Back in the day, I was employed as a parts runner for a local auto parts place and while my meager paycheck kept me in fuel and tires for my daily driver/autocross car, it was the customers, their cars, and the local repair shops we provided our goodies to that made each day gobs of fun and giggles. While I’m positive I was originally hired for my large ... um, frontal assets, I soon put the carspeak I’d learned from Auto Shop to use, got pretty good with sales and advice, and eventually added the title of “Manager” to my resume. Yes, this sounds very prestigious, but I must tell you that only two people worked there ... the owner and moi. Those six years spent hawking everything from points and condensers (remember those?) to high-dollar Weber carbs were some of the best of my life.
Our little store backed up to the best repair shop in town. This shop had the best techs, got the best customers, and was a family-run business that honored your word and kept your ride running right. We all were friends, talked shop, worked on cars together, talked about life, and became family. Hell, we were together six days a week for over eight hours a day so we had to get along. One of the techs next door was Philip.
Phil was about 19; very naive about life in general; had the shape of a human fireplug; and when in blue coveralls, looked very Smurf-like; and (I would bet the farm on this) had never, ever been on a real live date. He had a ’68 Camaro. And while I got him to autocross it once or twice, it really wasn’t his thing. Phil was fun, fair game to tease, and had this laugh that was a cross between a hyena and Roseanne horking up a bad clam. You know, the kind of laugh where you can’t breathe and are hauling in air by the bucketful, all the while still howling with tears streaming down your face. That would be Phil. He’d come over all serious-like asking for some part for an old Humber Super Snipe (yes, this is an actual car name) and his Smurf-like self would leave totally wracked with man-giggles after I was through with him.
Being a fireplug had its benefits as we rarely had to pay for Pepsis. We’d see Phil crossing the parking lot and tell a customer, while pointing to some full-size behemoth, “See that guy over there? Bet you a soda he can pick up the front of that car.” Of course the mark took that bet and we’d call Phil over and say, “Betcha can’t pick up that car,” and then stand back and watch. The process was amazing as there would be positioning with back and butt against the grille followed by hands getting a firm hold on the bumper, several dozen grunts that if you’d heard by themselves you’d think of major constipation, and finally ... a deadlift pick up of the entire front end of a 4,000-pound car! For our “special” pain-in-the-butt customers, we’d bet lunch!
But anyways ... the motorcycle.
See, Phil loved motorcycles more than life itself. He rode a lot, knew about bikes, the different models and engines, and was having a big-time lust-fest after this one particular bike he’d seen at the local motorcycle store. And don’t ask me what kind of bike it was ’cause 1) I can’t remember and 2) I know absolutely nothing about morotsiccles at all (see, I can’t even spell it right). All I can remember is that it was expensive. Really, really expensive. On his lunch hour, Phil, in his Smurf-like coveralls, graced the showroom and expressed interest, the salesman looked him up and down, then said, “You can’t afford it. We’ve had a lot of people looking at it.” Phil politely asked why and was told, “You aren’t the right person for this bike and we won’t sell it to you.” He then left, and with anger growing, returned to work red-faced, spewing some anatomical impossibilities, and swore he was going to buy that bike. And he could, too. He’d read about this particular bike, knew it was exactly what he’d wanted, and had saved ...
I thought for a bit and asked Phil what extras would be cool to have for that bike. He gave me a wish list and I said, “Watch this.” I called the store and got the salesman on the line, then told him the biggest whopper of a story I could fabricate. My husband (a prominent local lawyer who I name-dropped with ease (more on him in a bit)) had been down there and seen this bike and as his birthday was in a few days, I wanted to surprise him with it. Of course, he wanted it with all the options, every little thing chromed and polished, uber-bling notwithstanding. And could I have them put a big, red bow on it for me? The price? No worries as I’d be down with a check in a couple of days.
Phil rapidly turned into a puddle of mush and laid on the shop floor in full hyena-howl as I hung up the phone. The next day, he came back from his lunch spent looking at “his bike” and told me that there was a big red bow on the seat and the sales guy said, “See, told you you weren’t the right guy for this bike. A lawyer is getting it.”
And about the attorney ... he’s a customer that stiffed us for some Webers. I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when the bike dealership called his office and wished him a happy birthday. And by the way, when are you coming to pay for your motorcycle?
Mary is a part-time freelance writer and 11-time SCCA Solo National Champion.