Parts and Labor Day

We all have comfort zones. Mine is a well-constructed bubble that I try to leave as little as possible. But the world sometimes intervenes, as it did when I got a recall notice for my 2007 Toyota Corolla — something about a randomly exploding air bag on the passagers side, or some such. Why do I care? I’m not sitting there. But then it dawned on me my kid does sit there sometimes. My mechanic told me that while there had been only a few incidents and the risk was low, if I ever wanted to sell my car, I’d need to have it done. I only have 40,000 miles on it, so there’s a good chance I could sell it at some point as a curiosity on eBay when everyone has switched over to self driving cars. I prefer spending money on wine rather than car payments, but if the price and time were right, I’d be happy to sell my “classic” car to some collector.

After getting five recall postcards and four emails, I called the dealer closest to my house, who told me he didn’t have the part and then hung up. No offer to order it, or tell me Bob at this other dealership may have one. I’m sure the fact that they would make $0 on me had nothing to do with it. 

Then I called the 800 number of the recall center — I thought they could light a fire under a dealer. But mostly they just harassed me. We finally found a dealer 40 minutes from my house. They had to order the part, and so gave me an appointment in 6 weeks. The overly concerned recall center lady asked me in a serious tone  if I had another mode of transportation for 6 weeks? I refrained from a snarky answer: lady, I own a 2007 Corolla, do I seem like a person with an alternate form of transportation?

Rather than answer directly, I countered with another question, something along the lines of, is that really necessary, and then her voice went up an octave and she said loudly, “Ma’am! You could die! Or seriously injure someone else!” 

Um OK, agitated recall lady. Yeah, sure, I have a whole garage of cars at my disposal, just let me off the phone now, OK? And why don’t you go all crazy on your dealers, who don’t seemed alarmed in the least to not have the part. “Sir, you could kill your customers!”

And so, six weeks later I found myself at 8 am at the dealership, trapped there for an estimated four hours for the repair. I was working remotely and my coworkers had instructions to send someone in after me if I didn’t emerge in five hours. 

When I got there, my car was ushered into a hanger-like garage swarming with people in red shirts, with a smattering of blue and black shirts. The Star Trek Ill-fated red shirts thing came to mind, and I was relieved to get a guy in a blue shirt.

After his snarky comment, “Drive a lot, do you?” he sent me off to the dreaded suburban dealership waiting room, where, I feared, people and their souls go to die. 

You have to understand that when my car needs servicing, I drop it off in the morning, take a different train to work and pick it up at the end of the day. Doing a car-related errand where I have to wait, in the middle of nowhere, is way down on the list of things I like to do, below taxes and colonoscopy.

It was a senior citizen fest, and luckily my laptop prevented any of them from wandering over and making small talk while I gripped my free coffee with the determination of the condemned with a last request. 

My work was soon interrupted, however, by a Red Shirt older woman, who was walking around straightening chairs, eating popcorn from a ziplock bag, and asked random people how they were doing, and if they got their free drink ticket. Then she greeted a guy with a kid in a stroller, and the job title “Baby Greeter and Gusher” came to mind. Just as I was thinking, they actually pay someone to do that? She helped a lady with a walker find a seat. So, I felt like a jerk, but now I’m thinking, how did this woman even drive here? Maybe she has the senior shuttle drop her off here for a free coffee and a chat with the Red Shirt.

Retirees continued to trickle into the waiting room, with a few working stiffs like myself. I watched enviously as a Red or Blue or Black Shirt came out to tell them their car was ready. 

After three plus hours it was my turn. Having survived the recall lady’s dire warning that I could die, it was a cake walk fending off the mechanic/salesman’s list of all the things they found and what I should get looked at. I just had to smile, nod, sign and get the heck out. I was soon safely back in my bubble. And no one was hurt, not even the Red Shirt. 

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