By Dave Herman - email@example.com
I never tell anyone what I do when I'm at a party because inevitably I will hear, "Hey, if you're the car guy, tell me why my car makes this noise" which is then followed by a multitude of bodily sounds ... bbblllluuuugggooohhpptt ... and because I can't identify the blather, and my wife is usually within earshot, I don't say what I want, like, "Sounds like a personal problem to me. Maybe you need to use the restroom." Instead I end up either driving the car around or will be looking under the hood the remainder of the evening.
Yeah, my wife says I'm obtuse when it comes to people.
"Machines, electronics you understand" she says. "You are never impatient with objects, but people, that's another thing."
But seriously, once I had a guy come into my shop. He had watched a video and "rebuilt" his '85 911 Porsche engine all by himself. He was so very proud of his work, so much so he brought it to me to see if I could identify his oil leak.
All I said was. "First, get me an umbrella so I can stand under your car and tell you where it isn't leaking."
Another time I had a colonel, just arrived from Germany, so delighted with the "deal" he stumbled onto before he left the country. He came to me to have the originality of the car authenticated.
It was authentic all right, a two of a kind, front of one Porsche welded to the rear of another Porsche.
"What do you think?" he said excitedly when he returned to pick up the car. Again, all I said was, "Good deal, you actually got more than you bargained for, two Porsches for the price of one, the front from one vintage year, the rear from another, some nice person welded it together in one piece of ... at least I think I said German Perfection, but nicely done. He left in a huff never to be heard from again. My wife said I was insensitive. It was the truth. Oh well, I like cars, they don't judge you, they respond to your input in a positive way, and if they don't it isn't their fault. When I turn on my right indicator, I know it is pointing the correct direction. I don't have to look. If I ask one of my students to turn right, hang on, I'm never quite sure which way we will end up, as you know there are two rights and never wrongs.
So, I'll keep my head under the hood. It is the safest place for me and my obtuseness.
If you are a mechanic or a shop owner, send me your favorite "customer from hell" anecdotes. And vice-versa, if you are a customer, send me your worst shop/mechanic stories. We'll see who wins.
Before his retirement, Dave Herman ran one of the largest independent German service centers in Northern Virginia. He has built, raced and taught racing to Porsche/BMW drivers. He lives in Shenandoah County, where he has opened a driving school. Email your comments and questions about anything automotive to firstname.lastname@example.org.