My car was due for some parts to be replaced. At 100,000 miles, it was arguably time for a checkup. At 125,000 miles, there were issues I really shouldn’t ignore any longer. At 150,000 miles, I broke down and took the old girl to the shop. No, I didn’t break down on the side of the road. My stubborn will yielded to the fact that everything on my to-do list would go undone if my car did indeed break down and I couldn’t go anywhere to do anything.
The mechanic said it should take about an hour-and-a-half. Yeah, right. You’ve been in those waiting rooms, haven’t you? With stacks of magazines well-worn from other weary drivers biding their time during an oil change/tire rotation/engine overhaul. Rather than rearrange someone else’s schedule and have them chauffeur me around, I packed a survival kit and prepared to camp out in the customer lounge. Water, jacket, briefcase, binder full of articles to edit, books to read, notebook for, well, taking notes and scratching out ideas, phone, laptop, and a pocket full of dollar bills for the vending machine. If a girl’s gonna’ be there all day, she’s gotta’ eat, right? Lunch choices included Fritos and honey buns.
I handed the attendant my keys at 10am, my scheduled appointment time, then settled into a chair in a corner not facing the TV. I couldn’t find a remote to turn off Kathie Lee and Hoda, but that didn’t mean I had to look at them. My phone, water bottle, and papers were spread across the tiny end table (sorry, magazines, you’ll have to curl your pages somewhere else for a while). Just as I began to scribble some notes, my phone lit up. Being the courteous person that I am, I stepped outside to take the call. 10:20 am. Great. There was my car in the parking lot. They hadn’t taken her back yet. She hadn’t moved at all. An hour-and-a-half was about to become two hours. I tried to remember how many honey buns might have been in that vending machine.
By the time I returned to my corner “office,” several other patrons had gathered in the waiting room. I got the feeling if I had stayed outside any longer, I would have lost my prime staked-out position facing away from the television. My binder and notebook were balanced on my lap once again as the room filled to near capacity. The attendant poked his head in the door to let a lady next to me know that her car was almost ready. She smiled. How long had she been there? Long enough to be delirious? This was my first time waiting at this shop, though. Maybe she knew something I didn’t. 10:35 am. My car was just taken back. Hmm. Two-and-a-half hours now? She had to be delirious. I wondered if any pizza places delivered to the shop.
Kathie Lee and Hoda were given rubber mallets and asked to smash the foods with higher calorie counts. Kathie Lee wanted to smash the grapes and make herself a glass of wine. I wanted ear plugs. Where was that remote? Would the crunch of a thousand Fritos drown out the sound of their voices? 10:55 am. I fumbled for my first dollar bill as the attendant poked his head back through the door. “Mrs. Green?” Now what? “Right here.” “Your car is ready.” I stared in disbelief and made an attempt to gather my books and bags and water without doing the See-Ya’-Suckas! dance.
I was getting out in less than an hour! My car was fixed in 20 minutes! Mrs. Delirious had checked out just ahead of me. That sneaky little woman! She did know something I didn’t know. She knew they weren’t your average sit-and-wait kind of shop. Why had I put it off for so long? At the counter, I handed my credit card to the attendant and mused, “That was fast.” He smiled and said it didn’t really take long when you were used to doing that sort of work and did it every day.
But isn’t that how it goes? If it were up to me to replace a CV axle, the waiting room would have needed cots and sleeping bags. If you ask me to fix a car, or sew a pillowcase, or balance a budget, it’s going to take a while. You’d better get yourself a honey bun. If you want me to help out with your reading and writing, I’m on it. I know words aren’t everybody’s favorite part of the job and writing gets put off and put off. Go do your thing. Let me help with the ABCs. Then get ready to say, “That was fast.”