Friday, April 3, 2009

Hooray for Friday

You know that life has gotten stale when the high point of the week is visiting the Volvo repair shop for an oil change.

I arrived at 1:00 p.m. Friday and parked my 1987 Volvo 240 in the last parking space in front of the shop. The other cars were an assortment of similar brick-like Volvos -- including a smashed early-80s Volvo 240 that apparently had gotten intimate with a bridge abutment and had been towed in as a parts car -- and the newer ovoid models produced after the Volvo car company was swallowed up by Ford.

Jason, the shop manager, was his usual cheerful self. He and I have a sure-fire conversation starter: my younger son's 1986 Volvo 240 station wagon, formerly owned by Jason. The wagon is an eyesore of a vehicle, once silver but now dish-water gray with its coat of sealant curling up like peeling skin after a bad sunburn. However, the wagon makes up for its appearance with inner beauty. Its sturdy Swedish engine is still humming along after more than a quarter-million miles.

I had made an appointment to have the oil changed while I waited, but both racks were full with cars waiting on the arrival of parts. Jason said not to worry; they would handle my car the old-fashioned way. He called over Marcus, his youngest mechanic, and told him to wheel up the portable hydraulic jack and do my oil change right in the parking lot. Just try and get this kind of personal service at a dealership shop.

While Marcus was busy beneath my car, I asked Jason which newer Volvo he would recommend. He pointed up at the shiny Ford-era Volvo on the right-hand rack. "That model's popular. It's got a soft ride," he said. "So soft that it doesn't feel like a Volvo at all. It's a nice car, but the bushings and tie rods are weak. They go bad and the entire front end needs to be replaced at about 90,000 miles. That costs about two grand." No thanks, I thought to myself.

A trustworthy repair shop is a great blessing.