I was sitting in the Toyota dealership waiting area today . My car had been taken away . I watched the ceiling meet the walls , twenty feet up ? Easy listening rock played from one side and the humming voices from a tv rasped out sporadically from the other side . I had tried to find the dead zone , the quiet . None available .
Technicians , salesmen , and others padded by softly on the white linoleum floor like surgeons headed to and from the operating room , car ICU nurses ready to go to work , scrub personnel readying the operating theaters .
The music playing should maybe have been Willie Nininger’s ballad SAVE THE LIFE OF MY CAR , I was thinking . Please , Mr. Mechanic , save the live of my car . I sipped coffee , and then hot chocolate from the fancy machine against the wall . People whispered to one another . I had a book to read . Others picked up the newspaper pages scattered around , pathetically pretending to be interested in a world outside of Toyota .
I looked over toward the sales department every so often , wondering if I’d see some salesperson wheeling and dealing with a customer . I saw none in the hour or so I was there . I heard no ” I’ll have to go ask my manager ” ruses . Saw no activity at all , except for the bored-looking squat and swarthy little salesman who exited his office at some point and headed for the restroom .
The service department was humming , though . A row of little cubicles stretched out along the side of the building , each with its own door to the outside . Customers strolled in , one here , one over there , to be greeted by friendly polo-shirted clerks . The paper-work , I noticed , refers to these clerks as ” advisors ” . My advisor is named James . James advised me when I’d brought the car in for its 5000 mile checkup , too . I pointed that fact out to James when he asked me if I had brought the car there for service before this . James nodded . ” I remember the reflectors , ” he said . I had put little reflector disks on the front and rear of the car and one on each side . James seemed a little disturbed by this , as if I had sprinkled more salt and pepper on an already perfectly seasoned meal ; but he kept his repulsion fairly well hidden . He had the same reaction last time , too . His slightly twisted smile said : Who puts little plastic reflectors on a brand new car ?
The Toyota advisors , I might advise , should maybe keep a little cheat-sheet of notes , like the dentist does , of personal information about the client so they can begin a conversation a year or so later as if they really cared and had seen you last week . ” So , how did the trip to Canada go ? ” or ” Your boy started court reporter school recently , didn’t he ? ” or ” How’s that German shepherd of yours ? Still chewing the furniture ? ” He cares ! He really cares !
James had said the service would take about an hour . ” Will you be waiting ? ” For the next hour I heard ” Will you be waiting ? ” voiced by a variety of advisors from their many little cubicle offices . Once or twice a big-bellied man crossed the expansive waiting area asking ” Anyone want a shuttle ? ” Anyone want a shuttle was one of the alternatives to ” Will you be waiting ? ” I heard one woman say she’d be going across the street . I felt like telling her that she didn’t know what she’d be missing . She was probably headed to the Starbucks to while away the hour with a latte grande gluten-free macchiato and perhaps a blueberry and gorgonzola scone . She might have saved her treasure , had something to later pay the Toyota cashier with , had she stayed to get her cup of coffee free from the fancy machine against the waiting room wall . She was out before I could share that vital information with her . To expect the Toyota advisor to advise her about this I suppose is too much to expect .
After exactly an hour , my advisor , James , walked over with the data about my vehicle on his clipboard . He had that neutral professional expression ; or , rather , lack of any expression , on his face . It took him fifteen or twenty seconds to cross from his little cubicle to where I had planted myself on the soft-cushioned chair . I had just freshened up my coffee , too .
Those fifteen seconds were , as you can imagine , fraught with tension . Was he headed toward me ? Were they done already ? Would it be good news ? Or disaster ? Sorry , Dan , but your crankshaft is shot ; your suspension is gone ; and the front struts were just about to tear through the engine block . Someone could have been killed . Lucky you came in when you did . The good news is we can fix it for about the cost equal to the national debt of Ecuador . Do you want the shuttle to take you home ?
” Everything looks good . Brakes are 90% . The windshield wiper fluid was a little low . Everything else looks good . And , this is your 10,000 mile checkup which is covered by warranty so there’s no cost to you . ” That’s what James said .
” Thank you , James .”
” Have a nice day ,” he said . ” And , by the way , did you and Ada buy that new toaster that you were thinking about getting ? And , say hello to the grandchildren for me . How old is the little one , Frankie , now ? How are Alicia’s swimming lessons coming along ? “