Take that dipstick and shove it!

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 30, 2008

I can’t figure out what’s worse, a bad mechanic or one that lies to your face.

After first listening to and then reading Amanda VanDerBroek’s account of her ordeal at a regional car dealership last week, I felt badly for my News-Herald cohort. By all accounts, she got taken to the proverbial cleaners.

I’ve been around vehicles for most of my life. I’m not a mechanic, but I do understand how they operate.

Back in the day when my daddy farmed, we (or should I say, he) had an old Massey Harris tractor. At the ripe age of nine, that was the very first motorized piece of machinery I learned to drive.

In the same lot of where our farming equipment was stored, there was an old 1949 Ford pick-up truck. I use to tinker around with it, finally getting it cranked (it had a push button, foot starter in the floorboard). I’d drive it for hours, at least until it ran out of gas.

Then there was an old station wagon that our neighbor, Glenn “Stumpy” Johnson, had. Stumpy, my mom’s first cousin, farmed as well. His son, Glenn Jr. (aka “Bunky”), and I use to take that old car for a spin around what we called the “Old Place” n open farmland encircled by woods behind our homes. I can’t tell you how many times Bunky and I circled the farm path at the “Old Place” in that car. For that matter, I can’t tell you how many times we crashed into trees or found ourselves upside down in a ditch.

That old car took a beating, but kept on going. They don’t make vehicles like that anymore.

Even before my 16th birthday, I was a veteran on the open road. I use to hitch a ride with my sister, Cindy, to Woodland where she would attend the dances at the Woodland Armory (I was too young to get in). Not too far past our house was a co-op peanut buying station. We stop there and Cindy, thanks to a lot of pestering on my part, would let me drive to Woodland, about five miles away.

Then came the magical year….1969. Finally, at age 16, I became a legal driver and haven’t slowed down too much since that time. As a matter of fact, I just renewed my driver’s license last week, passing all the license examiner’s tests with flying colors. That means in one more year, I will have legally logged 40 years behind the wheel.

Sorry for the personal history lesson, but I said that to say this….Amanda was on the receiving end of a raw deal last week.

There’s no way in the world that an automotive shop can first inspect a vehicle and then rotate the tires without knowing one of those tires was on the verge of being troublesome. That’s why it’s called an “inspection.”

Upon having service work performed on her vehicle, Amanda left the lot and drove less than one-half mile before the tell-tale “thump-thump-thump” of a flat tire revealed itself. She said she did not strike anything in the road over that short distance.

Immediately returning to the auto shop, she was told she needed a new tire due to a mysterious cut in the tread. There were no nails, glass or other debris found in the tire, just a cut.

How does a highly trained mechanic miss a cut in a tire? You just inspected the vehicle and even rotated the tires. Perhaps he wiped his sweat with an oily shop rag just prior to his chores with Amanda’s vehicle and was temporarily blinded.

What really bothers me is that Amanda may have been the victim of gender abuse. As a woman, it may have been assumed she doesn’t know a lot about cars. If that was the case, the guilty party needs to have a dipstick shoved…..well, you know where.

I hope Amanda realizes that there are honest, hard-working mechanics out there. I’ll be more than happy to give her the name of mine.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at 252-332-7207 or cal.bryant@r-cnews.com