Road Trip 105: Fixing the Element

 

I had resigned myself to paying the dealer to fix the Element but a conversation with Mr. Canada put doubt in my mind if I was doing the right thing. When I told about the problem I was having he had looked up an automotive locksmith and recommended it to me.

Back in Lafayette I had attempted to get a locksmith to fix the problem to no avail. Plus, I was worried about going to a non-Honda mechanic in a strange place where I didn’t know anybody.

Nonetheless when I woke up in the morning, I called his recommendation. He was willing to fix it for a lot less. A LOT less. He was aware of the common problem on Honda’s. He could do it in a couple of hours, he said.

Fuck it. I called the dealer and told them not to do anything. I called the nice tow truck guy and instructed him to rescue my Honda from the dealer and bring it to the locksmith.

I jumped in the shower, went to the gas station for some cash and called an Uber to take me to the locksmith, where I would meet the tow truck guy. I had my duffle-like bag, my backpack, my camera bag and a small purse.

On the way to the locksmith, the dealer called to tell me essentially that they were holding my car hostage until I paid for the part they had ordered. I protested and cajoled and played the pity card.

The Uber driver took me to the dealer where my tow truck guy was waiting with infinite patience.

I stood by the dealer-mechanic’s little desk until he told me how much money I would have to give him to get my car back. He claimed to be selling me the parts at cost and included a diagnosis fee.

What can I do? I said, You’ve got me over a barrel.

Even with his screwing me with my pants on, the tow fee and the quote by the locksmith, I was still coming out cheaper than the dealer’s original quote. Plus, at that point, I wanted to get far away from those fuckers.

While he was getting the final, at-cost price, I borrowed my own keys to put my bags, which were sitting on the sidewalk next to the service center, in my car.

I should’ve just taken the keys and told the tow truck guy to take it away. But I’m too afraid of authority to do that. I wasn’t sure what the consequences would be.

I bent down and started to cry a little. The stress finally hit me and I needed to release it somehow. I felt like an idiot for bringing the car to the dealer. I should’ve known better. I should’ve done more research.

The tow truck guy saw me and asked if I was ok. I was embarrassed. I stood up and told him they were making me pay for the parts.

“So, what do you want to do?” he asked, “What’s your plan?”

“I’m going to pay them their ransom then I want you to take me and the car to the locksmith,” I told him.

I went back inside and the dude sent me to the cashier with his invoice. I handed him my card with reluctance and disgust. He wanted me to sign the service order or invoice. I said no. “I’m not happy right now and I don’t want to sign anything.”

“You have to say you approve of the work,” he said.

“They didn’t do anything,” I said.

The tow guy and I drove slowly to the mechanic, passing pueblo-styled buildings and houses and interesting graffiti here and there.

Pulling up, the place looked a bit sketch. Very sketch, actually. And the guy wasn’t there. I called him. He said he would be back from another job in 30 minutes.

I went next door to a small food place. I spoke English and the person at the counter answered in Spanish. I ordered a smoothie and a shredded beef sandwich and worked on photos at a table while I waited.

The locksmith found me and I looked up to see a young man who looked like he was 14. I told him I had parts from the dealer, he said he didn’t need them and told me I should get my money back. Fat chance of that happening. I showed him the problem and he got to work, assuring me, “This is a common problem.”

God, I hope I made the right choice.

 

Road Trip 104: A Day Off

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A Tree on the New Mexico Campus

In the morning, I called the front desk to ask about a second night. Then I found a Honda dealer that turned out to be within walking distance and called the tow truck they recommended. When the guy got there he tried to unstick the steering wheel, which I knew he wouldn’t be able to do and told me his tow truck was too long to fit behind the car in the small parking lot. He gave me the name of another guy. I called him and went up front to pay for another night, momentarily misplacing my driver’s license in true Nicole-fashion. I was getting quite exasperated with myself, though I’m not sure I can reasonably blame myself for an ignition assembly gone bad.

I got a few things together and sat on a red bench waiting for the tow truck. When I was walking down the sidewalk, I saw a small wooden charm with “Oregon” written on it. I wouldn’t normally pick up such a thing off the ground but I thought it was a nice reminder of what my destination was. Later, when I was asked the tow truck guy about the mountain range in the distance, the one I had descended the day before, he said it was called the Oregon Mountains. The charm must have come from a tourist shop and dropped by a kid.

The tow guy was nice and charming and when I joked that I might have to sell the Element he asked me how much I wanted for it. I knew it was only worth 3-4 thousand dollars. I’m not sure if he was serious or trying to flirt.

Continue reading Road Trip 104: A Day Off