Posts Tagged 'Mercedes'

Breaking My Chains

I usually take my Mercedes to the dealer in Oxnard. The car is seven years old, and I figure I’ve been there about twenty times since I bought it. I always cringe when the bill is presented expecting the worst. And it usually is.

Add to that a thirty mile drive taking 40 minutes each way. That’s forty trips in seven years totaling 2,400 miles. Or 120 gallons of gas at $5 a gallon, or $600. But, what the heck, it’s a Mercedes.

If I owned a Chevy, I’d probably go to the local repair shop. But Mercedes has developed a reputation that only a Mercedes dealer can perform services. I’m easily swayed by friends, the internet and strange lights in the sky, so I’ve also been cowed into thinking that my C300 will fall to pieces if touched by a generic mechanic who has grease smeared on his Hawaiian shirt and says things like duh, what?

I don’t even adjust the tire pressure when the dashboard warns me that I will die if any of the tires has the wrong PSI as prescribed on page 268 of the user manual. Instead, I wait for my next service at the dealer to correct the pressure, believing that doing otherwise will void the warranty and cause a tire to explode leaving a gaping hole in the middle of Ojai Avenue.

Jackie also has a Mercedes and a similar fear of aliens touching her car. This fear, unlike mine, does not include tire pressure adjustments. She will go any place with an air hose and a willing mechanic. She uses her cute smile to get the work done. No money changes hands and both parties are happy. Jackie because she has freshly topped-off air, and the guy with the Hawaiian shirt because he gets to ogle her for five minutes.

Since no mechanic is interested in ogling me, I wait for the Mercedes dealer to do the work and bill me for his time, and probably his air.

But all that changed a couple of months ago. I needed air and decided to break my Mercedes chains and visit Ojai Valley Imports, walking distance from my house. A strange name for this car repair shop since they don’t import anything and, based on my visual inspection, mostly service cars that look like they haven’t been washed since they came off the assembly line.

They did a five-star job of adding air to my tires without breaking anything. And the guy who did it had a clean shirt. And he charged me nothing. Maybe I am worth ogling.

But one success does not necessarily change a life-long habit. A month later my dashboard lit up with messages, lights and whistles announcing I was due for service at the Mercedes dealer money pit. I procrastinated for two weeks hoping the message would disappear. It did not and became the very first thing I saw every time I started the car. You are seven days beyond your service period. Then eight days. Then twenty days. It was unending.

If that wasn’t enough, the tire pressure indicator lit up again. Another annoying announcement that dogged me for a couple of weeks. Like unrelenting dripping water, the two messages overwhelmed me. I broke down and called Mercedes for an appointment.

My first call produced a transfer to the service department where I was disconnected before I could say anything. Maybe they checked my bank balance and figured I couldn’t afford them.

My second call connected me to Ralph, who seemed disinterested in my need for service. After promising that I would add large sums of money to my bank account, he granted me an appointment ten days later. Busy place.

And then I thought about the free air. And the walking distance from home to Ojai ImportsAnd I said, why not? What have I got to lose? A beat-up seven-year-old Mercedes? Jackie can always buy me a new car. Or better yet, she can drive me wherever life takes me.

So, I took a deep breath, put on my favorite hat, got in the car, and took what I thought would be a two-minute ride to Ojai Imports. It took only 90 seconds, and I began to wonder what I’d do with the rest of my day.

Tyrone wore a greaseless shirt, welcomed me without saying duh, and told me they could take me right away. No waiting, no return trips. He smiled and, sensing my unease said, “Don’t worry. We’ll be kind. We’ll be gentle.”

And they were.

In spite of breaking my Mercedes chains, the Creature from the Black Lagoon did not emerge from the abyss in Lake Casitas. Godzilla did not fly in from Tokyo and flatten the Chevron station and King Kong did not climb the post office tower with city council member Suza Francina in his giant hand.

I paid my bill, got in the car, and rested a minute staring at the dashboard. I thought…Can’t wait until the next time I need service.


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