Thursday, November 04, 2004

Brake Dancing

I drove away from Evans World Headquarters this morning in a car that sounded like a hyena in estrus. There was a high-pitched, metal-on-metal grinding noise coming from the front wheel wells and we all know what that means: an expensive brake job.

Driving a sick car makes me feel scummy. I can hear the Sanford & Son theme song playing in my head (“buh-buh-bahdad, buh-buh-bahdah-bahdah-bah…”) and I feel like every other vehicle on the road is looking at my car, hearing the sound of my gravely ill brake pads and wondering if I’ll be late for my job shoveling shit or applying ointment to hemmorhoid-laden bungholes in some sick clinical study.

Ken, the tattooed chain-smoker mechanic, heard me coming. He walked over to where I parked with a half-roasted Marlboro dangling from his bottom lip, his eyes squinting at my car through a cloud of tobacco smoke and his own stench.

“Sounds like the brakes,” he grunted. Ya think, Huckleberry?

He said he could fit me in right away, told me to go fill out some paperwork inside and leave my key with Nicole. Funny, when he spoke her name (which also happens to be the middle name of my daughter), I expected to find someone with, oh, I don’t know, a full set of teeth. That wasn’t the case.

Nicole is five-foot-two. Her hair is jet black and greasy and her eyes are surrounded with an inch wide stripe of black eye make-up (or were they bruises?). She is wearing acid wash jeans, circa 1983. Behind her desk is a NASCAR calendar, surprisingly flipped to the right month. In the box that denotes November 8, the following words have been scribbled in purple, ballpoint ink: “Nicole needs off. Court date.” One can only imagine.

“Hi,” I say. “I’m here to drop of my car.”

She looks up, smiles, revealing that she is missing two teeth from her top rack. Might this have something to do with the court date?

She asks me some questions about my car – year, model, license plate number, why a hot, macho guy like me would drive such a pussy of a car – then hands me a pen and asks me to sign the form that waives the shop from any liability if I drive away and hit a water buffalo on the way home. I sign, but not before I notice that Nicole’s fingernails are long and dirty and ringed with what I presume is auto grease. Please, God, let it be auto grease. We shared a pen.

I walk across the parking lot to a restaurant and enjoy a breakfast of cold, runny eggs, gristled sausage patties and a mass of mushy beige paste described in the menu as “hash browns.” The man in the next booth is a clergyman, his companion a parishioner. He is loud and domineering and really tied to this whole idea that God is the way and the light. He voted for Bush because the Lord told him to, and I presume the Lord also told him not to order the hash browns.

As I eat, I try to imagine the scenario that necessitated Nicole’s court date. I’ve narrowed it down to public urination, driving under the influence of Skoal or brandishing that heinous, toothless grin at a police officer.

An hour or so later, I returned to the mechanic and find that Ken has removed all four of my tires and is trying to wedge the rotor from my left rear wheel with a crow bar and a hammer. And he has another Marlboro in his mouth. He and Nicole make a lovely couple.

Four hours and $261 later, my car is ready. As I drive away and watch Nicole growing smaller and smaller in my rearview mirror, I can’t help but think Ken left one of his cigarette embers in my brakes and that my car will explode if I try to stop.


At 6:53 PM, Blogger honestyrain said...

i think i went to school with Nicole. she cheated off me in chem and was in love with my boyfriend. you shoulda kicked her in the shins for me when ya had the chance. then again, she'd probably take you out, girl like that against a skinny kid like you....

At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dan, I am supposed to be studying biochem. But NOOOOOOOOOOO, I had to read today's post and half your archives. Thanks. I'll write your url in for the extra credit "diagram" on my midterm.


At 9:34 PM, Blogger tokitikki said...

jen - you may not realize it, but that will likely up your grade in ways more 'creative thinking' ever could...


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