Thank you in advance for your time. I do not speak mechanic, but I know you speak Single Mom, so please, let me go first.
I need you to understand two things: 1) I have no spare money, and 2) I have no spare time. I have multiple children at multiple ages in multiple schools and I work a full-time job, a part-time job, a full-time mom, and I try to have a semblance of a life outside of those things. This affects both my money and my time.
With that said: I have no spare money. I pull a small herd of imaginary rabbits our of a non-existent hat every month to do the barest of minimums. My grandmother referred to it as “robbing Peter to pay Paul”. I am often shifting and splitting and deferring fees and charges to make daily life possible. I buy everything on sale, I’ve been surviving on hand-me-downs for decades, and nothing I have is of my own design. My life is a patchwork, just like my car, and God ain’t through with us yet.
So, when it comes to the car, I need it to run. Smoothly. With heat and air. Car maintenance is hard for me. Do you know why? Because I have to prioritize and reprioritize—on-a-dime, every day. I have to manage the calendars of work, school, after-school, dinner, childcare, and my non-social life. Something always gets pushed and, in my world, it ends up being the car. I know, “if it was important”. But my car is my life. I cannot do anything without my car. I NEED MY CAR. Since I cannot add any hours to the day…you know the rest.
Can you come to fix the car, in the driveway, at night when I’m asleep and don’t necessarily need it? Probably best if you arrive with nachos, then I won’t have to ask to leave in the middle. I can’t come to sit at your oily little shop with the very low chairs and weird bathroom. I cannot sit there for hours upon hours. I have no spare time. There’s a gaggle of old folks that have been here since dawn. They’re all at 2,501 miles and wanna make sure they get the oil changed posthaste!
I wrestle a bear every quarter to see if I have enough time to either a) get my hair cut, OR b) get a massage, OR c) get a pedicure. For me, it’s ONE of those things, once every three months, if I play my cards right, and Peter forgets to pay Paul.
I might have just enough dollars between my four prepaid debit cards to do the one thing that I knew had to be done on my car. I know there are other things. I KNOW THERE ARE OTHER THINGS THAT NEED TO BE ADDRESSED. But I need the one thing for that one amount or something similar for the same amount or less. Please, for the love of all things holy, don’t give me that “father knows best” look and then a dissertation about cars. I don’t know the last time any of it was done. Yes, it’s my car. Yes, I’m the only one who drives it. But I cannot answer your questions. Please just do the one thing.
Please don’t name parts. I don’t need to know. I’m sure I should know. I’m sure it would benefit me to know. You know what else would benefit me? Getting out of here 85 minutes ago with the oil changed. Do you want to know the names to the parts of the sewing machine? Or the ingredients in my chicken pot pie? Just gimme the damned thing already. I don’t wanna discuss it with you.
Can you just help me? Can’t we make a plan? I’ll fly by at 42mph every other 19th month and you can run some water over it or whatever other mechanic magic you do? I just cannot have another in-depth conversation with someone about how I’ve “got to do better” at this, that, or the other. I hear it from so many other places, on so many other levels. Can you please, just be nice to me?
I’m not saying to ignore safety or let me wander in the world with no brakes or no oil. But I can’t take that look of disgust and the down talk. Don’t belittle me or try to shame me. I know the car is in bad condition, but so am I. I’m not asking for things to be “free” or “free from cost”.
I’m asking for empathy and compassion when you speak to me.
I have always been told to be careful about mechanics and maybe that feeds into this as well. The same goes for having jewelry appraised or my grandmother’s Featherweight fixed. “Be careful who you trust with it”. I was told to go to a trusted mechanic. I went. He talked to me like I was an idiot. He rambled on and on about this and this and then this and this. I cannot deal with that at 5:07pm on a Thursday afternoon sir. You have used the time allotted to you. I gotta go, man!
I think there could be more grace extended to single moms for oil changes, flat tires, and other regular vehicle maintenance things. I’m not asking for things to be “free” or “free from cost”. I’m asking for honesty. It’s obvious I don’t know much about cars, but that shouldn’t be a signal to you to overcharge and abuse me. Honesty will get you a return customer.
Shame and disregard will get you an open letter.
I’m known to be an ostrich—and just bury my head in the sand about some things. And maybe that’s what I’m doing here. I do not know all the ins and outs about cars, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t need one and own one. I feel that car repair shops and single moms should be on some other plane of existence. No one needs as much help with their cars as single moms.
Can’t the Rotary Club dudes get together with the Elks fellas and use the parking lot of local shop to manage oil changes? Or “flat tire Friday” allowing you to have your tires looked at, aired up, and maybe plugged if needed. Just a full-service gas station for single moms. How would you know if she’s a single mom? LOOK AT HER CAR!
Food for thought.
I spent many years in the car business. And the ease at which I went from zero to hero in some woman’s eyes amazed me. And all it took was a couple sentences… of truth about their car and what it REALLY needed. That light that shined in peoples faces when they were finally told the truth about their car was like the Heavens parting.
Tom!! I barely hit “publish”. XOXOO
I can appreciate your honesty. Being told the truth and actually believing it are rare occurrences. Thank you for taking the time.
Excellent you nailed it. Luvs