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Fishman: Seeking integrity 

I’m a little paranoid about my new - 1996 - Taurus station wagon.

Nothing’s wrong. She’s driving great. She only has 35,000 miles under her belt. But I want to do right by her. I want her to be happy.

Still, until I go out of town again, taking her in to get serviced is last on my list of things to do.

My truck, on the other hand, has been running ragged for years. The emergency brake light goes on - when the brake is off. The panel lights don’t go on at all, especially challenging at night. The window on the driver’s side hasn’t opened in years, tough when I want to talk to someone and have to open the door to be heard.

But I don’t worry. Why should I worry? I have a great mechanic, someone I trust, someone I’ve used for years, someone who will look me straight in the eye - chewing tobacco firmly in place under his tongue or wherever it lodges - and give me the straight skinny. I don’t even mind the Biblical passages he puts on his outdoor green and white sign.

 From someone else it might be smarmy and preachy. But not from Jim. I’m assuming he’s giving me the same latitude when he sees my political bumper stickers.

It’s a great thing to have a good mechanic. Kind of like having a good hair dresser, although out of desperation once when I was doing family stuff in Detroit and needed a quick pick-me-up before meeting the gang I went straight from the airport to a strip mall beauty salon open seven days a week and as a walkup, no appointment necessary, got a hair cut from a complete stranger, Olga, new to the States.

From Belarus, in the country formerly known as Russia. She cut it dry, too.

Twelve dollars, $15 with a shampoo. Frightfully less than I pay in Savannah. Pretty good cut, too, though I haven’t returned.

Likewise, I haven’t had any trouble returning to my fancy place on Broughton Street. We have a history. Must be the art, who I’ll see there, the latest New Yorkers, the offer of water or coffee.

Let’s face it, good service counts for a lot. Even more when a business manages to keep it up.

Which is why I like my mechanic. It’s surely not his decades-old Field and Stream magazines. It’s that he’s always there.

But is he any smarter than other mechanics? I don’t know.  My cars are running. He doesn’t jerk me around. He  does what he says he’ll do.

Hey, I thought Andrew Young was smart. Then I read his bigoted, Mel Gibson-like comments about who runs mom-and-pop grocery stores and how they’ve been screwing the small communities for years, which is when I learn for the first time how Young has been shilling for Wal-Mart, aka Sprawl Mart, a company that allows people to park their RVs in their parking lots overnight and blows us away by their low prices, but can’t seem to find a way to divvy up their billions to pay any benefits to their workers.

They must have been paying Young a nice piece of change, that’s all I can say. Maybe he’s supporting a drug habit or another family and needs the money. But he’ll never get another vote from me, I know that much.

On days that I read about Young - and the way the Marines may have destroyed or withheld evidence about the killing of 24 Iraqi soldiers - I think about integrity. I think about straight-out dependability.

On the most basic of levels, I think whatever else happens in the world, a least I have a mechanic I can trust.

So, with another out-of-town trip looming and the things at the bottom of the list making their way to the top, I start out early in the day, jam my bike into my station wagon and head for the mechanic.

When I don’t see many cars parked out front I think, I’m in luck. I beat the crowd. 

OK, so the huge rollback garage doors are down. Maybe I’m earlier than I thought.  Maybe they’re getting a late start.  Then I look up at their sign for some Biblical inspiration.

Instead, I read, “Williams OK Tire is closed. Thank you for your business.” That’s when I start to get the picture.

I stand there like an idiot  and think if it was anyone else I’d be feeling betrayed. But for some reason, I’m happy for the guy. He’s a rare breed.

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Jane Fishman

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