Celebrating the Unsung heroes who help us navigate the unexpected potholes in life.
It’s tough out there.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been, quite literally, kicked to the curb a few times over the years.
And that includes a dropkick from each of the three big contenders that figure prominently in the life-sucking-psychic-energy department: romance, work, and customer service.
But in one area of my life, there’s been a person who for the past twenty-two years has alleviated stress and kept my days, as well as my 1993 Volvo 240 wagon running smoothly. He’s not only a wizard, he’s also generous, passionate, honest, and damned pleasant.
It’s early evening and the dark winter sky is a gun metal gray. As I’m driving down a busy interstate after work, the dashboard lights up and the engine lets out a slow, dying exhale. Panic puts me in a choke hold because there’s nothing worse than sitting in the break down lane, alone.
I pull the car over and call Peter. He immediately answers the phone. The problem is diagnosed on the spot, and he instructs me to turn off the radio and any other malfunctioning accessories. After limping another 10 miles back to the garage, he’s waiting for me and proceeds to replace the alternator in record time while I wait — and I want to cry not only because are I’m relieved but also because there’s still money in the checking account. I can’t count the number of times I’ve incredulously blurted out, “Is that all?!” after getting the bill.
Such generosity of time and labor is unheard of except from the best of friends.
Passionate about his work he recognizes that same passion in his customers and is willing to barter. Lucky for me he loves art, and on three separate occasions over the years, when the cost of a repair was substantial, I’ve traded my paintings with him.
I can always trust that I’m getting the best deal possible because he is a genius at rebuilding expensive parts or designing new ones. If I need a head gasket, I know Peter will explore every avenue to make it less painful.
He’s a gentleman — I’ve never seen him get angry — and he has that rare ability to make you feel like you’re a favorite customer. Maybe that’s because he operates by his well known quote, “NO Rules, NO Fools.”
Three years ago he was diagnosed with cancer. I learned he had no insurance. I did the only thing I could do and gave him my wagon with new tires and the head gasket he had recently put in. Because after years of good will and stellar service, you pay it forward.
Peter died April 20, 2020, at 62.
I now drive an old Subaru Forester.
Through word of mouth, I’ve been blessed again and found another perfect match. Like Peter before him, Sal runs a small, independent garage in the country and doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
At most other places, they would have told me I needed to replace the catalytic converter. But not Sal. The only problem was it was hanging loose, so he fashioned a clamp (because they don’t make them) that secured it in place, and it’s been good to go for the past two years.
During another visit to replace a costly ball joint, he drove to a friend’s garage to borrow a tool he knew the guy had that made the labor intensive job a lot easier. I saved hundreds of dollars.
My driving now often includes harrowing trips on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. As I white-knuckle-it entering the on ramp, my anxiety is lessened because I’ve had my six month check up at the garage back home.
It’s funny how you can become so attached to a vehicle. But I think it has more to do with the person who makes the magic happen. (It’s magic to me)
Life will always be a bumpy ride.
Thanks for absorbing a lot of the shocks along the way.
You gotta love these guys.
And I do.