Situation Normal. Atmosphere Breathable. Brainstem Injected. Dialogue Engaged.
Friday, November 08, 2002

You Dirty Rat

My first car was a grey '86 Lincoln, a huge boat. I got it for free in the fall of '01 from a coworker who has always been generous and helpful to me. I drove that sucker all over the place and learned how to navigate narrow Chicago sidestreets without bumping anything. Thinking about it puts a smile on my face.

I was driving through a snowstorm late in January when my gas pedal stopped repsonding to pressure. I passed O'Hare and coasted into the tollbooth on I-90 towards Chicago. I paid the forty cent toll, but I could not move. I pushed my car through the snow and traffic to the breakdown lane, and I went into the Tollway Authority building to find a towing service. When they arrived, about 30 minutes later, I asked them to tow me to the BP/Amoco service station at Lawrence and 90. I left my car there and walked to my new home about 4 blocks away.

They called me the next day at work. I'd taken a cab to the Harlem and Higgins bus stop, and bussed myself out to Woodfield and legged it the remainder of the distance to work. I was cold and my jeans were soaked nearly up to the knees. When I finally got their call at 4pm, they told me that I needed a new fuel pump, and that they'd fixed four other problems. I had authorized no repairs at that point. I told them to stop what they were doing and wait for me to visit. They'd done $500 in repairs that hadn't even fixed the problem. I knew I was being fleeced.

Being ignorant on the subject of mechanics, I enlisted my dad to drive me there and help me handle the situation. We arrived at the station at about 6pm on another snowy, slushy night. I put on my mean face and strode into garage.

"I didn't authorize any repairs yet, and I was told over the phone that you did $500 in repairs that didn't correct the problem, and that the repair I actually need is another $400!"

Enter a big fat sleazy greaseball, Tony. "Stop right there kid, hold it, hold on, okay?" I stop. "When did you last buy gas, and where?""

Here, on Tuesday morning, five dollars worth.""

Okay, okay. Don't worry about a thing. You're not gonna pay a red cent, kid. It's on us."

"Huh?" I looked over at my dad. He was chewing on air, trying to find words.

Tony continued. "There was a little mixup. Some BP stations in the area, seven of them, sold some bad gas. We had some diesel mixed up with the regular unleaded. But you didn't buy it here, got it, kid? You bought it at the BP on Lasalle. I want you to call this number, but you gotta call it before it hits the news, or they're gonna think you're bullshit, see? How'd you pay for it?""

Debit, Mastercard." I paid cash, but I wanted him to think there was proof."

Well, you tell them you paid cash. Tell 'em you bought it at the Lasalle station and brought it here for service. Take my card. Your car'll be done tomorrow at this time, and bring your towing bill, too."

(yer car'll be done tamarra at this time, and bring yer towin bill too)

Tony, the owner, got to fleece his franchise parent, BP, instead of me for the unneccesary repairs. I'm sure they reimbursed him for for all $900 in repairs, and the towing, which he paid me in cash, which went to my dad. I made the call as he instructed and got a fax number from them, and then I got in on the fleecing act, too.

I'd kept a copy of my towing bill. I submitted that as well as my cab and bus fares. They sent my a check for $115 to cover that. A few weeks later BP sent me a card loaded with another $100. I came out on top.

I was lucky that I brought my car to the scene of the crime. I would've been capital S shit out of luck otherwise. I was also lucky that the first major breakdown wasn't dangerous, and the worst that came from it was a lot of hassle. There were other breakdowns, but the final one almost took me and several other motorists with it. That happened during bad weather, too.
6:12 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm


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