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Mack Williams: ‘Closing in 3 Days’

Mack Williams

The other day, the automotive service station which I regularly patronize had upon the door a sign expressing apology and sorrow of their “Closing in three days.” One employee said the petroleum company-owner is dispensing with the current employees and their automotive repair skills, to make it into a place selling minor groceries and gasoline, like a “Quick and Plenty” store” (which my son Jeremy calls “Quick and P-ss”).
Shocked customers “wondered out loud” about their cars’ maintenance now? The shop’s three auto work “pens” (dwarfed by those old concrete, German U-Boat pens in France) will become convenience-store aisles, with overpriced bags of potato chips, sardines, Beenie Weenies (around $2), all convenient for the traveler (as “convenient” for the traveler as was the “convenience” that a passing traveler provided for those bandits who beat and robbed him 2,000 years ago). He was later tended to by a true gentleman, forever known as “The Good Samaritan.” But maybe this analogy is too much (after all, they’re just convenience stores).
Sodas will be sold, along with other “fluids,” not the “Dr. Strangelove” kind, but oil, anti-freeze, power-steering fluid, break fluid, DW-40, with luck coffee, and possibly hot dogs, seemingly rolling forever upon a hot dog cooking machine.
The manager in charge (“in rent”) has been like my childhood doctor, Dr. Frank B. Marsh, making “house calls” (“road calls”) with medical-bag-like generator-battery charger in hand. He knows that cars deteriorate, just like the body (except my hip breakdown was chronic, while my car breakdowns all seemed “acute,” and “acutely inconvenient.”
They got more notice than some other Danville chains. Workers from the Libby Hill corporate office packed up the equipment on a “closed” day, leaving a “jobless” note for the astonished employees! Local Ruby Tuesday employees had one day’s notice — their following Tuesday (as employees) never came).
When this service station manager informed the company’s CEO last year of his necessity of being out for some months undergoing cancer treatments (staff carrying on in his absence), the CEO said if worse came to worst, just leave the store key under the mat on his way out. This piece of slime evidently made no distinction between leaving a place of business and possibly leaving the world! Instances like this, and those quoted in the previous paragraph make me think some people may be onto something about the “little man” getting treated like a POS (not the abbreviation for “positive”)!
A unique, dedicated crew worked there. One was tall, thin, with long red-hair, looking like “Longshanks,” Edward I, King of England (but more “hippie-fied”). Another looked like an actor on a re-run (often re-run) PBS British TV series. The manager resembled the Russian conductor Gergiev, and the senior mechanic looked so scholarly, that if he slipped out of his work clothes, slipped into a suit, walked into a USC classroom and began lecturing , none would have been the wiser (what am I saying? Even back at Appalachian in the early ’70s, professors had already forsworn the wearing of suits, save the random tie). When the young guy in charge of the office grew a van-dyke, he looked just like a young Tsar Nicholas II. His grandfather (not Tsar Alexander II) worked the office as long as able, and reminded me of an old western movie character actor. They all could have fitted in somewhere on the A&E and History channels).
I provided them lunch on their last work day, the least I could do, after all they’d done for me. I first mentioned “gourmet” boxed lunches of “chicken salad croissant, fruit, cookie, etc.;” but “Tsar Nicholas” said that since the men’s oily hands would be hard at work, the quick-grabbing of a pizza slice would work better.
I brought them a couple of large pizzas. And then, fingers previously busied with the application of automotive lubricants became tipped with the “grease” of cheese.

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