Russia: Strong on Cossack Dancing, weak on Subaru repair.
I spend about 70% of my day constructing elaborate and detailed fantasies in which I cut the inconsiderate people in my day-to-day life down to size with angry, articulate, profanity-laden rants that shame them into changing their ways and doing the right thing.
For example, I was in line at the supermarket once and the lady ahead of me, having paid for her items, just grabbed her plastic bags and walked away, leaving her now empty shopping cart blocking the rest of the checkout aisle. This happened in April and I can feel my blood pressure going up just thinking about it.
At the time, I did nothing – in fact, I put the cart away for her, because I wasn’t about to leave it there. I then spent the rest of the week imagining what I should’ve done to bring this suburban terrorist to justice.
“Hey!” Truman yelled, pointing at Cart Lady’s back. “Where are you going?”
Cart Lady turned around slowly, not sure why she was being addressed. “Um, like, to my car, or whatever?”
Truman deftly kicked the cart toward her. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”
Cart Lady felt a thousand pinpricks of cold sweat breaking out around her scalp. As a worthless draw on society who never used her turn signals and wasn’t even registered to vote, she had never considered that leaving her cart blocking the aisle was a flagrantly irresponsible thing to do.
“I…” She stammered. “I don’t know. I guess I thought-”
“No you didn’t.” Truman said flatly. “You don’t do a lot of thinking, unless it’s about yourself. Well, I’m from Society, and I believe I speak for all of us when I say you should put your fucking cart away, then go home and kill yourself.”
Everyone in the store burst into applause, including a newly-divorced Christina Hendricks, and Cart Lady sullenly grabbed her cart and all but ran out of the store. She killed herself that night, but it was okay because her apartment was subsequently leased to a hard working lower income Hispanic family at a reduced rate because she’d hung herself in the closet.
Of course, in reality, so much as giving that woman a stern look would probably cause me so much guilt that I’d kill myself. Unfortunately, I grew up an only child with parents who raised me to be generally polite and respectful toward strangers, so I’m not great at confrontation. I settle most of my interpersonal disputes by either internalizing my anger until I’m nauseous, or (in extreme cases) leaving a passive aggressive note and then fretting about my impoliteness until I’m nauseous. I go through a lot of Pepto.
Recently I dropped big money for a local mechanic to replace the steering gear on The Mystery Wagon. As you’ll remember, I was pretty enthusiastic about the experience, to the point of endorsing my mechanic’s services on my blog. This is because I wrote the update almost immediately after getting my car back, so my recommendation was fueled mainly by the fact that the mechanic was very polite and my car had not been filled with spiders when I arrived to pick it up.
In the couple weeks since then, I’ve discovered that I may have been a bit hasty in my recommendation. While it is true that my mechanic is outstanding in the field of being a polite, eccentric old Russian man, he’s actually kind of a crappy mechanic. All this would be fine if he ran a business where people pay money for him to be polite and eccentric, but unfortunately his entire livelihood is fixing cars.
When I got my car back a couple weeks ago, the red airbag light below my speedometer was on.
“Airbag light came on when we put car back together.” He explained, handing me my keys. “We not have time to fix by end of day, but bring car back in next couple weeks and we fix for free! Airbag light and any other problems you are having.”
How eccentric! How polite!
The airbag light wasn’t bothering me too much, but I quickly realized that whenever I tried to make an especially sharp turn my car would make a hideous grinding noise and vibrate like a cheap motel bed, which is generally not a good sign. So, the following Saturday, I dropped the car off with him again and gave him a rundown of the problems.
“Very good, very good!” He said, nodding eagerly as I handed him the keys. “We fix the grind, we fix the airbag light. No problems!”
That afternoon I walked out of a movie theater and found a voicemail from my mechanic.
“Hello Truman! I am calling to let you know your car is been fixed. We fixed steering gear; no more grinding noise. We also realize that we forget to realign your wheels last time, so we do it now. Is extra $80. Okay, goodbye!”
My brain called shenanigans immediately – wasn’t this supposed to be free? But the rest of me, eager to avoid a confrontation, politely reminded my brain that I’d signed off on the realignment as part of the initial slate of repairs – they’d simply forgotten to do it then.
And admittedly that was a huge fuckup on their part – forgetting to do their damn jobs – but I’m really in no position to get on anybody’s case about fucking up. I fuck up a lot of tasks far simpler than automotive repair. As a production assistant I once tipped over an entire craft services table full of food; all these guys had done was realign my wheels ten days later than expected. Yes, it was a fuckup, but it didn’t waste 20 Oreos and two bowls of M&Ms.
The following morning I retrieved my car and was so overjoyed at the absence of grinding when I left the parking lot that I didn’t even notice my airbag light was still on until I was halfway to work.
My steering gear had been replaced, but now my own gears were starting to grind.
Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion in Part II!