—–I always wonder where they get these drab, expressionless people from, sitting as if inconsolable in the three little rows before the gaudy television set, in the waiting room outside the Service Dept. desk at the Vision Hyundai dealer in West Henrietta. They look like rejects, alright, or maybe the overflow from the studio audience of some daytime talk show. You have to wonder how these schlumps sitting here (as I pause at the doorway and try to decide whether, melodramatically, I might become one of them) would handle it if they were suddenly plucked out of the scene and told they had been selected to represent the human race. That is what I imagine, everytime I come here.
—–“You will do,” says the voice of an angel, or a burly (androgynous?) nurse, hauling one of them out by the scruff of the neck, “you will do just fine; come along, ma’am, and don’t protest.” The others barely notice, they barely notice anything, and it is futile trying to imagine even the flashing content of the television, either the painfully recited news, or the agitated pleading advertising, rousing them, putting color in their faces or life in their limbs. They are stuck there, alright, probably will hardly recognize their names when they hear them, over the scratchy loudspeaker, when their car is ready.
—–“Your car is ready, Mrs. Jones” says the bright young mechanic, who this time has come into the waiting room and walked right up to Mrs. Jones; “it was only some gelatin in the radiator.” What did he say? I thought he said a gelatinous substance, or a viscous oily dripping, had invaded but not ruined the radiator. That is right, you have escaped, and we changed the oil for free, once again. Mrs. Jones is flushed–I mean rosey cheeked. These cars are made very well these days, ma’am, and we’ve cleaned you up. It almost certainly sounded personal, and Mrs. Jones has puckered up her face, so grotesquely, I don’t think her husband would even recognize her. And I know she has a husband . . . Well, at least she is going home, whereas the others are still stuck in the plastic chairs, and they could be candidates for hell.
—–“You are out of here,” the stalwart Service Dept. kid says to Mrs. Jones, who is agape, not herself I am thinking–as I am listening to every word that transpires in this skimpy dialogue. These car mechanics are always so formal, they are a riot, but they pack a punch. They can be . . . executioners, after all. I take every opportunity to put them in my fictions. And these people in the waiting room, unfortunately, are already half-dead, vulnerable, they are humanity’s extras, and the only reason to put them back on the road is . . . to keep the traffic dense on West Henrietta Road, is all I can think. Of course that is only me, who thinks this way, and who can’t escape this infernal line of thought, which takes me over everytime. Everytime, that is, I find I have been forced to make a visit to this car dealer and its really very spic-and-span Service Department. They dress you down right away, there is something about these guys at the counter that reduce you. Down to size, like maybe depending on what make and model Hyundai you have, though we are all small people, I always think, in this regard–that is in relation to the car god. What am I saying! I was saying I came in because I have some kind of slow leak in the left front tire, and I was trying to be jaunty about it, which seemed to work insofar as the mechanic was very consoling.
—–“Ah, a slow leak, could be a couple things,” he said, reassuring me. I was just glad I got out here, because you feel safe in this environment, on this terrain. Cars are everywhere. Lowly customers only get to the Service counter, where they take your keys and send you to the waiting room, which is right beyond the vending machine, and if you keep on walking, and don’t join the begrutten, inconsolable group in the TV room, you get to the show room and the big floor with the new cars behind plate glass windows. Here is where you nearly faint–but if you don’t, buck up, because the hungry salesmen are standing ready for new customers. They got deals of a lifetime, in the deodorized showroom, which is all glass and tiles and brand new cars smelling only faintly of rubber and something sickly sweet. It is a new universe in which there are only winners, not losers. They have a red cart on wheels and banners all around it, that is, presto, a Popcorn Maker! With a vat of buttery popcorn waiting for greasy hands. You have to wonder– I mean I always wonder, how stale that popcorn is.
—–But that is just me. I am just not automatically willing to join that crowd on Death Row, whom I have soundlessly walked right by, and I will, everytime, dare to wander out onto the skating rink (that is what it is, a skating rink!, I think, as my mind begins to clamor and clank, for having to subsist in a downright fiction). And what I always do is, I amble up to one of these floor salesmen and venture to say something challenging, before he can even pitch me, with his pitch.
—–“Have you seen any of those Hyundai ads on TV lately,” I say to the perfectly upbeat, but stuffed into his shirt and pants, I mean awkward and inwardly miserable, ready to guffaw salesman. “They are so amateur, so obnoxious! So loud, I mean I know the corporate gods, if you will, they must send these things, or at least the scripts, from on high to your local dealer, but . . . Christ Almighty.” Hey, we all know car ads are the bottom of the bottom.
—–But does he drop his salesman persona and join me in my perfectly human struggle to understand and make jokes about . . . reality, and the powers that be? Or at least some portion of it! Like what is right in front of me at any given moment! No, he remains like stupidly in the fiction. He is a most fierce defender of his portion of the undeveloped story. And he glares at me, like to instantly accuse and assess me as the enemy, and the saboteur which, in my heart, I know I am. “I am in for repairs,” I say, “myself.” To wipe it all away, and explain myself. Forgive me, I should say–I am out on a limb. The very floor is slippery. The wheels are coming off–talk about a slow leak, until the wheels come off, how does Dylan sing it?
—–And I realise I have done it again. I am done in by these constructions, and I better get home and sort out these definitions, for they are way too preliminary. I am willing to buy a brand new tire, if the slow leak is flat fatal, if that is what is required to get home. Two new tires, if need be, just get me out of here. I have to pad on back resigned, and when I pause by the Customer Service waiting room, by God, there is hardly anyone left! Then, like I have been granted a reprieve to live a month longer as the unresolved scoundrel, or author of spineless fictions that I am, the fresh-faced mechanic meets up with me right there, click clacking on the tiled floor.
—–“Here is the culprit,” he says, and he is holding a half-inch nail.
—–“Well, isn’t that something,” I say, “so you just fixed it?”
—–“Can be done,” he says, and before I could even ask, “good as new.”
—–So I get to drive out of Vision Hyundai, with the sense of some clear truth–or I should say dawning truth, that though I may have survived, many others may have slipped, the very evidence being this slipshod, barely grammatically fabricated series of dead end sentences . . .