Fakename has had a bad week, for many reasons, but it started Monday morning while driving to work. The BP station I pass daily about halfway between my house and my office was empty and shuttered. The sign which normally says something like “Mechanic On Duty” read “Closed”. I had a bad feeling about this, because I was pretty sure that station was owned by the same people who own the BP station downtown where Jeff the Mechanic works. Sure enough, my worst fears were confirmed.
Plastic bags covered the hose nozzles. No lights in the tiny “store”, and all the shelves were empty. Doors into the repair bays closed and padlocked.
I most recently mentioned Jeff the Mechanic in my post Worm Grunting Part 2, Dilbert, and PSI. I took the Baby Toyota by to introduce him to it (and to get air in the tires). This is the guy who kept my dying Camaro alive for at least a year past its expiration date. Who said when pronouncing its death sentence…I could fix your latest problem, but I don’t want to. It would be like stealing your money. You need a new car.
He’s the guy who oohed and aahed over the vvti (variable valve timing with intelligence ) engine technology in the Baby Toyota, and tried mightily to explain it to me. It has something to do with cams. He probably didn’t notice my eyes rolling back in my head. As I finally understood it, vvti has something to do with the car’s ability to exert power when needed and to save power when it isn’t needed. Ergo, the gas mileage thing. At least he never treated me like an idiot. even though he should have. He did yell at me a time or two, but we got past that.
He was also a blue-collar philosopher. He had an opinion about everything. He, like me, was an Obama supporter before it was cool. One day he said, “What this country needs is protectionism!” I refer you to the State of the Union address, where now President Obama said, “We need to reward companies who keep jobs here, rather than giving tax breaks to companies which ship jobs overseas.” I don’t claim to know if that would work or not. It’s a complex issue. What I’m lauding is the fact that Jeff the Mechanic gave it some thought.
I don’t really know Jeff the Mechanic personally. The sum total of what I know about him personally is that he’s married and his wife drives a Volvo. I think, but don’t know, that he was an independent contractor in his position as the mechanic for this BP station. I believe that his future is safe, since in light of the economy, people are keeping their cars longer. Perhaps the BP station will even reopen under new ownership and he will be back. But I’m not counting on it.
Operating a service station, at least in Florida, is one of the riskiest things you can do besides operating a restaurant.
The important thing is, I was seriously pained by seeing that Jeff the Mechanic was gone. Despite not knowing him personally, he was one of those people who brightened my workday world, just knowing he was out there. I spent many hours in his company, back in the Camaro days. He worked, and I sat in a greasy canvas chair in the repair bay reading a book. Occasionally it would be over lunch, which would consist for me of peanut butter and cheese crackers and a Yoohoo from the store attached. Now and then one of us would raise our heads and say, “Did you ever think about….?”
My suspicion is that I will never see him again. It’s not like I’m living in a city teeming with millions of people, but the odds remain great. Tallahassee has about 190,000 people in the city proper and 250,000 or so with the city and county population combined. Plus, I don’t need to frequent mechanics anymore. I won’t be dropping in to some other service station where I will accidentally run into him.
My feelings about this are a serious window into my emotional life, and reveal a lot more about me than I usually care to share. Connections, in my opinion, are both rare and fragile. Once I make one, I can’t bear to give it up, as the people who know me best and for the longest time can attest.
So, Jeff the Mechanic is a broken connection. I’m highly unlikely to run into him again unless he shops at Publix.