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.
Too Much Drama
This has to do with two seemingly unrelated stories. Story Number One: On Monday, July 20th, I arrived at work and read the local newspaper as usual. The top headline was about a hostage situation the previous day in a relatively affluent neighborhood. I say “relatively affluent” because it’s a “planned community”. A planned community in the best sense of the word, in my view. The developers did a good job in this case. They didn’t develop a gated community, where the rich are insulated from the riffraff. There are million dollar homes there, but they exist side by side with more modest homes, townhouses, and even apartments. It’s more “real world”.
The hostage situation described a standoff in one of the apartments, where a woman had allowed a man she knew from the Internet to move into her apartment. The initial report said he had hit her in the face with a shotgun, but she managed to escape and was taken to the hospital and treated for “minor injuries”, then released. Hold up, here. How do you get minor injuries after being hit in the face with a shotgun? I’m thinking broken cheekbone, broken nose, broken eyesocket, missing teeth. One of two things happened here–the newspaper got it wrong, or she exaggerated what happened. Maybe both. In any case, after she escaped, the guy barricaded himself in the apartment for 3 1/2 hours but was finally talked out by the police department’s tactical team.
Story Number Two. About 15 minutes after I finished reading this story, “Brian” walks into my office. “Brian” is a guy I previously made famous in my Flirting With Fakename series. He’s been out of town since June 26, and he hoped to be gone permanently, but due to a glitch in the project he was in charge of, he has had to return. Before he left, he told me he planned to spend a week in British Columbia, which I assumed was a vacation. In the interim, a third party informed me that it was not exactly that…”Brian” was performing a chivalrous deed by accompanying a woman of his acquaintance to British Columbia where she was getting a divorce from a Canadian citizen. She needed moral support. I said, “I’m having a hard time putting ‘Brian’ and ‘chivalry’ in the same sentence.” Third party guy says,”You think? I think he is very chivalrous.” Let that be a lesson in trusting other men to define what is and is not chivalry.
My first words to “Brian” were, How was British Columbia? His eyes got all shifty. At last he says, British Columbia was beautiful, but the trip was hell. He explains that he went with this woman to provide moral support while she got a divorce. And he went because he said she isn’t “wrapped too tightly” and “never could have done this on her own” and needed help. During the course of the story, it becomes clear that he paid for her plane ticket and hotel room for a week.
That’s another of your Hold up, Here moments. How do you get a man to fly with you over 3,000 miles to a different country, and pay for it, and you are only acquaintances? And you’re crazy too? I myself am only mildly crazy, and I can’t even get a man to take me to Starbucks!
Of course, you don’t. At the conclusion of the week in BC, she announced that he was next….that if he did not accede to her wishes, she was going to accuse him of being abusive toward her, just like she had just done with her husband during the divorce. He handled that by never being alone with her, and by reporting to security at every airport they landed at during the long trip home. Then he said, Did you read the article in the newspaper this morning? It was the same woman. He said, I don’t know all the details, but I suspect she had something to do with driving that train.
Later in the week, more details emerged. She alleges that the man in her apartment did not hit her in the face with the shotgun, but instead stuck the barrel in her mouth and asked if she was ready to die. They met in an online support group for cancer victims: she is a breast cancer survivor, and his ex-wife recently died of cancer. He was clearly depressed and maybe suicidal, as several postings on his Facebook account implied. She was just trying to do him a favor. According to him, the whole incident began when she asked him to help her move a table. When he refused, she began slapping him repeatedly. Not that there is any excuse for what he did, but it’s probably not a good idea to provoke unstable people.
So now we know why “Brian” never asked me out for a drink. He was “busy”. If he ever does, I will have to decline, on the grounds of not being crazy enough for him. I think he should take up hang-gliding or bungee-jumping, or some other less dangerous sport.
Posted in Gun violence, Lifestyle, People, Social Commentary, Suicide, Tallahassee
Tagged domestic violence, hostage situations, relationships, thrill-seeking