Monday, August 3, 2020

All around bad manners


Around 1990 a car repair place in Sulphur Springs, Texas, opened at a former corner gas station. The mechanics must have done good work, considering both bays always had a car inside being fixed, and the tire-changing area was always busy as well.

After a couple of months, the owners moved in some used cars, 1970s mostly, but also a red 1948 Ford pickup and a blue and white four-door 1955 Chevrolet.

The 1948 Ford pickup has the best front of any pickup Ford ever made. The five-piece grill, with one headlight each side; two hand grabs on the hood front; big fenders to sit on and make conversation, and then wide running boards – every piece contributed to the utility of the vehicle.

My parents owned a 1955 Chevrolet my junior and senior years in high school, 1962-64 and still had it when I joined the Army not long after. Their Chevrolet, though, was a dull green, with a ripped front seat and a radio that worked sometimes. Nothing like that fine blue and white parked at the repair place.

I was at the time in need of a pickup. My 1979 Chevrolet had overheated one time too many, caused in part by my not paying attention, and in part to one afternoon when a sudden electrical surge pegged every gauge to max, and then dropped all but oil pressure back to zero. Gas gauge, engine temperature, amp gauge, no longer worked. One summer afternoon about half way between Sulphur Springs and Commerce, the motor began rattling, and steam shot out from under the hood. I hadn't checked water level before leaving town, nor put a can in the cargo bed. The motor had already undergone an overhaul and was not likely to survive another, even if I could have afforded the work.

So I dropped in on the car repair place one day. The young man at the counter barely looked up before going back to some piece of figuring he was doing with pencil and paper.

“Good afternoon,” I said.

“’lo,” he said, not looking up.

I said, “How much are you asking on the ’48 Ford?”

“Ford’s not for sale.”

“Oh,” I said. “How about the ’55 Chevy?”

“Not for sale.” He still hadn’t looked up.

“Okay,” I said. “Well, you have a good day.”

“Yeah.”

That was one of those times when I wanted to ask the man, “Do you know where you are? ‘Cause you’re sure not acting like a Texan should act.”

Probably wouldn’t have done any good, though.
         

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