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4# One does not simply walk into Mordor

Updated: Jul 28, 2021

-AAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH FUUUUUCK!!! I pressed my forehead to ease the pain and raged in the dirt. Metal was screaming in agony…Silence please, a moment of silence.

A few hours earlier, I started my first day as Ibra’s assistant mechanic. He bought a Mazda 3 and needed to replace some parts. We went to the junk yard to take out good parts and replace the broken ones. I put Ibra’s toolbox in the wheelbarrow and pushed it through the entrance. I took a deep breathe, a fresh inhale of toxic waste.

Thousands of damaged cars lined up like graves. People plundered and left. Auto parts scattered out of carcasses like a dead animal’s bowels. In the back, a bulldozer was pressing everything into cubes in a cringing cacophony. The cubes travelled along a carousel to burn in a massive chimney. An opaque white smoke formed on top of the tower, overlooking the contaminated land. There was nothing but smoke, noise and rotting cars. I was staring at Mordor.

Ibra gave me my first assignment, to find a 2012 Mazda 3 and remove the front left brake caliper. He showed me what it looked like and how to do it. I had one job.

Walking through the trenches, I found a Mazda 3 and started to take out the wheel. I came across a weird upside-down bolt. I laid in the dirt under the car and worked around it. On my back, I twisted and bent over but the bolt did not move. I tried pliers, the monkey wrench and even a hammer…Nothing, the hassle was real. I was dirty, frustrated, and exhausted, but I kept it together.

As I crawled out from under the car, I slammed my head against that fucking bolt. Anger took over, I’d lost it. Ibra heard my raging and came by to see me lying there, desperate and hurt. He examined the sad picture and figured I was missing a tool. Then, in his cold casual tone, he said:

- You’re wasting your time. We need to come back with the right tool.


- Ask me.

- ….

I felt stupid. I was so bull-headed for my first job that I forgot to use common sense. We left the junk yard and returned the next day with the right tool. The job took 10 minutes. Easy life!

While I was looking for a van, I spent the following weeks learning with Ibra. We went from junk yards to garages back and forth. Every assignment was a challenge. I worked hard, uncertain and cynical. Failure became the norm and looks did not matter. I had the mechanic’s permanent black nails and did not care. Mordor had transformed me.

Weeks later, I found a sprinter van within my budget. I called the dealer, and from his accent I figured he was Arab…shit! I know my people. The dealer sounded like a souk merchant. If you ever visited a souk you know what I am talking about. I was skeptical but we had to see the van.

Ibra drove me to the dealers’. It was exactly what I expected, a sketchy dude in a messy garage. The dealership itself looked like a bazar. All the cars were crammed in the main alley. Every inch of space was filled with stuff: old tires, car parts, you name it. His garage was the extension of a junk yard. I felt at home.

The dealer was a short energetic old man in an oversized suit. He spoke fast and constantly looked over his shoulder. A guy like him could not be legit. With his beard and bulging eyes, he looked like a scared squirrel. Everything smelled like a scam, but the van looked good and cheap. The van was not ready when we walked in. Of course, what did I expect! We scheduled a test drive the next morning.

The van drove smoothly and the engine had solid power. There were a couple of minor issues, but it was my best option for the price. Ibra gave me the green light; time to pull the trigger.

The next morning, I stopped by the bank to get my savings in cash. I walked in the messy garage, alone and uncertain, betting 8000$ on a sleazy car dealer. It felt like going all-in on a bluff. A bluff that could turn into an epic adventure, or into the worst investment of my life.

The van being "ready" - exit on the right


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