March 21, 2021

The Dealership

By John R. Greenwood 

"Tail Light"
It's no surprise that the online appointment at my local car dealership never reached its intended destination. I would have been more surprised if it had. The young woman at the Service Counter assured me it wasn't a problem. She said there'd been two no-shows anyway, so they would get me in asap. Her voice sounded sincere, but after decades of repair nightmares, my gray-haired skepticism kept me on alert.  I've resigned myself to treating any positive experiences as unexpected gifts. Based on my previous post about refreshing my personal page to positivity, I will keep my word and edit this post accordingly. 

First of all, I have no reason to complain. After years of questionable decisions and limited resources, Mrs. G. and I now own two reliable vehicles. They both have low miles for their age, indicating a lack of car payments with a dash of crossed fingers. They are the two most reliable things on four wheels that have ever parked in our driveway. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate in the transportation department. Even after its long winter slumber, my seventeen-year-old motorcycle with 60k miles started without hesitation. 

I've owned dozens of motorized vehicles in my life. The first was a Lil' Indian minibike with a 3.5hp Briggs & Stratton. It was serviced by the ten-year-old who rode it. I treated it like it treated me—with pure joy. I've tried to recreate the experience of that first taste of freedom for the last half-century. I conclude that the goal is unattainable as a full head of hair and 34 waist Levi's. 

Now back to the dealership. 

This place is as clean as Urgent Care up the road, and everyone is as pleasant as a Holiday Inn receptionist. That's when I wait for the proverbial hammer to drop. 

"Your tires are riddled with road fungus. We can treat them with tire antibiotics for $49.95 per tire. Plus tax."

"I'm sorry for the wait, but we don't carry the rare viscosity oil your car requires, so we had to order it on eBay. It will be here next month. Do you want to make that appointment now or do it online at your convenience?" 

"Did you know there's a recall on the brake pads we installed last year? They say they may burst in flames and fail without warning. Did you want us to take care of that for you? We have an opening in 2022." 

None of these scenarios played out this morning. I'm only two hours in for my, maybe it was, or maybe it wasn't a scheduled appointment, and I'm still in the "positive lane." I'm starving and have a headache, but I remain smiling under my masked facade. I'm praying that if I'm out of here by noon, I'll be okay. 

Another waiting room resident just received her doctor's report. The service rep informed her that her car would be done shortly. She and her two preschoolers were glad to hear the news. Have you ever waited more than an hour with two little ones with no toys and a Deadliest Catch Marathon locked in on TV? She handled the information that even though her tires were still legal, she should consider new ones before the next snowflake hit the ground. No worries, she's told they have a 12-month promotion on tires. Buy three for an inflated price, get the fourth free! If she takes the bait and gets reeled in, I'm confident she'll end up paying for new valve stems. There I go again, drifting over into the opposing lane. This positive reboot may take some time. 

It's the next day, and I'm putting the final touches on this sarcastic slice of reality. In the end, the service on my vehicle was executed without incident, and the bill was fair. They didn't try to upsell me any additional services, and I was home in time for lunch. Whether it's an oil change, tire rotation, or battery replacement, I always feel like I'm involved in high-stakes gambling. I'd label this trip a break-even one. In my book, that rings positive. Tomorrow I head down the Northway for a doctor's appointment. Let's hope that routine maintenance has the same outcome. Doctor visits, another nail biting evaluation that puts us at the mercy of others. After a year of playing Russian roulette with a virus, we could all use some good news. With shot #1 one in my arm and #2 a week away, this spring is shaping up better than the last and just enough to keep me thumbs-up happy.  


March 18, 2021

A Shot In The Arm

A Shot In The Arm
By John R. Greenwood 

A Shot In The Arm
felt like the appropriate title for a story about writing after hitting the pause button for a while. This is my first post for 2021 and I’m about to head to CVS for my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. I’m hoping it will be the shot that will prolong the inevitable dirt-nap and the shot that will refresh my outlook on the future. Simply put, I’m exhausted from the daily discourse that has coated my brain with negativity and despair. I’ve tried to climb out of the ditch, but every time I start to whistle again, a wave of political poison places a boot heel on my forehead and knocks me back in the hole.

I’ve become zombie-like in my daily routine. The difficulty putting pen to paper has been a lack of caring. I’ve reverted to child-like selfishness that melts when I see others struggling but re-ignites when someone scrapes their opinions onto my plate. Reading the xenophobic refuse that people share on social media makes my head hurt, and my heart cringe. It’s unnecessary and consuming. It devours my ability to function in a positive light for more than a day. Even as I plunk down these ramblings, I feel a sense of pissing in the wind.

There is good news out there, but you have to mine it like gold. It’s always buried beneath a pile of scare tactics, warnings and conspiracy theories. There’s a never-ending army of naysayers waiting to trounce on every uplifting sprout.

From here on out, I’m going to focus on the positive—the ability that used to come to me naturally. These days I have to use a pair of jumper cables to get me started. Thankfully spring is headed our way. Mowing is better than snow-blowing. Tee-shirts and shorts beat out puffy parkas and neck gaiters any day. Releasing the lawn furniture from the basement is just a few weeks away.

I haven’t been completely stagnant. Indoor projects continue to commandeer my time. Sprinkle in an occasional appointment or a visit to the grocery store, and winter has scooted along like an aluminum saucer on crusted snow, but the stress of the outside world has taken a toll on my desire to sing. I’m fighting it like a Tiger comeback, but it’s not going to be easy. There’s a lot of pain out there, and it’s hard to move ahead without looking back. In the past, a day in the woods with the sun shining on my face would do the trick. Spring 2021 may take something extra. Maybe a combination of a motorcycle ride around the lake, a bike ride around the neighborhood, and an old-fashioned pickup-run to the transfer station will do it. The key is not to wave the white flag. Keep swinging. Keep swatting away those pesky gnats of negativity. Keep telling yourself you’ve been through worse and always exited the other side.

This shot in the arm needs a little more than before. Pandemic and politics are no match for the human spirit. At least that’s what I keep telling that voice on my shoulder.

Shot #2 is scheduled for the end of the month.

Look out, April, here I come!