20 November 2009

Garage scenes

I don't know why I do that. Yesterday, I mean. I had two perfectly good blog topics — nothing earth-shaking, for sure, but fine for a blog like this one — and what did I do? I posted them both on the same day. Now what in the world am I going to post today?

Well, as usual, I have some photos. They are mood pictures — atmospheric, of the season. November. Yesterday morning it was really pretty cold, and there was a spectral frost on the ground, especially on autumn leaves and down the rows of vines. By "spectral" I mean ghostly, like a specter.

November in the vines

So yesterday I posted two perfectly good blog topics as one on a morning when I was rushing around to get everything done. Maybe if I hadn't been in such a hurry, I would have thought more about what I was doing and saved something for today.

Not only did I need to come up with a blog topic yesterday morning, but I also had to walk the dog. And then I was supposed to take the car in for service at 9:00 a.m. That's a lot to get done before nine in the morning.

My plan was to leave the car and then walk from the mechanic's over to Intermarché and do some grocery shopping. I had scanned the weekly flyer, so I knew what was on special. There were several specific items I wanted to get, and then I could just browse around the store, looking for the new and unusual. It would be more fun than sitting in the mechanic's waiting room for an hour or more, reading trashy People-type magazines.

Autumn leaves

Actually, sitting in the mechanic's waiting room can be pretty entertaining. It's like some kind of medieval comedy playing itself out right before your eyes, with a full cast of odd characters. All you have to do is take a seat, spectate, and say Bonjour, Monsieur or Bonjour, Madame to the people who walk in to explain their car problems. I did all that one day last week.

Some customers will come in and bend the head mechanic's ear for 15 or 20 minutes, laughing and joking. Some come in looking completely lost — one older monsieur the other day walked in wearing his green khaki work clothes and his green khaki knee-boots, looking like he had forgotten he was planning to do some gardening that morning.

He said bonjour to me and several other customers who were waiting around. Then he just stood there, off to the side. He made no effort to get in line with the other customers seeking mechanical or pneumatic solutions to their automobile issues. Then he just left. Ten minutes later, he came back in, said bonjour again, and smiled sheepishly. Again, he just stood there for a while, making no effort to get up the the desk to talk to the man in charge.

The sun rises between 8:00 and 9:00 nowadays.

After a while he walked out again. I figured he would be back. Maybe he was going out to smoke a cigarette or something. But he never did come back in. Why he stood around for a total of 20 or 30 minutes without ever even trying to talk to anybody, I don't know. Just timide, I guess. I'm pretty sure he wasn't waiting for a car that was already being worked on. If he had been, he probably would have sat down the way I did and thumbed through some trashy magazines.

Meanwhile, some boisterous people were telling what must have been hilarious stories about their cars, but I couldn't really hear what most of them were saying. One pot-bellied 40ish man in coveralls did say he needed a new tire because somebody had punctured one of his. He said it was the second time that had happened in a week, and he laughed uproariously. If somebody were puncturing the tires on my car one by one, I wouldn't be laughing. Maybe he was just nervous. Maybe I just don't have a very good sense of humor.

Grapes and grapevine leaves, frozen by now

Well, yesterday, I didn't get anything done to the car after all. I wasted my time, in a way, but never mind. The mechanic's office was a madhouse. The man in charge was trying to find the right brake pads for a car that was already up on a lift, its brakes in a million pieces. Evidently, it was impossible to find the right ones, and the head mechanic was cussing and fuming.

« J'en ai marre de cette Europe ! » he was muttering — "I've just about had it with this Europe thing!" I'm not sure what the EU had to do with it, but he evidently knew it did. « Comment peut-on travailler dans de telles conditions ? » he ranted as he raced from the garage back to his desk. At least three of his junior mechanics were scurrying around behind him, trying to help him, and as a result nobody was getting anything done.

There were five or six customers standing around, waiting their turn. One couple with two babies in strollers said they absolutely had to have their car back by 5:00. The man in charge looked frustrated, and then he blurted out that if their car couldn't be done by five, he'd give them a loaner. He'd figure it out, nom de Dieu ! That seemed to satisfy them. Another customer needed new tires, but he couldn't decide which ones to get. I saw at least six cars up on lifts out in the garage.

When I got a chance, I went to the man in charge and said maybe I should come back another day. Otherwise, I thought I might have to spend the day there. My car problem is not urgent — it's a crazy turn signal that starts blinking whenever it feels like it. It stops if I touch the wand, so the repair can wait. I don't drive that much anyway. The mechanic looked relieved, said maybe it would be better to reschedule for next Tuesday. That was fine with me. I just went grocery shopping and came on back home.

It's far more peaceful here.


  1. Well, tha was a fun "piece of life" blog, Ken:))
    Smart of you to postpone your repair, I'd say.

    What are the Thanksgiving plans??


  2. I was wondering whatever happened to Claudia in Toronto. The last time she posted a comment she was going in some sort of vacation. She had heart problems and a bypass. I hope she is OK. Her comments were always interesting and full of humor.

  3. I love today's blog which reminds me that I must get my plants in the garage soon. Jack Frost will be coming here soon also.

    Local color is fun to read about, especially if there are strong political emotions;-) If you live in Alabama you can hear evidence that our union isn't perfect, so I guess the European Union has a ways to go also.

    You have keen observation skills, Ken.

    CHM, I miss Claudia also. I hope she is well.

  4. chm, I remember Claudia also and hope she is well. It's been a few years since she posted after her surgery.

    Ken, I enjoyed your trip to the garage more than my own.

  5. Bonjour CHM,

    We must be on the same wavelength. Last night I thought of Claudia also and did some search on both blogs ( Ken's and Walt's) to look for the message that her son published about her coming back to read the posts after her convalescence . I remembered about her bypass and also about problems with one of her eyes ( IIRC).
    I too miss her comments and stories about her youth.

  6. That crazy turn signal must be a French thing, Ken. My Simca had the same affliction. I would sometimes see it blinking merrily away in the driveway in the middle of the night. The only bad part was that it ran the battery down when it did that.

  7. Bonjour Cousine,
    Les grands esprits se rencontrent.....

  8. CHM and all, It's funny you say that, because just this morning I was looking back at some old blog posts and saw a comment from Claudia. I miss her comments too, and wonder how she is doing. I have no news.

    Chris, at least the Peugeot doesn't start blinking until I turn the motor on. I've been reading Peugeot forums on the Web and I see this is a common problem with the turn signal command unit on the 206. From what I read the new unit isn't too expensive or hard to install. I hope that's true. I have a good mechanic.

    Evelyn, I'm still busy bringing plants in, cleaning them up, and repotting some. I'm putting some others under one of those little cold frames out back, right up against the house, and hoping they will survive the winter. It depends on how cold it gets. So far, not very, really.

    Carolyn, I really enjoy going to the garage, actually. As I've said, it is quite a scene and a lot of fun to watch. Besides I get to read the trashy "celebrity" magazines.

    The difference with the doctor's office magazine pile is striking. At the doctor's the other day, I read a long article about Blaise Pascal while I waited to be called in for my exam. It was in Le Point and was pretty interesting. More interesting that Johnny Hallyday, believe me.

  9. Good luck with your turn signal, Ken. My problem was that I couldn't get parts anymore, even from junkyards, 11 or 12 years after Chrysler stopped importing Simcas into the U.S. It was that turn signal, along with a leaking clutch, that finally doomed my poor Simca to the junkyard.

  10. Only you could make an unsuccessful trip to the mechanic entertaining!

    Arlo Guthrie's current version of "Alice's Restaurant" is a 20-minute riff on why he doesn't sing the song any more. Somehow, your disclaimers about not have a blog topic reminded me of that.

  11. Your car problem appears to be a loose wire.
    I liked this post very much. It is almost like being there and seeing these people.

  12. Great slice of your life, Ken! ;-)

    Sounds like another mechanic could cash in by opening a shop in Saint-Aignan.


  13. Starman, I don't really want to try to repair it myself. I hope the mechanic, whom I do trust, will do only what really needs to be done to fix it. It's dangerous the way it is, distracting to the driver and to the drivers of other vehicles.

    BettyAnn, there are several mechanics in the area, including at least three dealers (Peugeot, Citroën, and Renault). The one I go to is the one I've found the the most pleasant to work with and the one least likely, I think, to jack up his prices just for the fun of it.


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