Last Stop Before the Asylum
On a foggy afternoon, with no breeze in sight, and a slight chill in the air, an old man came to the repair shop. He didn’t come through the front door like most everyone would, no he pulled his car right into the center bay of the shop.
But, it gets stranger…. He didn’t get out of the car. He didn’t even roll down the window. He just sat there ... with both hands on the wheel, the engine still running, and staring out the windshield like a zombie from an old horror flick. He appeared to be calmly sitting at an intersection, waiting for the light to change. There was no expression on his face, he never blinked; he just sat there….with this cold stone stare. I didn’t want to walk in front of the car in fear he may take me as the green light, so I walked around the back of the car keeping one eye on this strange guy, and then crept up to the drivers’ window. I tapped on the glass….no response from inside. I tried the door handle… it opened.
“Afternoon sir,” I said in a cheerful manner, trying to keep my curiosity at bay, “Is there anything I can do for you today?”
The old man, ever so slowly, turned his head towards me while maintaining a straight forward posture and both hands still on the wheel, never really looking up, he just turned his head and answered. “Why yes, young man, my turn signals are acting up, and my window won’t roll down.” (The man’s voice reminded me of an old horror movie vampire.)
Very creepy to say the least. He even looked like a 50’s horror movie villain with sunken cheeks, large bushy eye brows, slow methodical speech, and that expressionless cold stare. (Where’s his cape, ....does he keep the bats in the trunk,.... the coffin, where’s the coffin?)
“No problem, sir,” I answered, still holding my fear in check, “Just head up front and they can write you an invoice for the repair, and then I can get started.”
“I’d rather stay here, (slowly turning his head towards me again, lifting his eyebrows, and raising his eyes up towards me so his glare was straight into my eyes) right here in the drivers’ seat,” he said in that creepy horror flick manner.
(Insert your choice of spooky movie music here)
Ok, where’s the holy water?…..where’s my garlic?….who’s got the silver bullets?…….where’s the wooden stakes? …….a little help here from the guys in the shop …..ahh guys…guys?....where is everyone???
Why is it when you look around the shop for help…..everybody disappears? Oh they’ll show up, oh sure they will, you know they will…after they let me be the first victim……not funny guys! ! !
I could ask this creepy guy again to step out of the car, or I could tell him about our policy on customers in the shop area. At this point, I probably look like one of those B movie extras who is too scared to say their lines. (If I had any.) I figured I better tell him he can’t stay in the car while I was working on it, and see where that leads.
There he sat, still staring straight ahead out the windshield, not blinking, and not even moving a muscle.
“Sir, because of insurance reason you can’t stay in the shop. You will have to wait outside or in the customer waiting area,” I said, trying to be as professional as possible. (They can smell fear, you know.)
Looking straight forward, not at me, he said in that baritone voice, “You do whatever you feel is necessary, son,” then he turned his head and looked right through me, “I’ll be sitting right here,” he said it all in that same eerie voice. He turned back towards the windshield without another word. Then, he just sat there... as still as a tombstone.
Now I’m not scared…I’m getting riled up. I don’t know what graveyard this movie mogul came from, but…this is my shop. I have to take the responsibility here. If he isn’t going to get out of the car I really can’t do too much. Well, maybe I can do some quick diagnostics without having him get out of the car. This way, I won’t feel like such a jerk if I have to get a little serious with this Boris Karloff.
“Sir, why don’t you try those turn signals for me,” I said. He did, and they seemed to be working just fine.
“Could you try rolling down the window for me,” I asked. It worked fine as well. Without a problem that I was aware of, I thought the next best thing was to get him out of the car, and take a look under the dash.
“Sir, can you step out of the car, so I can look under the dash,” I asked.
“No,” was his goolish response.
“Well sir, then I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” I answered, “Or, you can wait outside the shop while I take a look at the car.”
“No,” came his answer.
“Ok, then, can you do something for me? Could you put it in neutral and leave your foot off of the brake,” I calmly asked.
He did just that, then he put his hands back on the wheel but never changed his dead pan expression. I motioned to one of the guys who just happened to show up from his hiding place to come over and help me. We both grabbed the front of the car and pushed the car outside with the old man still in it. As we pushed him out, you could see the old fella through the windshield, never changing his expression and with that straight ahead stare…..he just sat there.
I walked up to the driver's door, (the window was still down), “Sir, when you are ready to get out of the car I’ll be more than happy to help you. But, until then you will have to remain out here. If there is a medical reason why you can’t get out of the car I’ll make arrangements to assist you into a different chair or something that will be more comfortable for you,” I said with a stern voice.
The old man did that same slow head turn without taking his hands off of the steering wheel again. He stared right into my eyes….raised those bushy eyebrows, and with that same slow deliberate baritone voice he said,
“It’s not medical, it’s not a problem, I like my car the way it is…(and with his eyes extending out as if to make them larger)……with me in it.”
(There’s that spooky music again)
I walked back to shop to finish the other work that was there. On and off throughout the afternoon you could look outside and there was that creepy old guy sitting in his car. Staring right into the shop through the windshield of his car…. never moving, never blinking, still with both hands on the wheel. (There should have been some eerie fog flowing around his car….now that would have been even more creepy)
At closing time, the old guy was still there. As soon as I starting to pull the doors down… he drove off. As the door came to their usual “thump” at the bottom…the shop radio went dead. You could hear a pin drop in the shop; the only noticeable noise was the old man’s car leaving the parking lot. When the car noise was all but gone…the radio started back up. It was like some page out of a horror movie…..Ok, Ok, it had to be just one of those moments when the station was changing a disc or something……but why right then???
So, the next time you are at a traffic light and you see an old guy with big bushy eyebrows…staring through the windshield, and who appears to have been in the latest horror flick at the theater, perhaps on his way to the asylum.
Forget the red light, don’t make eye contact, don’t look back……….drive, drive far away!