If you had told me that morning that running out for coffee and an oil change would turn into $4,000 in repairs and a loaner car (and no coffee to boot) I would’ve told you no. You’ve got the wrong girl. This girl, this responsible, careful girl bought a Honda with an impeccable Carfax report and never turns down a flush or replacement when the manual says it’s time. This girl learned from her mistakes.
But there I was, alternating between sweltering and shivering in the front seat of my Civic. I watched as the repair shop door swung open and shut, keeping time in hours instead of minutes. The sun and clouds fought for center stage like brothers in a school play, and yet there I remained. As I stared at my phone, urging it to ring, I thought back over the past couple hours.
I thought about the furry-bearded boy at Oil Can Henry’s who jumped back at the smell of my car. About the repair shop he had suggested I visit immediately, how I had driven by it countless times before, not knowing it from a fly. I thought about the impression AutoCraft NW’s façade had given me and how its employees shattered it, replacing my doubt with embarrassment. The men who met me at the door weren’t uninviting and rough. They were friendly and personable. They were also clearly caught up, though that didn’t stop them from helping. They didn’t hesitate, not even long enough to answer whether they took walk-ins (they didn’t).
As they worked, I learned the dirty front door didn’t mean they don’t care about the details. It meant they had lost a bid to get their building repainted, the owner’s son explained, unprompted. It meant they were a father-son business that had been here for more than 30 years and enjoyed what they did. It meant that when his dad walked in and kissed him on the shoulder, the son would look at me and laugh. It meant they had stopped working on the wind-simulator fan for the TV show Grimm’s props department to help a girl with a sad look in her eye.
Sitting in my car, I thought about all the things I didn’t yet know. Whether there really was a crack in my engine block. Whether the Technical Service Bulletin the owner’s son had found online really meant Honda would pay to replace it. Whether the tow truck would ever arrive and take me to the dealership. That the tow truck would, of course, arrive and the driver would hoist my coupe onto the bed with the precision of a nail artist. That I would want to watch but was forced to look away, terrified by the realization that this 5-foot-8 man was moving my car’s four-thousand-pound carcass with no more than a couple levers and chains. That he would spend the entire half-hour drive sharing crazy stories from the road, including the one where a drunk driver tried to speed around a friend of his on a job, instead ramming into the back of the truck. How the driver got off with a busted shoulder and a totaled car, both of which he deserved for driving drunk. How this tow driver was actually kind of charming, in an unconventional, devil-may-care kind of way.
Watching the minutes tick by, I wondered if the staff at the Honda dealership would be as helpful in person as they’d been on the phone. If they’d shrug off my flustered ramblings, my wordy explanations and my “I don’t know where to begin” openers. If they’d smile and pull a file the manager had started and say, “Yup, looks like we have all your info here and we should be able to get this going right away.” If they’d say, “There’s no reason the warranty wouldn’t cover this, but we’ll be sure to let you know before we start.” If they’d nod and emphasize, “Oh, no, this is what you want, and it’s no problem,” when they’d have to cancel the Enterprise rental because a loaner had just pulled into the lot. All of which, I’d learn, they would.
As I checked my watch for the hundredth time, I thought about how no matter what happened, at the end of this long, stressful day, I’d be back at my apartment with a husband who had spent all day sneaking into corners and empty rooms to call and check in. How I’d have a text from my mom making sure I got home OK. How there are plenty of people out there who are willing to help a random girl—and that’s a (Car)fax.