They make disposable razors. Can disposable cars be far behind?
Servicing my car tries my patience and turns me into a shrew. Does this make me a bad person, or just normal?
By Janis Hirsch
I love my car, I really do. I love it clean or dirty, dinged or as smooth as a brand new facelift. I love it in traffic, I love it on the open road and I especially love it when I finally find it in the parking lot at the mall. But when something goes wrong, no matter how minor, no matter how fixable, I want to take my car out into the backyard and shoot it.
Yes, I know tires can be changed, and burned out bulbs can be replaced, and fluids can be added, but if it’s a choice between me killing my car and spending even ten minutes in a perfectly serviceable Service Bay waiting room, I’m locking, loading and identifying next of kin.
I always start out with the best of intentions. Like last week when it was time for my Prius’s’s’s’s’s 25,000 check up, I planned ahead. I gave myself just enough time to cruise the Toyota gift shop where I inexplicably fell in love with a 4’ long rear view mirror and pens with purple feathers on top before my friend Amy picked me up for a dawn raid on our local Farmer’s Market. Not only did I taste my first persimmon – also my last persimmon – that morning but my service rep called to tell me my car was ready before we finished our coffee.
FYI, when you’re with Amy and me, the actual shopping at the Farmer’s Market takes a back seat to our true joy, drinking coffee while looking for chefs we’ve seen on television. Most recent sightings? Stefan and CJ from “Top Chef” and Wolfgang Puck from the overpriced soup section in my grocery store. There was also a woman about my age in a unitard and reindeer antlers playing “Ode to Joy” on the ukulele. I made Amy swear that if she ever saw me in a unitard and antlers playing anything on a ukulele she’d throw a blanket over my head and shove me in the trunk of her Bimmer.
My car was ready before I was – I had timed this perfectly! When Amy dropped me and my Swiss Chard back at Toyota I was ready for my victory lap. After all, I hadn’t spent one minute doing my patented Wait ‘N Fume. I waltzed in, saw my beautiful car winking at me and was giddy.
I waltzed inside to the cashier but he told me I had to see my rep – nothing’s wrong, that’s just check-out policy. Okay, even though it makes no sense, I swallow my knee-jerk pick-a-fight-on-spec reflex and look for my rep. After all, I’m still gloating about how I gamed the system and really, isn’t that all that matters?
I find my rep who smiles and tells me it’ll just be a sec; there’s another customer ahead of me. I’m so happy that I’m not still eating that persimmon that I say: “Take your time, I’m fine” and mean it. I’m that big a person.
Now I don’t like to brag (which is what people say right before they brag) but I have several amazing and unique talents: I can wiggle my ears (not as much of a crowd-pleaser as you’d think), I do an uncanny imitation of Glynis Johns in “A Little Night Music” (among the least-marketable talents in the known world) AND I can eavesdrop on conversations practically into the next zip code, which is how my best laid plans began to crumble.
The guy ahead of me was In A Mood. His wife told him he could pay with these coupons: why wasn’t the rep taking them? The rep patiently explained that they didn’t cover the adjustment his car needed. In true irate customer manner, the guy ahead of me simply repeated: “My wife said I could pay with these coupons.” The rep now points to the line on said coupons exempting the work that was just done. When the guy says for the third time the thing about his wife and those damn coupons, am I sympathetic to the plight of the beleaguered rep or to the hapless husband? No, I am not. For all I care, they can burst into flames. What I want is to leave.
Forever. Leave my beloved car right where it is and buy a new one. I don’t care what kind. I don’t care that I’d have to sell my house to afford it. I’ve crossed a line. I now hate my car.
Mind you, I had to wait maybe 5 minutes before the matter with the wife and the coupons was amicably resolved (although in my opinion, he needs to grow a pair or she needs to safety pin a better note to his shirt before sending him out in the world) and those 5 minutes were punctuated by multiple apologies and offers of coffee and chairs, yet in that brief time I went from magnanimous to venomous, from nurture to nut-job.
The next day, my son got a flat and needed a new tire. Which I was going to be paying for. Meaning he had to spend almost 20 minutes at a tire shop with nothing but a state of the art smartphone and a Del Taco in walking distance to keep him busy. (FYI, when I told this to my mother, she said: “Whose Adele Taco?” Honest.) My son carried on like Mary Todd Lincoln after she and Abe went to the theater… and I’ve never been prouder. The hysteric doesn’t fall far from the tree.
On the flip side, my husband was taking his car in for routine servicing early one Saturday morning. Mind you, Larry’s idea of Saturday morning is getting up at 11, having a punch bowl of Cheerios in Lactaid and going back to bed till 4 so I was expecting drama when his alarm went off at 6. Nope. Sweet as could be. Even apologized for disturbing me. His favorite service center is a good 45 minutes away – still no complaining. When I checked in with him 4 hours later, his car wasn’t even close to being ready and yet he sounded fine.
Unable to accept that he was so much more mature and so much less petty than I am, I began to needle. Surely some aspect of his waiting around for his car got to him. “Well,” he said after some thought, “the linoleum in the service area was a little dingey.” Seriously? Four hours of his Saturday morning gone and all he could bitch about was flooring? Apologetically, he added: “I wouldn’t’ve even noticed that if I hadn’t been sleeping so soundly that I rolled off the couch onto the floor.”
My husband was so relaxed while waiting for his car to be serviced that he racked up some serious zzz’s on a faux-naugahide, never-been-cleaned couch? What kind of animal did I marry?
But then I thought about it. For every “me” in waiting rooms throwing tantrums at people who don’t care AND who know how to cut your brakes there are those people who knit or nap or read or take walks confident in the knowledge that their cars will be ready soon. Unless they drive a Mercedes, in which case their car will be ready in 5 days and after they’d driven a Buick Century loaner that smells like cat and cigars.
I understand and accept that cars are machines and computers, and machines and computers sometimes need repair.
I understand and accept that I live in a great big world populated by millions of people who also need to get their tires rotated.
I understand and accept that my impatience is a failing and a flaw, which is entirely in my power to control and change.
I just don’t want to.