February 15, 2016
I have a one car garage. It’s all I need as I only need one car.
It’s also small. The car just barely fits between the sides of the garage door. Once the mirrors clear the door, I have to jog the car to the right and park with the right side against the garage wall. Why? So I can get out. No, it doesn’t meet current suburban standards, but, with this maneuver, the garage works just fine for me …unless I’m in a hurry and thinking about something else.
Well, last week I was in a hurry when I heard the sound a mirror makes when one is thinking about something else. While the silver duct tape is a good color match with the car, it’s somewhat lacking in its ability to reflect what’s happening on that side of the car. I needed to get it fixed.
I googled “car repair” and got a list of all the suburban car repair franchises. Now, I live in North Minneapolis. There did not appear, despite all the cars in North that need repairs, to be any auto repair shops. Seemed strange. I added “North Minneapolis” to my google. There ARE car repair shops in North …they’re just with names like “Joe’s”.
I checked reviews. The one that looked to be the closest had 9 reviews – all 5-star rated with all positive comments. One could not get a better score. I was excited to give my business to a North business. I decided to get a quote.
I found the shop in the middle of a residential area. It had a parking lot of sorts surrounded with a high fence and a metal gate that was obviously locked at night. I couldn’t see a door to the building. I continued around the corner. No door on the side. Decided the door had to be from the lot. I went around the block and pulled into the lot. There was only room for one additional car inside the gate. I took the spot.
The lot was jammed full of cars. Many parked so close together one could not walk between. Most of them did not look like they were waiting to be repaired. They looked more like the repair shop’s parts department. Most seemed to be missing things.
I found a metal door flush with and painted the same color as the building. I decide it must be for security – if the burglar can’t find the door…
I slowly opened the door. It was like walking into a black hole. I had to stop and wait for my eyes to adjust.
It was a good thing I stopped. The shop was packed even fuller than the lot. I couldn’t tell the cars being repaired from the cars for parts. Parts were hanging from everything and stacked as high as would go. There were only a couple florescent lights on.
For awhile I just stood there looking for someone who might work there. I couldn’t see anyone. I eventually saw a stocking cap move on the other side of a raised car. He didn’t seem to see me. Or maybe he just didn’t want to. As I could see no one else, I decided to pursue the stocking cap.
As I was a bit over dressed for the occasion. I carefully worked my way around things to where he had to acknowledge my presence. There was no smily face, “Hi!! What can we do for you today?” greeting. Just a blank look on a face that asked without saying a word, “Are you lost?”
I interrupt the silence by asking a question I actually had, “Do you fix cars?”
He didn’t really answer. He just pointed and said, “The office.”
I looked the direction he pointed. I couldn’t see an office. I did spot what looked like a door to a parts room. I worked my way over to it. The room was packed full of old car parts. There was a “service counter” but it was stacked full of parts. Without going in I poked my head around the corner. There, in a rather dimly lit “office”, was a little man at a table. When he saw me he asked something I didn’t understand. I asked, “Do you fix cars?” He nodded and said something I again didn’t understand. I went with the nod.
He followed me outside to the car. I pointed at the bumper. My bumper has had an inverted bump for some time. I decided I might as well get it fixed while the car was in the shop.
“Aaawwwwwww!” he pronounced as if he had never seen such in all his years of auto repair. He immediately said “120” and with his arms showed how they would pop it back out. He said, “That’s all. No paint.” I said O.K.
I pointed to the duct-tape-wrapped mirror. He said it needed to be replaced but he didn’t know the price and it was obvious he wasn’t about to look it up.
He asked when I wanted it done. I answered with a question, “Next week?” He replied, “Just bring it in”.
I asked how long it would take. He said,”Two hours.” His parts must be close.
He turned and headed back inside. I wasn’t sure if I was suppose to follow, or what. Before he got away, I blurted, “Do we need to set up a time?” He said, “No” and kept walking. That answered my am-I-suppose-to-follow-you-back-inside question but I still had questions. I blurted with an even louder voice, “So I just bring it in whenever?” He said yes without bothering to turn around.
As I seemed to have used up my allotted number of allowed questions, I turned and headed for the car. Abra this was not.
Back in the car, as I looked over the lot full of cars with missing parts, I asked myself, “Why?” Why would I bring my car to such a place? And if I did, what would I do while the car was being worked on? There was no waiting room with chairs, TV, and magazines. Not sure there was even a place to sit. No free burnt coffee. I supposed I could walk around the neighborhood …but probably not with a good camera. I concluded “No way.”
I decided, rather than give up on North all together, to at least check out some other North repair shops. I wasn’t real optimistic. If this shop was a perfect “5”, what would a “2” or “3” be like?
I drove by three more – I think. Signage for North Minneapolis auto shops is not overdone. I decided to stop at the one with the biggest parts lot. Again, had to look for a door. Inside, again, was dark. The sole person I could see pointed to the parts-filled “office”. There in a room that needed a broom was a man who followed me out to the car. It seems the competition between shops has them all on the same level.
This guy did, after looking at the car, have me follow him back to the “office” where he did something on a screen and said “500.” I asked how long it would take. “Two days.”
Hmmm …two days? Two hours vs two days. What would I do for two days? I doubted they had a courtesy car – at least not one with all its parts.
I did the usual you-won’t-get-my-busness thing and said, “I’ll get back to you.”
It was too late in day to check out suburban Abra Cadavers. But then I really didn’t need to. I knew what to expect: Regardless of chain, the shop would have clear signage, easy parking, easy to find glass doors, friendly service people, lobbies with clean chairs, tv monitors, magazines, and burnt coffee. The service area would be brightly lit, have floors clean enough to eat off of, cleaned by service people wearing company designed service clothes. Ahhh. The comforts of “home”.
It’s been a few days now. I’ve been thinking.
I haven’t brought my car to an Abra Cadaver. It would be too easy. Too sad.
(to be continued)