Rex is going to arrive any minute.

I’m totally nervous. I feel like I’m getting ready for a date, a first date with someone I shouldn’t be dating…maybe a little bit of a bad boy vibe. Yet I’m sure nothing sexual will happen between us because his wife Rhonda wants him home by 8:00 p.m. Plus, he’s bringing his two-year-old son.

Rex is my new mechanic now, and he just finished overhauling the entire engine. I’m so nervous; I can’t wait to see my car again! Rex said he bringing engine pictures of what he fixed. He was also genuinely sorry he didn’t have time to put together a PowerPoint slide show like he intended. He was running late.

I feel a dirty whore.

I’m cheating on my neighborhood mechanics – Best Garage Ever – with Rex, and I feel like a dirty little car slut.

The first time I took my metallic-blue Subaru Impreza to the Best Garage Ever (at that time just the Neighborhood Garage), it was because the dealership wanted to charge me $500 for a broken exhaust pipe. I asked these new guys to give me a second opinion but was explicitly clear TO NOT FIX ANYTHING until we talked because I needed to decide if I wanted to do the work at this time.

“Sure, sure.” they told me.

Their casual tone made me nervous.

When they called a few hours later, the anonymous voice over the phone said, “Well, we just went ahead and fixed it.”

Instantly I fumed, ready to unleash this stream of swears that I hoped conveyed a combination of professional, decent person, and really fucking pissed off.

He spoke before I did.

“We just welded the tail pipe back onto the muffler. Took us 10 minutes, tops. We’re thinking $7.50. Cool?”

“Cool.” I said, swallowing my anger quickly. “Yeah, that’s okay.”
Best Garage Ever.

One of the best features is that while there, I never feel talked down to.

(ASIDE:   as awkward as the phrasing of that previous sentence may be, it perfectly conveys the slightly ignorant vulnerability and weakness I often feel when visiting a mechanic. I always fear they’re going to talk down to me and then I’ll feel stupid about the car I love. Folks at the Best Garage Ever are often very kind, exceedingly friendly in a way that does not suggest they read it on page 4 of the employee manual, but rather they just are this way because they are. I do not feel stupid with them.)

A few weeks ago I took my beautiful car to the Best Garage Ever to get an estimate. Something was rattling and with 125,000 miles on Old Blue, I figured my faithful steed deserved a little TLC. James from the Best Garage Ever called me and his voice was strange…careful. Measured.

“Mr. Manning? We should talk about your car. Can we do that?”

I was a little struck by his odd tone, almost suggesting I sit down in a chair.

James gently explained the timing belt issue, the other issue that was an estimated $800 fix earlier in the summer, and how they discovered both the left and right head gasket was leaking, a common Subaru problem. I listened in dumb wonder and as he cautiously dog-piled the misery, and suddenly I recognized his tone:   surgeon. Life support.

Already, the little imaginary dollar bills were swimming through my brain, piling up like a bad Refinance-Your-Mortgage TV ad.

I finally understood.

“It’s almost not worth fixing!” I cried in despair.

“I’m not saying that.” James said calmly. “Let’s just talk about this…”

“I love this car!” I yelled into the phone.

“I know you do.” he said softly. “I know.”

I was suddenly speechless. James walked me through the remaining items that would need to be fixed. Gradually he totaled the estimate for me while I held the phone limply. My car! My beautiful new car!

(Car was actually purchased in 1999. But it was my first new car ever.)

My new car!

With a grand total landing unhappily around $3,700, I squirmed. Any investment I put into this beautiful car has already been returned four times over. And I’m not worried about blue book value. But I also don’t want to die in this car – I was thinking it would be nice to die the day before a nasty trip to the dentist, to you know, save me some pain. But not screeching as the car flips into a concrete highway divider and the last thing I see is a broken timing belt on the windshield. I don’t want to die like that, being mocked by a timing belt.

I am not a rich man, either. Did I really want to invest further in Old Blue? Could it be new car time?

My brother Matt went through a battle like this, investing big cash in his old car. I decided to call him; he’d understand!

Matt listened to my mostly irrational despair/pouting and he talked to me as if he were a high school career counselor, helping me see options and consider second opinions, and how it’s even possible to find another car…another -


But Matt’s counsel reminded me to get another opinion.

I consulted Rex, a former coworker from Allen Interactions, a man who worked as a mechanic for 15 years before deciding, “Hey, I like e-learning.” He was at Allen years before me and survived for another full year after me. He also worked part-time for Allen in his last years because he was pursuing life as a welder artist/inventor. He’s always eagerly explaining to me a thing he has invented and if he can just get it into one of Target’s suppliers’ shows…

Rex agreed with the Best Garage Ever:   all that work needed to be done and possibly more.

“And probably…” he began.

Don’t say it. I thought to myself. Don’t say THAT.

“…the clutch.” Rex advised. “As long as the engine’s out of the car, you may as well.”

Dammit. He said it.

Rex agreed to fix my new car, Old Blue, for roughly half of what The Best Garage Ever would have charged. In fact, Rex came up with the nickname Old Blue.

You see how I’m torn.

I love Rex, love his crazy inventor vibe that radiates out of him when he talks about creative projects. When he talks about his family, then he’s quiet, calm. He smiles this wonderful, goofy smile when he talks about his life with Rhonda and the kids.

But it’s the Best Garage Ever!

And I cheated on them!

But it was with Rex, who was my comical arch-nemesis at Allen Interactions. One year, he tried for months to get everyone at work to give me a nickname from Porkies II.   “Hey Boog!” he’d chirp loudly every morning, day after day. Thankfully it never caught on, but for months Rex never gave up.

“Morning, Boog! How was your drive?”

I heard it daily.

So is it wrong to cheat on your beloved neighborhood garage if the new guy who fixes your car is pleasantly sadistic and a good Dad?

Yup, I’m a dirty car whore.

I cheated.

This torrid affair with Rex began when I called him to vent my car woes and ask him if he would look at my car for a second opinion. I told him the ugly truth:   how many thing were wrong, how expensive it would be to fix.

“You’re thinking about putting down that beautiful Subaru?” he gasped into the phone. “I love your car! It’s got another 100,00 miles on it!”

“I know!” I cried.

4 Responses to “Unfaithful”

  1. Tony Says:

    Can’t wait for the post-script…

    - how Old Blue feels — back to its old new self once again

    - how the Best Garage Ever reacts when you relay the story — I mean after all there’ll still be regular stuff that needs to be done on the car which they can do a great job of and which doesn’t require Rex’s special gifts.

    I can feel the Universe smiling behind THAT story

  2. Rhyss Says:

    Men and their cars,,,lol. this is such a non issue for women.
    My 8 yr old Honda needed a timing belt and some other expensive work…no problem…..BwHahaha. I went to the dealer and traded that baby in for a new Honda, same model and same color and with a 7 yr full warranty!
    For us, a car is a tool to get from one place to another but I really do understand your pain…men are so attached to their tools.
    I hope Old Blue does you proud for another 125,000 miles.

  3. Edmond Says:

    It’s time for the Post-script, that Tony was hoping for…

    Me and Old Blue are on a second honeymoon. Oh man, that car was so sweet to drive to Illinois over Thanksgiving. The engine purrs like a kitten and the clutch is no longer stiff with arthritis. I hadn’t realized how stiff it had gotten. So the car is just like a young black panther again.

    Ah, honeymoon. Yay! Old Blue!

  4. Edmond Manning » Blog Archive » Autumn Days Says:

    [...] I’m almost finished with my chicken curry croissant (with mango chutney and cranberries). Soon, I head through the Rocky Mountains. Strangers around me chat away, click their respective keyboards, and I am struck by how at home I feel. I have friends to talk me through scary nights, family to call with funny stories, and people who will notice when I’m not in town. I have Montana leaves in my lovely Subaru on the passenger seat, and the sun promises to guide my trek through the mountains. [...]

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