I’ve known Buck Pincher for so long that I can tell what he’s thinking just by looking at his ears. Right now they were smoking, so I knew he was in his “somebody’s after my money and they ain’t gettin’ it” mood.
“Something wrong, Buck?”
He looked up from the inspection checklist that I’d just given him. “I’ll say there is!” he thundered. “I come in for a simple oil change and you hand me this shopping list of maintenance work. According to you, there’s so many things about to go wrong with my car that it’s a miracle I drove it up here at all!”
“You took the words right out of my mouth,” I replied. “Buck, your old car is suffering from a serious case of neglect. It’s no wonder it spends half its life on the back of a tow truck.”
“AAA pays for that,” he replied. “And besides, when it’s on the deck truck, I ain’t wearing my tires out. So I’m saving money!”
I shook my head in disbelief. Trying to reason with Buck Pincher is like explaining the stock market to a brick the only thing the brick understands is how to crash things.
“Excuse me, gentlemen, but is there a problem here?” Our terse discussion was interrupted by Miss Daisy Middleworth, an elderly spinster who brought her vehicle in like clockwork for maintenance and repairs. She rarely had a breakdown, and that’s just the way she liked it. Miss Daisy had been sitting quietly by our coffee counter reading a romance novel as she waited for her Jeep, but Buck’s noisy complaints were disturbing her concentration.
Buck glowered in her direction. “A problem, Ma’am? I’ll say there is!” He shoved the list in Miss Daisy’s direction. “Slim here purports to be my friend, yet he’s trying to drain my pocketbook dry with a list of unnecessary maintenance work.” But if Buck was looking for sympathy, he wasn’t going to find it in Miss Daisy. She was a firm believer in preventative maintenance.
Daisy took the list and studied it. “According to this, your transmission fluid is burnt and should be changed.”
“See? That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” exclaimed Buck. “Why should I change the fluid? The car still moves!”
Miss Daisy frowned. “But for how long? Sonny, overheated transmission fluid can’t protect your clutch plates properly. Before you know it, you’ll be calling the tow truck to bring you back here, and it’s going to be one expensive repair. If I were you, I’d get that looked after right away.”
Buck’s mouth dropped open. He hadn’t counted on meeting a little old lady who knew more about cars than he did not that it would take much. “Uh, well, never mind that one…what about that next item? Tooner says it’s time to replace the spark plugs, but I haven’t even felt a single misfire yet!” He crossed his arms triumphantly. “If that ain’t overselling, I don’t know what is.”
Daisy studied him closely. “Say, you look familiar. Didn’t I see you kicking the front bumper of a blue Mercury that was stalled on Main Street the other day? Why, you had traffic backed up for two blocks!” She tottered over for a closer look. “Did you know I almost missed my hair dresser’s appointment because of you?”
Buck backed up a step. “Uh, you must be mistaken, lady. Never been near Main Street…”
At that moment, Tooner poked his head in through the door from the shop. “Hey Buck, I tried to back yer Topaz out of the shop, but one of yer thread-bare tires blew out. I’m gonna have to replace it.”
Buck blew a gasket. “What?! Now you’ve ruined my tires!”
I shook my head. “No, you did. If you’d gotten that front end alignment last year like we’d suggested, your tires would have lasted longer.”
Daisy glared at him suspiciously. “A Topaz? A Mercury Topaz? You’re not one of those numbskulls who drives around on worn-out tires, are you? Harrumph. People like you are a danger to other drivers!” She waggled her umbrella threateningly in Buck’s direction. Tooner quickly ducked back into the shop; he’d seen Miss Daisy use her umbrella before, and it hadn’t been pretty.
Buck looked at me desperately, though for the life of me I don’t know why. Friend or not, he was on his own with Miss Daisy.
“Slim,” he whined, “you know the old saying, ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’ Well, that applies here, right?”
“Sorry Buck, but a large fleet company did an analysis recently, comparing the cost of preventative maintenance versus neglecting the vehicle. They discovered that even when they over-maintained a vehicle, it still worked out cheaper in the long run.”
“Exactly what I’ve been trying to tell you, young man,” chimed in Miss Daisy. “I’ve been following the suggested maintenance schedule ever since my 1999 Cherokee was brand new, and it rarely lets me down.”
I nodded in agreement. “And not only that, Buck, but her Jeep is so nice and clean, she’d get top dollar if she ever chose to sell it.”
Buck turned and faced me defiantly. “Well, I ain’t falling for it, Slim. You can just put that list in the garbage can and…yikes!” Buck’s eyes bulged out as Miss Daisy positioned the point of her umbrella squarely and firmly between the middle vertebrae of his spine. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead.
“Excuse me, sonny, but I don’t believe I heard you properly,” she muttered threateningly. “Would you care to rephrase that?”
Buck’s eyes darted frantically from side to side, looking for a way to escape, but he was pinned between the umbrella and the counter. He gulped. “Uh, well, maybe we could do a couple things on that list, especially the tires,” he squeaked. “I mean, since you’ve got the car in here anyway…”
With a grin, I took the list and headed for tire racks and the service bays. It’s always satisfying to see a customer finally embrace the value of preventative maintenance.
Some folks just need a little more convincing than others.
Rick Cogbill, a freelance writer and former shop owner in Summerland, B.C., has written The Car Side for a variety of trade magazines for the past 14 years. “A Fine Day for a Drive,” his first book based on the characters from this column, is now available for order at thecarside.com.