The door to the waiting room swings open.
"Owner of the Honda Pilot," says the guy in the uniform. I'd say he's 40/42. Reddish hair. Freckley.
"Yeah," I rise up out of my chair and follow him. We both end up standing in front of a computer.
"So how we doing today, sir?" he asks.
"Doing great," I lie. Its really never 'great' now is it?
"That's good. So we here for the Super Standard Sense of Change today?"
I am a little dazzled.
"Uhmmm, just uh...just, you know, the regular oil change. Whatever is cheapest, to be honest."
He is staring into the depths of his screen. I don't feel like he is registering me all that much.
"Ok, lets get started then: just a few points I'd like to run through with you. You can see here in our Comprehensive Oil Life Planner Guide that your car is going to require 5 quarts of oil today, sir. Now, The Magnificent-Cheapo-Does-Nothing-Service comes with up to 4 quarts of oil, so would you like me to go ahead and just charge you for the additional needed lubrication?", he stares at me. Actually, as he spiels this, he stares through me. He stares through me and into something Out There in the world, something fleeting and brittle. The wind maybe?
"Uhmmm..., yeah, I guess. I mean I want the oil changed. So, uh, yes, yeah."
What else would I say? No? No, I don't believe I want that fifth and final quart today, Buckaroo. No siree. You go ahead and put your four in there and in a few weeks time I'll just stare that highway engine fire right in the eyeball and be happy with that, ok?
"Right," he says and snaps a button on the computer with a swift finger shot. It clacks.
"Now, we check all fluids and lubrications as well as tire pressure and the sanctity of the soul of your vehicle. That's all included but let me ask you: do you drive up many hills, sir?"
Do I drive up many hills? Seriously?
"Well, yes, I suppose I drive up my share. Same as everyone else, I guess." I crack a little laugh to maybe show him I'm comfortable with the weirdness of his questions, even though I'm not.
"Well, the torque required to conquer inclines and declines day in and day out really ravages the specific totality of the cylinders. So we recommend a lite fragrant dusting of the ramrods with STP Liquid Life once every three oil changes. I can see here on your file that you haven't had that yet, so go ahead and do that for you and your vehicle today, sir?" He raises an eyebrow in question and shifts his focus to my face.
"Hmph. Ummm, how much is that?" I ask.
"That's an additional $22 today, sir."
I answer fast. Lightning flashing from my teeth. "No, that's ok." He is unsurprised, I notice, as he clacks his finger to the keyboard.
I remember I have a coupon. I have this coupon, I say.
"Ok, great. We'll tally that in at the end," he replies without looking at the crumpled shard I've fished out of my back pocket.
"Ok," I say. The end? The end of what? What exactly are we working towards here?
"Now, sir, Bay Agent McMichaels has discovered a noticeable amount of static electricity built up in your car's carpets and that in turn can really hack away at the overall performance of your vehicle's ability to fly. So what we usually recommend is our One-Time-Only-Invisible-Wings Treatment, and what that does is it penetrates deep into your vehicles subconscious and convinces it that it is a massive iron bird GO AHEAD AND PERFORM THAT SERVICE FOR YOU AND YOUR BELOVED VEHICLE TODAY, SIR?"
Here I notice that my friend is now not just staring through me and out into the streets beyond, but that he is actually mentally climbing the mountains off in the sparkly distance. His mind is very far away from here. Yet he speaks clearly, pitching me things, foolish things. Snake oil. Parking lot rocks spray-painted cheesy gold.
"How much is that service then?," I ask. Out of politeness. Out of sheer awe.
"That's $47.50, sir." He clacks the board before I even answer. I think he is ahead of me here.
"I"ll pass on that one today, thanks."
For a moment he reads/pretends to read something on the screen. I just stare at him now, this red-headed master of ceremonies, this Valvoline Witch. I secretly think he is kind of badass.
"Ok." He finger-pops the keyboard. Looks intense. "Ok." Again, same thing. He's reading/pretending to read important facts about my car. MY car. Information is gushing into his data port and its critical and its pivotal.
"Ok, sir, now: do you use the gas pedal more than three hours a month?"
Holy fucking hell.
"Do I use the GAS pedal? In a month? Yeah, I guess so. Is that a lot? Three hours...is that too much?"
"Well, we like to recommend that for pedals used over three hours we service them with our patented Black-Magic-BayBoy-Shooter. And what that does is it connects directly into your exhaust pipe and uses over 55,000 PSI to propel one of our Uniformed Bay Agents into the very guts of your cherished family vehicle. Once inside, provided he survives the brutal body morphing and squeezing, he is then able to use a beeswax'd candy sledge hammer to bash away at all the cancerous sludge and corrosion that builds up on your motorized blood-brother's drive shaft. Plus it really negates nearly all the pinging within your vehicles psyche."
I stand stunned. My face is blank. We eyeball one another. He arches a red brow.
"We highly recommend this service to all our customers who ever drive in rain or on bridges or past fields full of hungry deer."
I barely eek it out of me. "How much?"
"346 million dollars. That includes up to four cups of transmission fluid and a dollop of Butter Sauce."
We both hurl through space. Together. Him: not here really. Me: drunk on his baffling babble.
"I have this coupon," I say and hold it up for him.
He stares into that screen of his. Both of us are exhausted.
He clacks the keys with the quickness.
He rings me up.