Friday, August 19, 2005

Minivan Looks as Good as New

We had a misadventure with our minivan repair. It's fixed now, and it looks good. Here's from a post I made on a blog I no longer use, back when we first had it "repaired" by somebody who turned out to be pretty much a hack. You won't be surprised after reading this.

He was drilling holes in my van

I pulled into the driveway from work a couple months ago,when we were temporarily staying with my in-laws. This guy is running a sander over the rear hatch of our minivan. Yes, minivan. Get over it. I notice, too that the surface he is sanding sports about eight or nine holes the size of a .45 slug. My mind starts racing a bit. The van is curbside, and a little boy is playing in the back of the guy's pickup. I know exactly why the man is there, but I have no idea who invited him. I also wonder why it isn't Manny.

A few months before that, my mother in-law was driving our van as she and my wife scoped out house possibilities in McKinney. I had interviewed for a job and expected to get it. As they backed out of one of the driveways, she smacked the back of the van into a construction worker's truck. Turns out she hit his bumper, and it didn't damage it at all.

On a more recent visit to Plano, a hispanic man named Manny comes up to the in-laws' door and says he noticed the dent in the back of the van, and asks if we would like a free estimate. We say, sure. He says it will take about $600 for him to do everything but paint it, and it will be good as new. He'll do the work right there in the street. He has a reference letter and some before-after pictures. The fact that he is hispanic really doesn't matter, but when I describe someone, I like to use detail. I tell him we don't have time to wait for that kind of job, because we're about to leave, but I get his card.

A few days ago, my wife and my mother in-law were at Wal-Mart. As my wife was about to back out, a man approached her and said he would fix our van dent, except for painting, for $250. They apparently thought that sounded better than $600 and let the guy and his boy follow them home. Clearly, they don't watch the same kind of movies I watch or read the same kind of books I read. That is a good thing in many ways, but sometimes a little fear of strangers can save your life.

Back to now. When I approach him, the man explains to me that he had to drill the holes to pull out the dents. He could not push them out from the inside as he originally planned. I end up talking to the guy, and find out that he has Romanian parents, but was born and brought up in Massachusetts. He doesn't seem uncomfortable in the least when I tell him that I could tell by his skin color that he probably was not hispanic, that he looked more like a friend of mine who has Syrian blood. As he applies seemingly random dabs of some red compound, the purpose of which I still am clueless, he just tells me more about his heritage and how he ended up in the Dallas area. Perhaps my comments would bother some folks, but after talking to him a while, I just had the feeling he wouldn't mind. It was refreshing after always being so politically correct at work and other places. I would never walk up to the lady across the hall and ask her if her mother is white. Unless she started it.

On another note, though, after setting my son's stroller on the street so he could climb into the back of the van, he didn't move it. It ended up covered with a layer of sanded off paint, body filler, and general muck. When I asked for his last name, he said "Thompson." But, when I presented a check, he asked for cash because, "I need $250 today. That's why I came up to them in the parking lot." Whatever. We paid him, and now our van toodles around town with a back hatch resembling the hide of some newly discovered leopard. I'm just a little worried the body shop guys will find a problem when they start wet sanding that surface. We'll see. Oh, and whereas Manny said it would look like new, this guy just came out and admitted it would not. That's probably just the more honest answer.

Of course, that was the past. The minivan now sits looking fine. We do not back it up the driveway anymore to hide the Bondo-looking back end. Moral? Get it done right the first time.

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