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Last Stop Before the Asylum


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This is a repeat story from sometime ago. But I promised to rerun this one for the Halloween season. Enjoy.


Last stop before the asylum


Talk about a weird day; I would have to say this was one of weirdest days of them all.


On a foggy afternoon, no breeze in sight, and slight chill in the air, an old man came to the 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. It looked like he was calmly sitting at an intersection, waiting for the light to change. He had no expression, 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 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 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, you know, sunken in 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. "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, 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 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 guys…..a guys….where are you.???


Why is it, when you look around the shop for help…..everybody disappears? Oh they'll show up, oh sure they will…after they let me be the first victim……not funny guys! ! !


I could ask him again to step out of the car or I could tell him about our policy on customers in the shop. I guess at this point I probably looked like one of those B movie extras that were 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 led.


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; "You do whatever you feel is necessary son," then he turned his head and looked right through me, "I'll be sitting right here," all of which he said 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 "Vampirish" guy


"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 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," again was his answer.


"Ok, then, could you do one more thing for me, could you put it in neutral and leave your foot off of the brake," I calmly asked him.


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 in the shop to come over. 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 straight ahead stare…..he just sat there.


I walked up to the drivers' 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


"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 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 its 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. (No Kidding) 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 this old guy with big bushy eyebrows…staring through the windshield. Don't make eye contact, don't look back……….drive, drive far away!



Edited by Gonzo
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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      I recently spoke with a friend of mine who owns a large general repair shop in the Midwest. His father founded the business in 1975. He was telling me that although he’s busy, he’s also very frustrated. When I probed him more about his frustrations, he said that it’s hard to find qualified technicians. My friend employs four technicians and is looking to hire two more. I then asked him, “How long does a technician last working for you.” He looked puzzled and replied, “I never really thought about that, but I can tell that except for one tech, most technicians don’t last working for me longer than a few years.”
      Judging from personal experience as a shop owner and from what I know about the auto repair industry, I can tell you that other than a few exceptions, the turnover rate for technicians in our industry is too high. This makes me think, do we have a technician shortage or a retention problem? Have we done the best we can over the decades to provide great pay plans, benefits packages, great work environments, and the right culture to ensure that the techs we have stay with us?
      Finding and hiring qualified automotive technicians is not a new phenomenon. This problem has been around for as long as I can remember. While we do need to attract people to our industry and provide the necessary training and mentorship, we also need to focus on retention. Having a revolving door and needing to hire techs every few years or so costs your company money. Big money! And that revolving door may be a sign of an even bigger issue: poor leadership, and poor employee management skills.
      Here’s one more thing to consider, for the most part, technicians don’t leave one job to start a new career, they leave one shop as a technician to become a technician at another shop. The reasons why they leave can be debated, but there is one fact that we cannot deny, people don’t quit the company they work for, they usually leave because of the boss or manager they work for.
      Put yourselves in the shoes of your employees. Do you have a workplace that communicates, “We appreciate you and want you to stay!”
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