Friday, November 16, 2007

Ramone - The Honest Mechanic

There is a young mechanic in Glendale, Arizona, by the name of Ramone who is getting truly tired of my ubiquitous presence in his shop. I can tell that he would be much happier if I would follow the example of the rest of society and trade in my old heap on something that I couldn’t afford. (I’m not poor, necessarily, but the idea of car payments is an anathema to me. I would rather pay the occasional repair bill than to lay out six hundred or so every month on something that will be essentially worn out by the time I get it paid off.)

Ramone is a nice guy, and honest, which of course is a double handicap in the world of business. Most mechanics love to see somebody like me pull a dilapidated jalopy into their shop. They see me as a continuing source of income, someone who will be instrumental in getting their children and grandchildren through college. Ramone may have even sized me up as Christmas-come-early, but he soon learned that my car came from the mind of Stephen King on bad acid.

Ramone has a two-bay shop attached to a small auto parts store. He employs three or four individuals in his start-up business. He takes pride in his operation, does good work, and guarantees his work. Since my arrival in Arizona less than two months ago, Ramone has fixed a faulty tail light on my car that the best minds in Kentucky (Larry, Darrell, and Darrell) had given up on long ago, and he replaced a switch on the passenger side electric window. Both repairs were successful and they were reasonable.

Then things began to change. Less than a day after Ramone fixed the passenger window, the motor on the driver’s side window went out. Ramone fixed it for me later in the week, and again tapped me for a reasonable fee. We both had a good laugh about the timing of the window motor’s demise, and then shook hands expecting not to see each other again for a good, long while.

A few days later the same window quit working again. I took it back to Ramone expecting to be told that a short in the wiring had fried the motor. I also expected the warranty would be no good due to the problem being the wiring and not the motor. After more work, Ramone announced that the new motor had been defective (stuff happens), and he sent me on my way with a new one. He didn’t charge for his labor or the motor replacement. Two miles down the road I smelled this second new motor burning.

Today Ramone put in a third new window motor on the driver's side. This time he used a different brand. Again, there was no charge for labor or parts. I did try to pay him for his labor, I really did, but he insisted that his parts and labor were guaranteed. This new motor appears to be working – knock wood!

But if this window motor quits, Ramone will never know. I just wouldn’t have the heart to tell him. And besides, this is the Arizona desert, and Ramone told me during one of our many chats that the last rain that he can remember here was when he was seven – and that one didn’t amount to much. So, who needs a car with windows anyway?

Ramone may have lost money on me, but he and I both know that as long as I drive an old clunker up and down the palm-lined streets of the Phoenix Valley, he will have a loyal customer. Ramone has earned my business, whether he really wants it or not!

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