While I was waiting for Richard M. (my car) to be serviced at "Pep Boys", a kid walked in. His jacket collar was pulled up over his neck. The visor of his baseball cap covered his eyes. He leaned on the counter with the attitude of someone carrying a .45 in his right jacket pocket. But, his eyes shifted back and forth quickly between the service clerk, the waiting customers, and the outside window. His neck sporatically twitched as he waited in line. This guy exemplified the ultimate shady character.
I thought to myself, "This kid looks pretty dumb, but I don't think he's so stupid that he'll pull a heist at 8 o'clock in the morning when there's no cash in the register."
But I was still uneasy. I shifted myself in my seat. My fellow customers did the same.
When he finally arrived at the beginning of the line, he made his request in spurts of two and three word phrases.
He mummbled, "Tire rotated... ah... back to front... front to back... Wheel balanced... ah, hmmm... check brakes"
I wondered if he is capable of forming a complete grammatically correct sentence.
The clerk asked the kid if he had been a previous customer.
"Yeah, man... been here before."
"Son, what's your telephone number?"
He jumped, "Don't give out no number!"
"Well, son, that's how we keep our records in our computer, by telephone numbers. If you've been here before, you've already given us your telephone number."
The clerk waited for a response.
The kid looked out the window, nervously. His eyes searched the street. Then he turned back to the clerk with his voice raised, "Hey, man! Don't give out no number! Private business!"
By this time, the eyes of all the waiting customers were also searching street (looking for a possible drive-by).
"Son, I can't complete the work order on the computer if you don't give me your telephone number. That's how they set up the system. Can't by-pass it."
The clerk waited as the kid unloaded a truckful of obsenities. Vulgarity spew from the kid's mouth for a good minute and a half.
Then, the kid fell silent. Evidently, he exhausted his entire vocabulary of the English language.
The kid relundantly gave his telephone number and sat down.
I leaned over, "Why didn't you just give him a bogus number? like 555-5555"
He rushed over to the counter, "Hey, wait... that number wrong, ma number 555-5555"
As you may already know, my car's namesake didn't survive the stroke. I dedicate this piece to him, Richard Milhous Nixon, the ultimate political comeback king.
Everyone thought the nervous politician's career was dead after the debate with JFK. But, he came back to be president (a landslide election, no less).
Everyone thought tricky Dick's reputation was unrecoverable after Watergate. But, he came back to be a respected statesman (invited to more states dinners than sitting presidents).
May his spirit live on in my car. (Come on, baby! You can
By P. H. Chen