In a couple weeks Seth and I are going to Chicago for a friend’s wedding. Not wanting to spend 500+ dollars on flights, we decided to road trip (help us, Jesus). Ever since we decided to drive Seth has been reminding me that “we” need to take the car in to get serviced. I think we all know how I feel about car repairs. Last weekend on our way to the library for family story time, Seth reminded me again but this time it was less “we” and more “you”:
“We need to get the car serviced before Chicago. You can just take it in sometime next week over lunch or something.”
“Wait. Why do I have to take it in?”
“Because you drive it.”
“Okaaaaay but I hate going to the car shop. Why can’t we just run it in next weekend or something?”
“No, because you’re going to drop it off in the morning and then you can have somebody pick you up and take you to work.”
“Ok, what? You know I hate asking people to do that type of stuff.”
“Why? That’s dumb.”
“It’s not dumb because we can take the car in over the weekend and then I don’t have to worry about bothering or inconveniencing anyone for a freaking ride.”
“You can take the car in. It’s not going to kill you.”
“Ummmm, do you not remember Randy the mechanic? I left with sweat dripping down my legs the last time I went to the car place. ”
“Babe. You need these experiences.”
“No, I don’t. I definitely do not.”
“The world needs to hear about them.”
“You’re so annoying.
Well, apparently it’s not only Seth who doesn’t care about my fear of car repair shops but also the universe because yesterday morning as I drove to work, I noticed my ride was particularly bumpy. About a mile and a half down the road, I pulled up to the air compressor at the the nearest gas station, got out and saw it – a tire as flat as a fucking pancake. I tried to pump air into the tire but nothing happened. And then I did the second best thing and called Seth.
“Hey. What’s up?”
“Are you kidding me? Where are you?”
“Nope. I’m at the gas station on the corner of Leavenworth and Saddle Creek.”
“Will it hold any air at all?”
“I tried and nothing happened. It’s, like, really flat and I don’t want to ruin the rim.”
“Ok, just sit tight,. I’ll come look at it.”
The next thing I did was Google car shops and, as it turned out, there was a collision shop right behind the gas station. I thought about calling them but that felt dumb because the front door was 60 feet away. I could just imagine what Seth would have to say about me calling them, so I walked over. The shop seemed small but I entered under the sign that read “OFFICE”, walked through a fancy-ish display of cars and into a tiny office. There was no one anywhere. I began to wonder if they were even open until suddenly this little older woman popped up from behind the tall counter.
“Hi, this might be a silly question but do you guys repair tires.”
The tiny woman nodded her head slowly.
“Ok, I have a flat tire and I’m just parked over here at the Quick Trip -“
“Well, we repair them but our guy isn’t here until 10:00.”
“Ok, well do you have a price sheet I can look over – or something…maybe…while I wait?”
The tiny woman just stared at me.
“Or…is that even a thing?”
“Not really. It might not be repairable and then….” Her voice trailed off.
“And then? Um, ok. Well, if it’s not repairable, do you guys replace tires?”
“We have new tires.”
This is why I hate car shops. Even when I’m speaking perfectly good English I start to doubt that I actually am speaking at all. Am I even in a car shop right now?!
“Soooo, does the man just needs to see it first then or?”
The woman nodded slowly. She was very serious.
“Ok, I’m going to go call my husband – I’ll be back. Thank you.”
The tiny woman cracked a small smile. I headed back to my car.
Back at my car, I sat and watched another young woman try to fill her tire. At least she has some air, I thought to myself.
10 minutes later, Seth would show up and I’d pull the car over to take another turn at the air pump only to realize the head of it had been broken off the entire time. Without any other choice, we took it next door. When we walked back into the shop, still desolate, the small woman was standing there with a thin smile, chuckling at my return. I threw out a jolly, I’m back! (and still awkward as fuck) and let Seth take it from there.
“So, you guys do tires?”
“Yeeeesssss? But our guy doesn’t come in until 3rd shift.”
“When is that?”
“Ten o’clock – but he’s usually 10 to 15 minutes late.”
“Ok, so can we just leave the car here? Is that cool?”
“Well, I need you to fill out paperwork.”
She passed a form over the counter. As Seth and I filled it out the old woman started murmuring about something.
“Oh goodness. You’re okay, dog. You’re okay…Oh, fine. Come here. You want to see? Come here.”
Seth and I looked at her and there she was a cradling a small dog who looked scared to death.
“This is my best friend. He’s a rescue dog. He doesn’t bark. When we went to pick one out, he was the only one who wasn’t barking.”
“Those are the ones you want.”
Seth is partial to small dogs and I immediately knew where this was going to go.
“See, babe? Small dogs are the best dogs. That’s why we need a small dog.”
I am not a small dog person, I’m partial to bigger dogs. Shortly after we had Abbott, Seth and I talked a lot about buying the boys a dog. I mean, well, it was mostly me talking about it and Seth talking about all the reasons we didn’t need one – but our conversation would always turn into a disagreement about what size of dog we’d get. In this moment, I wanted to ask Seth what exactly it was about this cat-sized, skittish, mute dog that made a case for small dogs being better but I didn’t want to offend the woman – who I suddenly loved because of said dog. So, I just smiled.
Later that afternoon when I went to get the car I walked in to the shop to find the small woman peeking through the blinds of the office window. I could see my friend who had dropped me off backing out of the side lot through the gap between the woman’s fingers. When I opened the door the small woman looked at me, surprised.
” -Oh, I see you got a ride!”
“Yeah, just a friend of mine.”
“I see. Well, here are your keys.”
I made some joke about how I was happy the tire just needed a patch. She awkwardly laughed and murmured something in return. As she ran my card I scanned the small office taking notice of the calendar hanging near her chair. The words, “Make your own kind of wonderful” were scrawled in a gold-foil print across a pretty watercolor background. I spent a brief moment wondering if she was a Grandma and how long she had called that tiny office her’s. I thought about how lonely it must get and then I was reminded of her dog, her best friend. And just like that, what had seemed lonely and cold just seemed peaceful and tranquil and its own kind of wonderful.
That woman seems to have singlehandedly altered my hatred for car shops. I don’t know her name (though I’m guessing she’s a Carol or Edna or something like that) but I have her – well, and the universe – to thank for making the idea of getting car work done not entirely horrifying. I’m sure Seth is thankful, too.
Watch out, Randy, I’m coming for ya.