NO NO NO NO NO! NOT NOW!!! NOT HERE!!! Those arrogant bastards. What did they do to la Chichona !??
We left Texas, relieved and excited to explore New Mexico. An experienced traveler told me once not to neglect preventive maintenance. So, 1000km before the oil change was due, I took la Chichona for a complete inspection. We serviced it at Jiffy Lube, a famous car maintenance chain in the US.
The mechanics at Jiffy Lube seemed to know what they were doing. I was the only customer and every time I got too close, they pushed me away. “Step aside sir, you’re not allowed here sir, wait inside sir”. I felt like a black man being pulled-over by a police officer, except I didn’t get shot.
The oil change took twice the time it should have taken. I was worried and peeked in but they caught me short every time. So I sat in the lobby and waited, anxious as a woman reading a pregnancy test.
The Jiffy Lube guy walked up to me with a long face. His diagnosis was horrifying. According to him, La Chichona could break down at any time…and we still had a desert to cross. There was no mechanic closeby who could do the repairs so he sent me to another Jiffy Lube in Tucson, Arizona.
We headed for Tucson at noon. I was driving in silence, worried about la Chichona breaking down in the desert. Two hours down the road, an alarming red light lit up the dashboard; the oil signal. I pulled over on the emergency lane, furious. I just paid $187 US for the oil change and now I get this, WTF did they do???
Experience taught me I would often get preferential treatment if I seemed on the verge of death. I called Jiffy Lube and told them I was in the middle of the desert, with no water and too far away to get towed. “You MUST get me out of here!!!”. I followed their instructions over the phone and the oil light turned off. Pheew! Fingers crossed until Tucson.
The road across New-Mexico is prettier than its postcards. A chain of tall mountains watch over the cactuses, their pointy peeks stabbing at the cloudless sky. The blue and infinite roof made the mountains look like a mirage. We entered Tucson around sunset, and found only one mechanic with the gear to work on a Sprinter. His name was Bill. I left him a desperate voicemail message in the evening.
Every car owner has to go to the mechanic at some point in their life. It’s like going to the dentist. You have a problem that you can neither fix yourself nor ignore. The more you ignore it the worse it gets. So you hope that the person you are paying will sort it out for you. The difference though is that you can’t feel the mechanic’s job. So unless you’re good with cars, you can never be sure that the job was done right, or done at all. I wasn’t good with cars and the Jiffy Lube experience left me skeptical.
The next morning, after the usual coffee & poop ritual at Walmart, a lady approached me in the parking lot. Her car battery was dead and she needed a jump start. She drove a Jeep, and helping her would take me at least half an hour.
I was hesitant, Bill might call at any time and I needed to be ready. I also could not ignore her. Both her and her husband were grateful. I jumpstarted their car with la Chichona and helped them get back on the road. It felt good and brought me hope. I kept repeating, as to convince myself: “Good things happen to good people.”
The phone rang shortly after, it was Bill. I drove to his garage and thanked him for his time. Bill was a white American in his sixties. He spoke in a gentle voice and moved with care and awareness. He seemed like the kind of person with endless patience. Bill never rushed, he seemed to appreciate every second and radiated a benevolent aura. He listened to my story and took a liking into my adventure. I felt reassured.
I wanted to learn from him. It is rare to find a mechanic that takes the time to explain to a curious newbie. Bill did it with joy. He was the total opposite of the Jiffy Lube guys the day before. I asked a lot of questions and he answered them all in details.
The inspection lasted over half an hour. Bill checked all fluid levels and scanned with meticulous attention everything he laid his eyes on. When he finished, I mentioned what the Jiffy Lube guys told me and asked if I should be worried. He said with confidence: “Trust me, you’re fine.”
I was so relieved! Those fuckers at Jiffy Lube tried to cheat me. I asked Bill how much I owed him for the inspection. He smiled and said, “nothing, just go have fun. Be careful on the road and enjoy your adventure.” Such generosity! I could feel the kindness coming out of his eyes, genuine and heartwarming. I insisted on returning the favor but he politely declined. He paused, and with his caring tone, he added, “don’t worry about it, it’s nice to do things like that from time to time. It’s what makes it all worth it.”
I stood speechless as tears welled my eyes. Gratefulness, inspiration, hope; it was all mixed up. I mumbled my thanks to Bill and waived him goodbye. Bill, again THANK YOU! You brought me hope when hope was needed. You are a good man.
I will do my best to carry on your kindness.