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The Fabric of Life -- The Measure of Men

One thing I have learned over the years of remote boondocking is that you do not pull your vehicle down for repairs or maintenance if you are out around BFE, Texas.  It just doesn’t pay off  to sideline your only transportation when you are miles from the closest hose clamp, bolt or special tool required to make the vehicle drivable again.

Young Henry learning the ropes...He's gonna be a good 'un

And so it was that I wanted to do some repairs and maintenance on the Suburban while I was in Baytown.  The oil lease roads had managed to beat up the suspension yet again and I needed 4 new shock absorbers.  It was also time for an oil change.  5 hours laying in a humid driveway got the shocks done and a mom-pop oil change place down the road took care of the other.  But this post is not about turnin’  wrenches on our ride.

I can honestly say I am not prejudiced when it comes to skin color.  I learned long ago what color a man’s skin is has nada to do with what kinda stuff he is made of.   However, y’all well know there are certain types of folks which I just can’t abide.  Something about the widely accepted norm of an 80% effort being good enough to get by these days just flys all over me and that is what is on my mind today.

I should’ve ordered those 4 shock absorbers online — I could have saved $100 easily.  Problem is we were between PO Boxes and that truck was beating Miss K’s bad back to a pulp.  Some things just can’t wait so I found myself in an auto parts store in South Baytown getting those shocks.   As soon as I walked in I saw that all 4 people behind the counter were Hispanic as was most of the clientele.  No hoodrats — just regular folks.  Not a problem in my book.  I stepped up and Hector greeted me in perfect English and we soon settled on a price for 4 shocks that showed to be in stock.   I could see him hustling around in the stock shelves collecting the shocks and when he came back up to the counter he was carrying 3.  He said ‘The computer shows 4 but I can only locate 3.’  I pushed my hat back and said ‘3 don’t do me much good.’    He was punching keys on the computer.  ‘How far away are you located?’   When I told him 20 minutes,  he said ‘I located the shock at another store.  I will go pick it up and deliver it to your house.’  No defeated shrug and blank stare that said hey, that is my 80% for the day.  ‘How long will it take to go get that shock?‘ I asked him.  ‘I will call ahead so it is ready and send Maricella who is my fastest driver to pick it up. 20 minutes at most.’    I did some figuring and told him  ‘I have some errands to run up the street, I will drop back by in 20 minutes to pick up that shock.  Let’s settle up on the money now. ‘   He was as good as his word.

Next stop was the quick lube place.   I am ever vigilant when I stoop so low as to use one of these outfits.   Their bread and butter is not changing oil — it is the unknowing soccer moms and unwary cubicle dudes that keep them in business with add on stuff  at sky high markup.  This place was family owned and it looked like Mom was running the show with a mostly grown son and daughter manning the bays.  All caucasian by the way–as was the other clientele.  Nothing wrong with that.  The song and dance started almost immediately with Mom answering the bell for the first round.  ‘Full service today?  That includes greasing the suspension and a full inspection.’   She was probably as old as Miss K.  ‘How much dinerio might that be young lady?’  I was enjoying myself.   ‘$40 with bulk 10W30.’   Not even playing that game of what was another man’s Quaker State 10W30 was now my Pennzoil 10W30 , I said how much extra for bottled oil? “$4” she said.  I added ‘Wix or AC Delco filter only.’  She nodded in the affirmative and heisted her short-shorted butt into the BA Suburban to pull it into the bay.  Round 1 over.  Technically a draw since she got me to upgrade my basic service to a full service.

Look at the concentration. No future 80 percenter here.

Frat boy son came out of the corner for Round 2.  Predictably he went for the airbox cover right off the bat.   Even though the cover had a slice of silver duct tape clearly black Sharpie inscribed with a fairly recent date, he was wanting to dance; obviously.  Pulling the air filter out, he shook is head and said  ‘Would you look at how dirty this thing is!’  Feining absolute horror I said ‘OMG! WTF is up with that?’   Sensing blood, he came for the kill.  ‘A new one is $47  — they are more for these big SUVs.’  Uh no Mr. Boy; more like $22 all day long.  ‘I think I’ll pass.  That date you read on top of the airbox means that filter was just recently changed.‘   Clearly whupped, he gave me what I call the Stink Eye of Disdain, a last resort of Frat Boys worldwide.  That’s all he had left, Round 2 is clearly mine.

Round 3 gets a little more complicated as there is a gambit in play.  A full inspection, in my book, means everything gets a good onceover from the guy manning the oil cave in the service bay.  In the case of this particular Suburban, there happened to be 2 gross mechanical deficiencies.  One was a rubber boot on the tie rod knuckle that had been slit open by a Mesquite thorn a few weeks previously.  It had scattered thick grease in a good sized area all around the knuckle.   The second thing was a left front shock with a disintegrated lower bushing.  Pieces of the bushing were hanging out past the bolt that secured the shock.

So as is my habit, I never take my eyes off these snake oilers. I stand just outside the red line that prohibits my presence in their service area and watch every move.  I was watching Oil Cave Man piddling and puttering underneath the Suburban and when I thought he was about done I said ‘Things look OK under there?’   ‘Yes Sir, you are good to go.’;  at least he was polite and mannerly.  Round Three was a knock out.  Match goes to me.

My Bro came down for a drive by visit the next day and I related the shock buying story to him.   I summed up the story by saying it was good to see somebody man up for a change AND if the Hispanics were going to take over South Texas, maybe that was not such a bad thing at all.   He got kinda wound up and wanted to know if the Hispanics took over, where did that leave the Caucasians?   Uh, I dunno.  Cutting the grass, picking the tomatoes, changing the sheets at the hotel?    Running a Quik Lube  oil change place?   I was half-ways baiting him and partly serious.  I do know that with lean times, 80% is not gonna be even close to good enough and times and attitudes both will have to change.

End Note: Indiana Road by Fred J. Eaglesmith from the Indiana Road cd.

“I told him I would meet him on the Indiana Road with a gun in my hand but he never showed.’

Early and odd Fred J.

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7 comments to The Fabric of Life — The Measure of Men

  • The trend is the same. It will not change. It messes with my late life trend of pacifism.

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  • Ken H

    Man, you done tripped my trigger once again. The oil change places are a hoot. A caucasian guy in New Braunfels, TX tried it on me. While the kid in the cave was draining the oil, the manager comes to me and sez, you really need to change your oil at 3K miles. Oh really? And why is that? Well, your oil is really in bad shape. I asked how much ash is in it? He said he was not sure. OK, how much fuel is in it? Uh, not sure. OK, what is the shear? Not sure? OK, what is the soot level? How much metal? What is the lead content? What is the additive level? At this point his eyes are glazed over and he realizes he has opened Pandora’s box. (By the way, I spent a lot of years in a lab analyzing refinery samples, including compressor engine oil)
    Then I told him, not too kindly, if you are gonna try to cheat someone, you better get your s— together. Mark it down buster, I ain’t coming back here. And don’t bother pulling the air filter, because there is absolutely no chance you will sell me anything, cause you are a thief, and not a good one at that.

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  • Soooo I assume when you went back to the parts store, they had your shock as promised?
    Isn’t it amazing when we are pleased as punch when someone does their job, as if they are doing something great? We have come to expect the 80% or half-assed service nowadays… and are so surprised to see someone give 100% that it’s remarkable. Sigh. What is life coming to?

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    • Andrew

      Yep, he got me the shock as promised.

      It is coming to an impossible situation is what it is coming to. Something is going to have to give.

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  • Richard

    “‘Things look OK under there?’ ‘Yes Sir, you are good to go.’; at least he was polite and mannerly. Round Three was a knock out. Match goes to me.”

    Andy, I’d say you let that fellow off the hook a tad easy.

    100% good story.

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  • Joel

    Fun story. Make me glad I live in the city, where I have my pick of mechanics. Found an honest one within 3 miles of home, 30 years ago.

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  • Hey Richard, I’m trying to teach Andy about the effects of kharma.

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