you get! Fifteen cars! You get fifteen! Fifteen cars!”
Me: “You know, Ms. Landlady, it sounds like there are a bunch of cars on this lot that are illegally parked. I’d be more than happy to grab our tow rig and remove them for you.”
The landlady threw up her hands in disgust at the lot of us and divorced herself from the group, walking off to her car. Chief Kayak turned tail and retreated back to the uncivilized hole from whence he had come, pausing only briefly to turn and shout,
”This ain’t the last you’ve heard of this, you f#ckin’ a$$holes!”
It was, in fact, the last us f*ckin’ a$$holes heard about it, though the following Monday, five of his employees were conspicuously parked on the street. That evening, I stood in the bay with the technicians, carefully filling splice connectors with hot glue.
pfoot BANG… pfoot BANG… pfoot BANG
We hate those f*ckers at the kayak place.