Saturday, July 29, 2006

Me and my new boat

For years I teased my buddy, Porn King about his yellow pick up truck, referring to it as the banana boat.


Now that this very same truck is mine and I'll be paying for it for the next three years - I'm hoping that PK will be a gentleman and not return the compliments.

The truck is up on a hoist right now, hood open, in the bay of the Canadian Tire Service Centre at Mavis and Britannia supposedly receiving its mandatory safety inspection. A service that runs $97 minimum here by the way. Most terribly and unfortunately Brian of Orangeville - the one mechanic I can trust - is unable to do the job today and I'm unable to wait. I'm at the wrong end of the ten-day window in which to get the vehicle safetied, insured and registered with the gov'ment so they can tax me half to death.

I chose Canadian Tire for the job despite my long-standing policy restricting these bozos to the installing of tires and no other service whatsoever.

"Don't you touch those brakes!" I barked at a stunned young Canadian Tire employee, years ago, having just purchased new tires from them and witnessing the youth remove my wheels with a sledge hammer before I went running into the bay to accost him. "I have a real mechanic who does that! Just change the tires and don't touch anything else!"

I've been long aware of their incompetence but on this occasion I believe the safety check is a mere formality and my hope is that they're not savvy enough to effectively scam me for unneeded work - to which every other mechanic in the world is drooling over the opportunity.

I'm not sure if the hoist itself is performing the inspection or if one of the "certified technicians" is actually sneaking over to peak at the truck on each occasion I'm looking a different direction.

Okay - I just sauntered over to the window for a closer look and I see that while no one is within a stone's throw of the vehicle at this moment - one of the tires has been removed and is lying on the floor. So - progress.

I'm really hopped up right now. Positively jittery - which is very unlike me. I'm not a high nervous-energy kind of guy normally. Let me tell you how I got this way this morning.

Earlier I'd surrendered my keys to a man at the counter named, according to his name tag, Orsi and then replied to his inquiry regarding the truck's specific whereabouts within the parking lot with, "It's yellow for goodness sake. They'll see it."

I then had to force myself to chuckle after he responded, "But what if they're colour blind?" at which he and his shadow - an older employee with apparently nothing better to do than follow Orsi around - both collapsed in a fit of laughter.

I then crossed the parking lot and patronized a Krispy Kreme shop for the first time ever, ordering a large coffee. While there I sampled three of their legendary donuts - each a different variety. Why not eh? When in Rome...

Ee-freaking-gads! Those things are more sugary than sugar! What can they be made of? Not sugar apparently. Because sugar is precisely as sugary as sugar and these things are clearly more so. Maybe they've discovered a means to super-concentrate the sugar or something. I don't know but I'll tell you this. My long held belief that sugar-induced hyperactivity in children is a myth propagated by coffee-addicted Canadian parents who live in denial of the spazmatazzing effects of caffeine - is beginning to waver. Cause I got some kind of perma-piss-shivers right now, I tell you. And the coffee was decaffeinated, for crying out loud.

Perhaps this environment here in the Canadian Tire waiting room is contributing to it. There's one crap-load of stimuli in here. There's a TV playing - no sound thank goodness 'cause there are three other sources. Music is piped in - between constant paging messages. Plus there's some kind of lunacy-inducing ad machine in here that features a 36-pocket grid of business cards and a video screen complete with audio that's playing constant commercials of some sort. I've never heard of such a bombastic contraption before but I imagine it'd be great to have in the event of a nuclear attack. You'd just take one gander at this thing, consider its commentary on the state of our society and immediately welcome the annihilation of said society.

There's one other machine in here, by the way. A simple Coke machine. And it's blessedly docile. Just a tiny digital display that scrolls this little message:


God bless the Coca Cola Company I say! With their down-to-earth tradition and their lower-case D's and their scrumptious Fruitopia flavors! Pip pip! I have the urge to go give the Coke machine a big steamy hug and a sloppy kiss before I go tramping down the aisles of the store beating myself on the head and screeching like a monkey.

Wisely, I resist these urges.

Instead I tow the line. Is it 'tow' or 'toe' the line? I dunno. What would Rocky Burnette say? I sit politely, slightly a-trembling, waiting to hear my name on the damned paging system and gazing at the vast collection of certificates on the wall.

Wow! There is just a plethora of qualification and expertise here. Two - count 'em two - licensed mechanics here! Bravo. Hopefully at least one of them is not currently on vacation. There's a long row of certificates of achievement from the Snap-On Diagnostics company. Boy oh boy. If I received a certificate every time I achieved a snap-on - let me tell you...

There are six certificates boasting Gold Medal Customer Service awards. Oops! Upon closer examination there are only three distinct award winners. There are two copies of each. Oh well.

And of course there's a collection of certificates alluding to institutions of obscure renown. For instance - the last time I bought tires for the Grand Marquis they were installed by a fellow accredited as a certified propane cylinder filler from the Cylinder Refilling Institute. You think I'm joking, don't you? I assure you, dear blogger, I sadly am not. Apparently you must buy more expensive tires if you want the privilege of the services of a bona fide Canadian Tire School o' Tire Changin' graduate.

Someone is on the paging system now, stumbling and stuttering over a name that's difficult to pronounce. I suddenly realize it's mine. Whoopee. Time to get mugged for cool hundred bucks and geet on outta here.

Back in the customer service area no one seems to be expecting me. I see that Orsi is going over a long itemized list with another staff member and I feel sorry for whatever customer they're about to soak. Orsi looks up at me for just a brief moment. Then he does it again and again. Jesus Christ - this better not have anything to do with the banana boat. Orsi's glances at me seem to carry a slight element of fear - as if he's sizing up my capacity for violence. I outweigh him considerably in fact. I narrow my eyes and nod very slowly - almost imperceptibly. 'Your personal safety is in dire jeopardy little Orsi man,' I try to project to him.

He finishes with his crony and nods me over to his station where we meet. The older fellow - his shadow - is also present.

"Here's what you need to pass safety," he says. "It'll be thirteen hundred dollars or so."

"Oh," I say - in my deepest voice which smacks of Lurch from the Addams Family. "Really."

Orsi nods.

"Is that after tax?"

"No. Tax is extra."

Lovely. How on Earth will I pay for all this? Perhaps I should kill Orsi and sell his wife and kids as slaves. That should be good for a grand and a half, eh?

"Can we go over the list, please?" I expect him to spin the sheet sideways so that we can both read it but no. He starts reading it to me. I try to follow along on the sheet but that's impossible. It's upside down and the writing is messy. Plus he's adding in his own dissertations and he's reading the items out of order. I get the impression it's all brake work and tires. He finally winds down.

"Can I have a look at this now?" I ask, taking the sheet and turning it.

Two tires, a ball joint and an abundance of brake parts.

"Someone will have to look at the truck with me and point out these problems."

He gathers up the technician and we three hit the bay. The technician shows me a tire.

"See - there's slashes in the wall there. Very deep, see?"

Yes, I see. You want to empty your pockets there, hot shot? Let's see if you got a knife in there.

"And see the tread? Uneven wear. It's too low on the inside."

"Okay." Plausible I suppose.

"See the brake pads? Looks like original parts. Look at the separation."


"The pad material has separated from the metal."

"Oh." I fiddle with it. He seems to be right.

"The rotors are scored."

I run my finger along it. It's a tad wavy. "Can they be turned?"

"Nope." He's already making his way to the rear tire.

You little pip squeak. Why, I oughta -

"Drums are bent. See? I had a hell of a time getting them off." He's holding a drum up to me. I give it a feel. It's imperfect. He puts it down and pulls a small knife from his pocket.

The knife! Remain calm, Watson. Let the man speak. Let him trip himself up and utter his own inadvertent confession! It's elementary my dear!

"It's too wet in here," he says, gesturing toward the brake shoe arrangement. He pokes the knife into areas on either side of the brake cylinder - between the doo-dads and the widgets. The knife drips red liquid. Blood or brake fluid - who knows?

You beast.


"I see. Is it not supposed to do that?"

"No! It's not supposed to leak!" A hint of mockery.

"But would it leak if you weren't stabbing it?" I ask. "Because when I'm driving the truck - there won't be anyone back here stabbing my brakes, so-"

"It's not supposed to do that."

Fine then. You bitch.

"There's no time to get all this done today," says Orsi, stepping between us. "But we can get started and you can pick up the truck tomorrow."

"No good," I say. "I have appointments in Orangeville this afternoon - with my bank and my insurance company."

Orsi and I return to the service counter. En route I look to the wall for the photo of the inspecting technician I've just met and I find it - on a document that boasts his qualifications as a certified emissions control technician. Perfect. Just perfect. How lengthy was that training endeavor, I wonder?

"Okay Billy - here's how you turn the machine on. And here's how you turn it off. Same method, you'll notice, but you push the switch the opposite direction. Here's where you read the numbers. Here's where you write the numbers down. And here's how you attach the hose to the tailpipe. Don't attach the hose to ANYTHING else, okay? No funny business! This is serious stuff. We make a lot of money from this shit. Now print your name on this certificate. You passed. Very good. You'll go far, kid. NEXT!"

"So what's the total after tax?" I ask.

"Well - it's twelve-sixty-nine plus fourteen per cent."

"I'm not good with math." I say loudly. I'm becoming aggressive. If there's one thing I've learned it's this: Don't be soft spoken when someone wants your money. It's like jumping into a shark tank with a bloody nose. You'll put that merchant into a feeding frenzy. Orsi gets busy with his calculator. "Wait a minute! Fourteen per cent?"

"Yeah. PST plus GST."

"Oh, that's right. Harper dropped the GST by a per cent, didn't he?"


"What a sweetheart."

Orsi reads me the total. "Fourteen-forty-five. That's after discount."

"What discount?"

"Brake sale. Today's the last day. Twenty per cent off brake parts."

"My lucky day."

Shadow man says something to Orsi that I don't catch.

"Oh - there's a discount on the labor too - just the brake labor." He recalculates and gives me a new total. It's considerably lower.

"That's a lot better," I say. "That's after tax?"


"So what is it with tax?"

He gazes at the page a moment. "I can round it down to 1200."

"After tax?"


I'm starting to see why Orsi is not a Gold Medal Customer Service Award recipient.

"Is the tax optional or must I pay it?" He frowns. He's not eager to respond to this. "Because if the tax is mandatory then I'm very keen to know how much it is." He reaches for his calculator. "Never mind," I say, then whisper, "Ten per cent is one-twenty plus - plus - four per cent is - forty-eight? That's One-sixty-eight?" Orsi nods. "So - thirteen-sixty-eight."

"Plus a few extras. Just small extras."

"Such as?"

"You know - cleaner."

Cleaner? What the f-? My truck requires cleaner to pass safety inspection? Is there unsafe dirt somewhere on this truck? Has PK been holding out on me?

"I've never paid for cleaner before," I state. Orsi just shrugs. He's growing bored of me, I think.

"I need to use your phone," I say. "I need to ask the seller if he's willing to split this bill with me." I already know what Orsi's answer will be. And I'm looking forward to it. I've already planned my response. And sure enough:

"Well - if it's local that's okay."

I barely let him finish before snapping at him. "No! It's long-distance! It's Burlington. And it's a pittance compared to the fourteen hundred bucks you're taking me for!"

Orsi's smiley shadow man promptly whips out his cell phone and thrusts it toward me. I turn to him. We trade smiles. I nod respectfully and take the phone away from the counter and call up PK at his workplace.

"Buddy, I'm sorry to bother you at work. I'm in a pickle here. I'm at the garage. They want fourteen hundred to safety the truck. Brakes all around and two tires. They showed me everything. It looks legitimate as far as I can tell. But I never expected this kind of expense."

"Okay," says PK. "Is there some way you can cover the bill until I get the cheque from your bank? Can you put it on your Visa or something? I can pay you back."

"You can pay me back?"


"Buddy. I'm only calling to ask if you'll split it with me - down the middle."

"It's up to you. I'm willing to pay the whole thing."

"Well, you're a good man Charlie Brown, but I bought it as-is. If you're willing to give me half - that's all I want."

"Whatever you say."

"That's what I say. You can pay me whenever. Seven hundred."


"Okay. Thanks buddy. Bye now."


Is he a good man or what? I tell you - I got the greatest friends in the whole damned world. Got the monopoly on them. I'm the luckiest guy on the planet.

Back at the counter I return the phone to Shadow Man.

"Okay," I say to Orsi, "Let's do it. He's gonna pay half. Is that a nice guy or what? How 'bout that eh? There's still some nice guys left in the world!"

Orsi just glares at me. He's reading hostility into my happy comments. He thinks I'm insinuating that he is not a nice guy but really - I meant nothing by it.


I swear!


1 comment:

Dave said...

Hmmmmmmmm....ok, I'm not a lawyer (but I play one on TV...wait, no I don't, but I have had some dealings with one this deal, wills, you know, that kind of stuff...), but you mentioned that you bought the truck "as-is". Therefore, ergo, notwithstanding, ipso facto and e pluribus unem, the seller of the vehicle could rightly tell you to take a long, hard suck on his ass (not that he would say that because...well, just because). So ya, I'd have to say he's quite a nice guy indeed! But that's sort of the main reason I would never buy or sell a car (or anything else of value) to or from a friend or relative. Bad blood, accusations, expectations. I prefer my friends to dislike me for me.