Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Quart Low

I don’t know anything about cars. I once spent hours replacing the windshield wiper blades only to end up using duct tape. That worked great until the day it started raining and I realized I had taped the wipers to the windshield.

I can’t even have an intelligent conversation with a teenager about cars:

Teenager: Wow! Did you see that X80-R2D2-Hyena-Hemi?

Me: Nice. It’s got, what, four wheels?

I finally resorted to quoting Springsteen lyrics whenever anyone asked me about cars.

Teenager: What kind of engine does your Saturn have?

Me: Um, a 396 with fuelie heads and a Hurst on the floor.

Teenager: I didn’t think that big an engine would fit in a car that small.

Me: I’m driving a stolen car.

But when I get an oil change, I am treated like royalty. They roll out the red carpet, call me “sir,” and escort me to the special VIP waiting room which is filled with little old ladies. While other drivers are offered soda which gets tacked onto their bill, I receive complimentary champagne.

Last week, I took the car in for an oil change and its annual inspection. After 10 minutes, the mechanic came in with a dipstick in hand.

“Sir, the good news is you passed the inspection,” he said. “But when’s the last time you had your oil changed?”

“Hmm, about 5 months ago.” I knew the correct answer was supposed to be 3 months but he was obviously onto me so I wanted to make it seem better than the real answer which was: I have no idea.

“Take a look at this dipstick. You’re a quart low and look how dark that oil is. I got an engine treatment that’ll fix that right up for nine-ninety-five.”

“That’s 9 dollars and 95 cents, right? Sure go ahead.” Ha! Outsmarted him on the ol’ $9.95 versus $995.00 trick.

A few minutes later he came back with the air filter.

“Looks pretty ragged,” he said.

I actually knew the car was due for a new filter, so I agreed. So far, the oil change was going well, but I needed to stay focused.

After a few more minutes, he came back.

“Well, we checked your battery. It’s rated at 517 but it’s only cranking to 410.”

I put my finger over my lips and sighed. I did not verbalize what I was thinking, which was, “410 milliliters? 410 megawatts? 410 rpms, calories, RBIs? What does that mean?”

“Summer heat is just killing these batteries. Don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road. I’ll get you fixed up with a new one, five-year warranty.”

I decided to wait him out. I sat still, finger over my lips, hemming and hawing. But he was a pro at the waiting game, didn’t say a word and didn’t move. I finally realized I would have to say something.

“How about just soldering a pack of D batteries on top of the old one?”

Relief flooded his face. “Ha, you’re funny! Alrighty then, I’ll get you fixed up.”

I watched him walk back into the garage and high-five another mechanic. Soon another younger mechanic came up to me.

“Sir, your Klondike manifold has slipped out of joint. But we’ve got a special Klondike bar we can use to jimmy it back into place. Only $80, no wait, $180.”

“No, I need to get back to work. This was supposed to be a thirty-minute oil change.”

“You can never be too careful. So you don’t want the $180 Klondike bar?”

“No.” But for some reason my mouth started watering.

They eventually finished and gave me a 10% preferred customer discount which I paid for with my Platinum Oil Shop Visa Card. After I came home, St. Pauli Girl saw the invoice on my desk.

“I thought an oil change was $30,” she said suspiciously.

“Yeah, something like that,” I shrugged.

“So you got fifteen oil changes?”

I sang back in my best Springsteen, “’Open up them engines, let ‘em roar, tearin’ up the highway, just a big old dinosaur.’”


  1. OMG, I had a great time reading this post. You're really funny, man. You're the 2nd Texan I've ever met that has a really good sense of humor.