Monday, August 10, 2009

My apologies to the universe, my car, and the staff at Volkswagen of Salem.

Excuse me, for age is making me cranky, like an old dog. Crotchety, even. The cost of a turn signal repair made me a cranky moment in some poor woman's day. Not like screaming-mad, crazy-banshee-bitch; just a little more wry than perhaps the situation called for.

But it was kind of funny, in retrospect.

This morning I swung into Express Lube for an oil change. They are often too quick, and this time it was clear why. As Josh tells me how my car passed all the checks, including the lights, I point out that was odd because the front driver's side turn signal was out.

Busted! He act like, "Gee, how could someone not have caught that?" Indeed; the turn signal flashes and clicks quickly when a bulb it out... not to mention IT DOESN'T LIGHT UP, so clearly the staff was cutting corners. Given the place was empty, that doesn't say good things about the quality of the service. It's one thing to rush when you're busting arse to serve everyone, and quite another when there is plenty of time, but you're just being lazy.

He went to recheck it and... surprise! It wasn't working. While eating his crow, he pointed out the lens was cracked, so he sent me over to the parts/service guys at VW.

Whether under the flag of Delon/O'Brien or whoever, the staff over there have always been really friendly and helpful. I like 'em, although I was brought up to be suspicious of dealerships. As I was standing in line waiting for the counter, I spied Steve, a service tech with thick, wavy blond hair. Handsome. Slightly rugged looking, but softened by that "I'd rather be surfing" hair. It's rare to find someone that, on presence alone, makes me stare. But there I was, oogling this poor guy like I'd been crossing the desert all day, and he was a cool, tall glass of water.

So then *I* was busted.

Once at the counter, the staffer comes out to the car; sure enough, the lens is cracked with a hole in the top. (Does it speak to how soft I've gotten that I didn't even LOOK? I just knew to take it in. Gee, I'm helpless. But seriously, after the snaffu of trying to replace wiper blades on this car: 60 minutes of fine manual dexterity failure capped off with me standing in my drive screaming obscenities as I beat the limp and lifeless replacement blades on the windshield... I've learned to not even try self service.)

He gets someone else to help, and just my luck Steve comes out to give us a hand.

Oooh la la. I wonder just how committed they are to complete customer satisfaction, and have to laugh at my own hormone driven raunchiness. Youth truly is wasted on the young.

I've always felt odd in repair situations like this. To me, the solution is obvious... the bulb will just burn out again if water can get in, thus we have to replace the lens first, then the bulb. No point in doing one without the other. Maybe other people balk at that, because I'm standing there and the counter guy seems to be suggesting we replace just the light, but we could look at the lens, too. Um... no. Light and lens, please!

To the parts counter we go; I stay away from the cute VW schwag for sale because I just don't need it, but am drawn to it like bugs to a zapper light. A ceramic VW bus is not something of necessity, but that doesn't stop me from wanting one. They have the bulb, and as he's looking up the cost of the lens I joked, "Don't tap that bulb, it's probably $12."

The lens was $49.16. And, my friends, I'm not joking you when I say the bulb was $11.50. A teeny, tiny little light bulb. Cost to replace a turn signal, $60.66.

Where are the days when I'd tear my 1980-something 5-speed manual Toyota Corolla with the self-applied rocker panel graphics into a car parts store, saunter in the door and up to the parts counter and not only get the light for free, but the tech would come out and install it for free, and give me a soda from the cooler, again free of charge.

Oh, wait... that was in 1989. 20 years ago, and I was not even legal, was a hell of a lot thinner and no doubt cuter, probably a hell of a lot better at shameless flirting, and that bulb only cost 50 cents and didn't require a $50 lens (and a special tool to remove it) to go with it.

Damn the endless marching forward of time!

For no good reason I was cranky. See again the getting old part. I said something about the car nickel and diming me to death.

When I got back to the car, I felt an intense sense of shame come over me. I mean, like, run-back-in-and-say-I'm-sorry kind of shame. Because let's look at the facts:

We bought this car in May 2006, and named her Catorce because it was a 14th wedding anniversary present from my husband. It's a hell of a lot of fun, gets loads of compliments, and in those three years and over 40k miles has hauled dogs, camping gear, a full load of friends and family, kayaks, bikes, you name it. I have paid for five oil changes (it's a TDI, so only one at 5k, the rest every 10k) at about $60 a pop for synethetic oil, a new set of wiper blades, two free headlight replacements (warranty), three free stops for a squirt of lube to ease the window rising that sticks sometimes, and now $60 for a turn signal. I'm due for a big tune up, but you know what, overall, this car has been a no-troubles dream.

So now I struggle with my private shame -- do I call the billing woman up and apologize for being cranky? Do I send her a card? Do I let it slide?

Or do I go out and start breaking things on my car on purpose so I can have an excuse to go in and ask that Steve personally attend to all my car repair needs?

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