Saturday, August 21, 2010

Second Opinions

         Last year, while having dinner on Main Street in Nyack prior to the start of a critique group session, I ended up with a $50 ticket because my New York State inspection sticker was one day past its expiration date. At the time, it was $50 I could ill afford to light a match to.
         So this year, when my 85-year-old father -- of all people -- noticed that one of the bulbs of my front headlight array was out, I zoomed into the shop at the crack of dawn on my first free Saturday -- ten days before inspection sticker shock -- to get both taken care of.
        "No problem," the guy says. "Forty minutes."
        "In that case, I'll just go on over to Starbucks and wait."
        Sits outside on Starbuck's back terrace sipping a venti iced coffee, savoring an asiago bagel and devouring Nalini Singh's Caressed by Ice, Book 3 in the Psy-Changeling series, on my Sony Pocket Reader.
         This is the life, I think. Coffee, bagel, fabulous summer morning, great read. Pistons pink. All systems go.

         Vibrate. Ring.
        "Ready?" I say.
       "Well..." he says.
       This'll be good, I think.
       "You need a front light bulb," he says.
       "And windshield wipers."
       "And an air filter."
       (Sigh.) "Okay."
       "And I need you to come in so I can show you something."
       Ding-ding-ding!  Alarm! Alarm! Danger, Will Robinson!
      "Um, just tell me, since I won't know what you're showing me anyway."
      "Well, you've got an oil leak and we need to replace your (names oil gizmo of some sort)."
        "And that costs...?"
        (But wait! He's not done yet!)
       "And your front struts (whatever they are) should have been replaced at 50,000 miles and you need rear struts (whatever they are)...and (something or other, perhaps struts, because my mind has already blanked out at this point, while, on another level, it is also considering that struts is an excellent verb choice) is cracked" and a bunch of double-talking gobbledygook then ensues, at which point dollar signs begin to flicker past like the per gallon price on the gas pump.
       "And the bottom line is..."
       "$795 plus labor."
       "Did you do these things already?" (Shrieks. Starbuck's denizens out on the terrace with me crush their newspapers in shock, knock over their lattes. Babies in strollers cry and wail.) I just came in for a light bulb!"
      "No, it'll take three hours. Come in so we can show you."
     "No, don't show me. Don't touch my car. I'm coming in."
     Tosses suddenly very, very bitter dregs of venti iced coffee in trash. Hoofs it to gas station. Upon arrival, Mr. Mechanic Man insists on showing me. Displaying, actually. Exhibits A.  B.  C.  Etc. More gobbledygook. This time while standing under my car, squinting up at a jungle of sooty metal. Frowning.
    Yeah.Sure.Whatever.  "Can you just put the light bulb in? Thank you."
    More gobbledygook about the state inspection. Whoa. This guy does not take "NO!!!!!!" for an answer.
    "How much will the light bulb be, please?"
   Hands over credit card, takes car, drives two blocks to next station. (Both stations have worked on my car before, I should note. I'm in their computer. I buy gas from them. They recognize me.)
    "I need a state inspection, please."
    "Sure. One hour."
   "Great. I'm just going to walk up the hill to CVS."  (Picks up prescription, sits on bench in teensy parklet outside and continues reading Nalini Singh's Caressed by Ice. Still entranced with story. Wonderfulness of summer morning wanes, now two hours later, enrapture not so much. Trudges down hill back to gas station. Car sits outside. Done. Less than an hour. New NYS sticker affixed to windshield. )
    "We replaced the left rear parking light."
    (Shuts eyes. Of the litany of busted things reeled off by gas station No. 1, a rear parking light was not on the list.) "How much?"
  Holy crap!
  (Plus $37 for inspection, $.76 for "hazardous materials" that I decide not to inquire about and $.79 tax. But still. Grand total: $48.50.)
    Beats $795 plus labor any day of the week.

    On the other hand, am I now driving around in a newly-inspected, stickered, well-lit bucket of bolts that is about to become totally unhinged at 65 mph?

    And you thought second opinions were just for surgeons wanting to rip your guts out!
       Kind of like writing and critiques.


Anonymous said...

Yikes! That's quite a morning for you and your vehicle. Glad to hear it's all done and not $795. I don't know how shady service people live with themselves. Good thing you got that second opinion.

Taryn Kincaid said...

Hi, Heather.

I just wish I could be 100% certain which was the shady one -- without going for a third opinion! Mechanic No. 1 with the $795+bill or Mechanic No. 2, who did the state inspection and didn't find anything except another dim bulb!

Interestingly, as I thought about all that on the short drive home, I did relate it to writing and critique groups and thought I'd post about that. Opinions likely to get me in trouble.

But, in any event, by the time I got through with my morning at Mechanic World, I ran out of steam.

Ended up doing laundry instead.

Another day, another blog post.


Shoshanna Evers said...

Yeah, I feel like mechanics take one look at me and think "Ooh, we can *totally* take advantage of her". Now that I'm reading your post I'm thinking they probably do - I don't think I've *ever* gone in for an oil change and left without having spent hundreds of dollars on extra work. *Sigh*. As for second opinions on writing, I always say if two people say opposite things then the tie breaker goes to the writer!

Taryn Kincaid said...

Tie-breaker goes to the writer! Yes, I love that!

JL Walters said...

Terri, Life does continue to be interesting for you.

Anonymous said...

I love the pink panther. Liz

Taryn Kincaid said...


Fodder. It's all fodder.

Taryn Kincaid said...


Did you watch the cartoon?

Wendy Marcus said...

You sure do have a lot going on. And everything waited to break down until you went back to work. What's up with that?

Taryn Kincaid said...

I know, right? Like I don't have enough to do.

Anonymous said...

My kids have 2 Pink Panther DVD's and we have all watched CARS so I love the pics!!!! I got taken advantaged of big time my whole life when it comes to cars. I always get a pit in my stomach when I have to go to the mechanic - just like the doctor, waiting to find out how bad and how much. At least it's over for now! As for the writing - great words, Shoshanna, tie breaker goes to the writer! Brilliant!

Taryn Kincaid said...

Hope you watched the cartoon above with them!

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