After the dark revelations of Incompetent Tech Guy’s demise in the previous story, I thought it might be time for some shorter, lighter stories for a bit. As always, I truly appreciate the warm reception I’ve received thus far, and I hope you’ll enjoy some stories for a bit where nobody wound up getting arrested.
One of the many dumb things we did at Dishonest Used Car Dealership was to take perfectly horrible Volkswagen Vanagons and make them even more horrible by swapping in diesel engines. It was an expensive operation, needing a handful of difficult-to-find or custom-made parts and many hours of labor, so to keep costs down, we were asked to cut corners wherever we could. On one particular day, Lord Salisbury polished off one of these swaps, and, knowing how much I detested these contraptions, tossed me the keys to take it on a shakedown run. Lord Salisbury was from England and caught a bunch of s#!t for his “fancy f**kin accent”. He was a simply fantastic technician. Better still, he perpetually had a bottle of Bombay Sapphire tucked in his toolbox that he occasionally shared with me.
The Vanagon drove like a pile, which was mostly because it was a sad old Vanagon that we had picked up at an auction for pennies, and we had added to its injuries by swapping out one awful engine for an even more awful one. One thing I did notice was that the shifter was the single sloppiest piece of trash I had ever had the misfortune of trying to use. You see, there are these plastic bushings that connect together the rods that link the shifter to the shift forks in the transmission, and as the car ages, they wear out, leaving the shifter feeling vague and loose. As a non-essential item and to save some cash, we had neglected to change out the bushings on this particular example, and they were so worn that more than once I missed the gear I was shooting for and grabbed second instead of fourth or third instead of first.
I took it back to the shop, ready to give my report. Lord Salisbury and I had a regular ritual with these things. He would ask me what I thought, and my response was always the same: “Well, it’s a Vanagon.” I rolled into the parking lot and parked in the nearest spot, facing the street. I pulled the parking brake and slid the shifter into first gear.
LS: “What do you think?”
Me: “It’s a Vanagon.”
LS: “You left it in gear, yeah? The parking brake is knackered on that thing.”
Me: “I thought it felt light. Yeah, I left it in first.”
Thirty minutes later, a man walked in the front door with a concerned look on his face.
“Hey, just so you know, there’s some grey van that rolled out into the middle of the street and hit a parked car.”
It was the Vanagon. It seems that in my haste to get out of it, I had not quite made it into first gear. The shifter was up and to the left, but with all the slop in the bushings, the transmission was still in neutral. With minimal resistance from the emergency brake, it slowly crept out into traffic and came to rest against a parked car. The Vanagon was, sadly, fine, but the little Subaru it hit had some scratches and a wavy fender. We footed the bill for the repairs to the Subaru and replaced the shifter bushings in the Vanagon.
For the remainder of my tenure, rumors persisted that I deliberately pushed the Vanagon into traffic, just because I hated them so much.