A Rough Start
“You’re going to hate it,” Jose said.
Jose was the assistant manager. He had just shared the unfortunate news that I would need to work at a different location today. “It’s gross over there. Sloppy, grimy…. nobody likes the location.”
He apologized, said the usual “it’s not my choice” nonsense. He meant it in a way. He didn’t want to make me leave, but the regional director — arbiter of all that is just and true in the tri-county area — had decreed that my presence was required elsewhere. That regional director was in our shop, standing right next to Jose, but refused to even look at me, let alone speak to me. For him to sully himself by conversing with a lowly grease-monkey like me would be like a noble knight striking a friendship with a peasant. Unthinkable.
So, I drove the twenty minutes to the next town and got to the location. Technically, I was supposed to clock out, drive to the other location for free with no reimbursement, then clock in again when I got to the new location. Jose saved me from this free labor, perhaps feeling bad about sending me here in the first place, and got me on the books for the drive over.
The Slop Shop
The shop was in a rich and snooty neighborhood, one where people will pay $7 for a coffee every day and not think twice about it. Considering the nature of the people in this town, I was shocked by the mess in the garage. Tools were thrown all about the floor rather than gently placed in their respective toolboxes. Grease stains discolored the floor, oil-soaked towels strewn about the place like an unkempt laundry room. It was a disheveled, disorganized, mess. There was even random graffiti (mostly in the shapes of dick-and-balls of various sizes) all over the walls.
The assistant manager introduced himself as Chris. He would be working the counter and dealing with customers while I worked in the garage. I checked the name tag sewn onto the shirt and confirmed that, indeed, his name was Chris. He was tall and wiry with long beautiful hair. An overall handsome man, and a nice one too, but he had a maniacal laugh that escaped from the pit of his stomach like a cry for help. He explained that all of the other employees had called out today, so rather than 4 people there was only him—and now me.
Chris was smoking a cigarette in the middle of the untidy garage, an oily rag not far from his feet. The whole shop was a fire hazard of graffiti dicks and expensive tools ready to burst into flames.
Lord of the Flies
I set my tools up on a rolling cart, admired all of the phallic painting, and started working. Then I remembered I had a yogurt that needed refrigerating, so I looked for the fridge. It was oddly placed in the middle of the tire aisle, somewhere between the “All-Terrain Mountaineers” and the “ Vee-Rubber Street” tires. A pair of loose tires was leaning up against the mini-fridge impeding me from opening the door.
I pried the two tires out of the way and opened the fridge just a crack to look inside. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, you don’t just go swinging doors open if you aren’t sure what you’ll find on the other side. Anyway, I opened it a crack and saw a bunch of yellowy-brown stuff along the inside wall. I squinted my eyes to look more closely at it.
Was it just grime? Was it mold?
No… it had just moved.
Not just moved, but squirmed. And now a fly was buzzing out of the fridge. Maggots and flies and other insects had invaded this refrigerator and made it their hive.
I slammed the fridge shut and stacked the two tires back in front of the door like a clumsy archaeologist slamming a sarcophagus shut after realizing he might have just released a terrible curse onto the world. I pulled my shirt over my nose to block the rotten odor that had escaped from that hive. The sour smell of dead meat that had been infested with larvae and maggots was consuming the entire shop even though the door had only been open briefly.
Another Day, Another Manager That Ain’t Shit
After catching a breath of fresh cold air outside to remove the pungent scent of rot from my nostrils, I went back in and continued my work of oil changes and tire replacements.
Around this time the manager of the store, Scott, showed up, thanked me for working today, and went into some long-winded story about his ex-wife. The general sloppiness of his personal life seemed to be the main driving force of the vibe of the slop shop he ran. Then he said he needed to go because he had to take his dog to get a rabies vaccination. Pretty typical for a manager to leave the store they are running in near-shambles.
After he left I was in a groove, and working by myself had its perks. I could play music from the speaker as loud as I wanted, and any genre that I wanted. I didn’t have to worry about other people taking up bays or moving tools around. It wasn’t too bad.
A Muffin a Day Keeps the Sadness Away
Despite the initial negativity of being thrust into a new store filled with maggots and general disarray of the shop, the day went on pretty well. I listened to J-Cole, toiled away at the long line of cars waiting for work to be done.
I took a late lunch, about 7 hours into my 10 hour shift, and went to a local deli where a sweet old lady gave me a double-chocolate-chip muffin and a fresh cup of coffee. Sitting in my car, eating the muffin, drinking coffee, soaking in some sun, and listening to music, it struck me that today was a great day to be alive.
A Mercedes From Hell, and More of Managers Ain’t Shit
When I returned from lunch there was only one car left to work on, a large Mercedes SUV. I would need to do an alignment on it, which I had never done before. Neither had Chris. We agreed that we would simply have to figure it out together.
However, we reached a roadblock before we could get to that part of the job. We couldn’t even get the wheels off of the vehicle. The studs that kept the tire in were stuck, rusted into their threads so tight no man could break them free. None of the impact guns we had available would break it loose.
Chris called Scott, who lived next door, to ask for access to his toolbox. Scott showed up, made some comment about how we “needed a real man’s tools” and unlocked his toolbox. From the box, he withdrew a large impact gun that cost far too much money. He went to the studs we were having trouble with, inserted his gun, pulled the trigger, and completely fucked it up. Rather than remove the stud, his impact gun had stripped and rounded it completely.
“Well, that sucks,” Scott said, handing Chris the ‘manly’ impact gun, which was smoking. “Good luck,” he hollered as he left the building.
“… Did he just come here, make the job ten times harder, then leave?” I asked Chris.
Moral of the Story (there is no moral)
Chris spent the next hour and a half trying to remove the stud with extractors, undersized sockets, etc. Finally, he resorted to using an air hammer to chisel away the stubborn stud, then forcing it off with various undersized sockets. Several tools were lost in the process (RIP to those three valiant 16mm sockets that were torn apart on that day). It was sloppy work, but it was the best that could be done.
At closing time, Chris lit a cigarette, told be about all of his wives, children, court cases, and jail sentences. I finished my coffee and nodded along. He also gave me a 32mm socket, which can be a pretty expensive and difficult to find tool. All in all, it was a good day.
Is there a point to this story? Well, no. But if there were, it would be that managers ain’t shit, and sometimes a day can be pretty good even if it starts out with a bunch of weird/gross/unpleasant nonsense.