Out here just beyond the edge of the Houston megalopolis, I can choose between my pretty fair mechanic shop and my very good mechanic shop.
The former is quite competent in most of the more common and less-complicated auto repair tasks, however, for the diagnosis and repair of major motor maladies, I would have to choose my “very good” mechanic. For brake changes, lubes and filters, or tires, I prefer my “pretty fair” mechanic, mostly because he charges a lot less and you can get in and out much faster than at the very busy “very good” shop.
Yesterday morning I had occasion to visit the pretty fair place, which I have visited for 10 years. It’s a converted gas station, or, basically, an old-fashioned “service station” minus the gas pumps. The main room inside includes a leftover counter from when they sold gas, and the rest was long ago converted into a customer waiting room, although “bullshitting room” would be a more apt description.
The founder of the business has grown older, as sometimes happens, and sold the place off to a much younger guy (early 30s), three or four years ago. But the former owner still comes in on many days, and simply hangs out. Sometimes some of the older owner’s friends come in and sit, just like they always used to. If the “new” owner minds, he never says so.
You could come upon a scene like this 100 years ago at the country general store or the feed mill, or the barber shop.
Yesterday the older “pretty fair” owner was joined by a doctor friend also in his 70s, and by a former shop employee in his 80s. I was honored to have a seat in their circle, accepted temporarily into this secure pod of village elders as they told stories about being offered one of five wild hogs just shot and waiting to be dressed out, on the bed of a pickup, or about a neighbor in denial about the need for repairing his fence despite the fact the neighbor’s bull was in the teller’s cow herd for about the fourth time in four months. There was the litany of who had died over the past week, and who’d found out they had cancer, including so-and-so’s cousin.
If one old man had to get up and go pee, the others would start gossiping about him before he got out the door. “Oh, he looks pretty good, but he’s got his troubles all right. Sister just lost her husband and he has to run the place for her. Wife’s making him move into that new Rancho Tagro development and he doesn’t want to. Gonna have to give up his barn and that workshop…”
They critiqued the soap operas and changes in progress in each of their neighborhoods and, as a courtesy, in my own. They knew every real estate parcel for sale in town, at least a month before it got put on the market. Something fishy was going on with a lot down near the end of the dead-end road around the corner from my street, but I never got to hear the details.
My car was done and it was time to relinquish my seat at the wood-whittlers’ gathering out on the porch in front of Floyd’s Place, circa 1883, 1937, 1962 and 2013.