Saturday, November 14, 2009
This is a picture of a broken tie-rod that Soly & Jack, the Israeli and Chinese mechanics with whom I trust my car and my life, removed from my 2001 PT Cruiser yesterday morning. Jack realized I needed a new tie-rod when he was in the process of putting two brand-new tires on the car, replacing two old, bald ones. When he put the new tire on the front passenger side and tightened the lugs, he put his hand on the tire and it wobbled around like a wagon wheel from Oregon Trail.
"Oh, shit," Jack said.
"Please don't say that," I said, knowing I was already looking at around a $200 service bill for the oil change and the two tires.
But it was definitely an "Oh, shit," and my total for the day ended up being $395.38.
As Click & Clack would say, "Looks like Soly's going to make this month's boat payment."
Frankly, I have difficulty picturing 61-year-old grizzled and gnarled Soly piloting a boat. At least, not any boat that doesn't have an Israeli flag on its side and an anti-aircraft gun on the stern.
I know, also, that Soly and Jack don't tell me something's wrong when it isn't. When they removed the bum tie-rod, they showed it to me. "You needed a new one of those more than you needed two new fucking tires," said Soly, "if that snapped, and it was close to snapping, you'd be dead."
I was going to ask him to take the tires back then, but they were already on the car.
Going to Soly & Jack's always fills me with a mixture of emotions. On the one hand, I really enjoy being there. I like the way their garage smells, I like the sound the heater makes when it turns itself on, I like Soly & Jack's uniforms-- and not in that annoying hipster way, either-- and, of course, I just like Soly & Jack. I like talking to them about Sarah Palin (Soly: "She would have made a good prostitute.") and I like talking to them about where they came from (Jack: "I came here from China in 1991, January 1st. My sister and I slept for 24 hours our first day here. Heard fireworks. I was so fucking bored for two years.")
What I don't like is giving them lots of money. This tends to happen, though, when I bring around the PT Cruiser. Bushings, ball-joints, broken rims, haywire electrical system, a sunroof that closes sometimes, oxygen sensors, tie-rods, dog-bones (yes, apparently there's a rear component of my car's suspension called a "dog bone." It's got three holes. Jack showed it to me.) All things break. I understand that. When they break, you need to fix them. I just wish things wouldn't break so often and that, when they did, they were cheaper to replace.
For a car built on the cheap, it's not very cheap to fix.
"This thing is a fucking joke!" Soly yelled at me today, in between sips of his coffee, which he drinks from a miraculously pristine white ceramic mug, "It gets, what, 20 miles-a-gallon, barely, it accelerates like a fucking old dog, and it looks like a cow that's bending over!" He energetically gulps some more coffee and then he rages, his forsaken, broken teeth jutting out like icicles, "That's why they only made this piece of shit for one year!"
I stared at him. I was shocked. I thought Soly knew everything about cars.
"Soly, they're still making them today."
"WHAT?!" he bellowed furiously at me, spitting coffee onto my cardigan, "Then how come every goddamn customer I have who drives one of these things drives a 2001?!"
Using my internet-ready smartphone, I Googled "PT Cruiser" and showed him that Chrysler began production in 2000 and it's scheduled to continue until 2010.
"What is that," asked Soly, peering at my phone under his bifocals, "a Blueberry?"
"Yeah," I said, "with cream on top."
"What probably happened was," Soly reasoned, "they sold the PT Cruisers everywhere in 2001, and, when smart people realized they were pieces of shit, they sold the rest of them down South, where the retards live." In spite of his insinuation that I am equivalent to a Kentucky-fried, sister-fucking retard, I laughed.
When Jack tells me that the tie-rods are "always going bad on these cars," I complain that this is what he says whenever I bring the car in for something.
"What doesn't 'always go bad on these cars'?" I asked. Jack smiled at me.
Soly refers to my car as the "P.T. Loser."
I told him that my wife really loves the car and has a great desire to only have one car payment, which I respect and understand. The Cruiser is paid off and is titled under my name. She has a 2009 Honda Fit which she loves more than Jesus loves his Birkenstocks.
"My wife loves this car and she thinks it's indestructable," I told Soly, "her mother has one that has over 200,000 miles on it."
"Well, she's crazy-- she's probably had every fucking thing rebuilt on it besides the radio antenna! It's not even the same car it was in 2001 anymore."
I told him that I wanted to sell it and get a 1968 Beetle. He laughed.
"See? You're fucking crazy, too! You are perfect for each other."
We both cracked up at that. In the midst of our laughter, Jack came up and informed me that the motor mounts were starting to go. He motioned for me to come over so I could see for myself.
"No," I said. "I believe you."