This morning I had to take my car to the dealer for an oil change and its
15, 000 mile service. I truly like the quality of service at this dealership (Iâ€™m on my second car from there), but there is only so much an organization can do to make a visit to the Service Department a tolerable experience.
Hereâ€™s a bit of stream of consciousness about the experience:
I reported to the service counter with keys in my hand and my current mileage written on a slip of paper. As always, I was prepared to be exceedingly polite to the guy behind the service desk. In fact, I was fully prepared to be an unabashed, obsequious toady, for there are few people who have more raw power than the guy behind the service desk – The Service Guy.
One can only hope that the Service Guy remains patient while one describes the rattles and hums that often bring people before them to grovel. If the Service Guy appears to be listening, one fervently hopes that he really is listening and that heâ€™s not thinking, â€œHmmm, get a load of Putz Boy here telling me how his car is making a noise that sounds like â€˜wala wala wala WHEEEEEEEEZ.â€™ Whereâ€™s the coffee guy, anyway?â€
In this particular dealership, the Service Guys are good. Either that, or they are well trained to look like they really give a shit about what you have to say. However, today I got a new guy, who, although good, obviously did not finish the orientation course.
Service Guy: â€œGood morning, sir. What can we do for you today?â€
Me: â€œGood morning. My name is James So and So, and I have an appointment to have my car serviced.â€
Service Guy: â€œWhat did you say your name was, sir?â€
Me: â€œMy name is James So and So.â€ I spelled â€œSo and Soâ€ for him.
Service Guy: â€œIâ€™ll be with you in a second, sir.â€ He apparently realized that he hadnâ€™t finished the â€œpaperworkâ€ on the previous customer, which required some writing and lots of stapling.
Service Guy: Having finished the stapling said, â€œSo, that was James So and So?â€
Me: â€œYes. James So and So.â€ I spelled â€œSo and Soâ€ again.
Service Guy: Clicking away on the computer. It had to be a thousand keystrokes. â€œWould that be James â€˜A,â€™ So and So, or James â€˜T.â€™ So and So?â€
Me: â€œJames â€˜A.â€™ So and So.â€
Service Guy: A thousand more keystrokes as he stared into the computer screen, then, the Service Guy asked, â€œIs this your first time here, Mr. So and So?â€
Me: This is trouble. I replied, â€œNo, itâ€™s about my third time here with this car, and this is the second car I got from this dealer.â€
Service Guy: Frowning.
Me: Thinking, â€œOh my God. Heâ€™s frowning.â€ Things can turn to shit when a Service Guy frowns.
The Service Guy did a couple more thousand keystrokes, and he was still frowning. I was beginning to think that all is lost.
Me: â€œI can tell you what kind of car it is, and I can give you the plate number. Will that help?â€
Service Guy: â€œDo you have your registration with you?â€
Me: There is now a tiny stirring of anger beneath my veil of supplication. â€œMy registration is out in the car. If you absolutely need it, I can go outside across the lot and get it, but I never needed it on the previous dozen or so occasions that I have been here.â€
Service Guy: Apparently remembering one of the lessons in the orientation course, said, â€œThat wonâ€™t be necessary. I can get the necessary information.â€
I had thought that he meant that with a couple thousand more keystrokes he would be able to locate me and my car (He had already found me, James “A”) in the dealer database. No, what he meant was that he was going to out in the lot and take down the vehicle identification number from my car.
He reappeared a few minutes later and entered my vehicle identification number into the computer. At least another 750 keystrokes later, the Service Guy says, â€œOK, Iâ€™ve found it. What seems to be the problem?â€
Me: â€œIâ€™m mainly here for an oil change and the 15,000 mile thing, whatever that entails, but please have them take a look at the driverâ€™s side exterior door handle. It is sticking.â€
Service Guy: â€œSticking? What do you mean â€˜stickingâ€™?â€
Me: Back into supplication mode, hoping heâ€™s still with me on this one, â€œWell, when I open the car door, the handle sort of stays â€˜outâ€™ a little bit. Maybe it just needs oil.â€ Why I felt compelled to suggest a possible fix, I have no idea. One often runs off at the mouth when in supplication mode.
Service Guy: Another thousand keystrokes, this time resulting in a document that contains all my previously inaccessible information and also describes what is to be done. It probably contains 3,000 words in varying degrees of fine print. He proffers the document and says, â€œI just need you to sign here, Mr. So and So.â€
It is noteworthy that I spend a good deal of my professional life drafting and reviewing contracts of all kinds, and I often scold people for signing things without reading them. I confess to sometimes even being downright uppity in saying, â€œHow can you sign something that you have not read?â€
Of course, I immediately signed the document without reading it, which, for all I know, created a mortgage on my home, or willed all my possessions to my â€œBeloved Service Guy.â€ Lawyer-Schmawyer. One does not make a Service Guy wait while one reads a long document. Itâ€™s just not done.
Service Guy: â€œWill you be waiting for this, sir?â€
Me: â€œYes, I will.â€
At that point I was relegated to the Service Area Waiting Room, a smallish room containing nine chairs, a coffee maker (with coffee) and even some donuts. There was a pile of magazines and a couple newspapers on the table. The room also contained a television for those supplicants who are not interested in the printed word.
I poured myself a cup of black coffee and avoided even looking at the donuts, particularly that delicious-looking chocolate one. I sat in one of the three open seats. I put my mondo farookinâ€™ cold weather, down parka (which is about the size of a St. Bernard dog) on the seat next to mine, being prepared to remove it if another person entered the room. I put my briefcase on the floor and decided to read the copy of the New York Times that was on the table, even though I had brought a book along in anticipation of having to wait for the car to be serviced.
It was difficult to concentrate, because the television was blaring daytime talk shows, which, as far as I am concerned are slightly only less painful than stabbing yourself in the eyes with knitting needles. On the TV were two guys before a studio audience going on and on about the value of some Barbie dolls. The audience was ooohing and aaahing and applauding enthusiastically. It was awful.
The guy four seats away was reading the Bible and highlighting certain passages when he wasnâ€™t talking on his cell phone. I wondered if he was talking to God on the phone to see if was highlighting the right stuff.
I was still trying to read, when another talk show came on, this one hosted by a guy named â€œWayneâ€ Something-or-other. This one was worse than the gushing Barbie doll guys. The audience (or laugh machine) was howling with laughter at stuff that wasnâ€™t even remotely funny. At this point, I begin wondering how long does it really take to change oil and do a 15,000-mile check up. I was ready to tell the Service Guy to forget about the sticky door handle.
Just then, a man and lady walked in the room. They were considerably older than I (therefore, pretty farookinâ€™ old). He was walking with a cane. I immediately removed my St. Bernard-sized parka from the seat next to mine and held it on my lap. It was like wrestling with a large, green marshmallow with arms. Managing the New York Times was not longer possible, which was OK, because after reading three John Kerry Puff Pieces and two articles referring negatively to the Presidentâ€™s appearance at the Daytona 500 and a local factory, I had had enough of the New York Times.
I wrestled with the green marshmallow in order to get my book from my briefcase. It would be easier to manage the book.
The lady spent a good deal of time adding all sorts of adulterants to a cup of coffee for her husband and lovingly delivered it to him. I thought that was nice â€“ the gesture, not the milk and sugar-laden slop in the cup. The lady took the seat next to mine.
I finally got the book positioned over the green marshmallow, when Wayne Whatshisname, the talk show guy, introduced Betty White (of Mary Tyler Moor and The Golden Girls fame). It was difficult to block it out, and what made it worse is that the lady decided to repeat every frigginâ€™ thing that Wayne Whatshisname and Betty White said. Everything.
Finally, after a dozen or so lines, she stopped repeating what was said, and I thought, â€œFinally, she shut up.â€
As soon as she stopped repeating every farookinâ€™ thing that Wayne and Betty said, she began humming. Yes, humming! She didnâ€™t hum a particular tune, which would have been bad enough. Rather, her humming sounded like a random tone generator set at a volume just loud enough to be perceptible but impossible to ignore.
While she was humming, her husband began repeating what Wayne Whatshisname and Betty White were saying and following some of the repitition with “wry” commentary like, â€œYep. The Golden Girls. That was some show.â€
She hummed and he commented. Then she stopped humming and began repeating shit again. I figured that they were a tag team, and I ccould not even begin to imagine what a day in that house must be like. After about a half hour of this (forget about trying to read), I was ready to go stand outside in the freezing cold to wait for my damned car.
Finally, FINALLY, the Service Guy appeared in the door to the waiting room and announced, â€œMr. So and So?â€
I got up from my seat juggling the book, the green marshmallow with arms, and my briefcase as I walked across the room to meet him outside the door of the waiting room. It was not unlike a scene in a hospital when the surgeon appears in the waiting room to give the family the lowdown on the surgery of a family member. I recall hoping that he was not about to tell me that they discovered a bad fraznotwidget in my car, which would require their keeping the car for a few days.
Luckily, everything was OK, although the Service Guy told me that they would be ordering a new door handle to replace my â€œstickyâ€ one. Although I felt door-handle-story vindicated, I really didnâ€™t pay much attention to the Service Guy, as I just wanted out of there. By comparison, continuing on to work would be like a walk in the park.
I hopped into my big, fat, capitalist car and savored the comfortable seat and the solitude. The newly oiled engine purred, and off to work I went.
Oh, yeah. I forgot something. The lady who sat next to me? You know, the repeater and hummer? She smelled like pee.
I really donâ€™t want to think about that.