3 minutes reading time (679 words)

“Is That Automatic or Manual Transmission”


 For we, the internally combusted gearheads that we are, a trip to the local auto parts store can either be a blessing or an exercise in patience and understanding. While I'm not here to bad mouth or pick on the folks that take care of us when we are elbows deep in a late evening project before the next days rod run or trying to get that daily driver back on its feet to head to work the following morning. It's more of a satirical look at some of the odd questioning that surrounds these interactions.

Now I for one have never claimed to be the human Wikipedia of automotive knowledge but back in the day, in the old parts houses as some of them were called, you always had that wise old sage that knew all there was to know about anything automotive. Sure there are still a few here and there now but they are few and far between. But back then he was usually the surliest one in store, with a pack of Camel's in his front pocket and a can of Pabst hidden under the counter somewhere, but could tell you without hesitation what master cylinder would work on a '59 Buick or a '34 Packard.

But as the auto parts stores are corporate like everything else is now they want to run it with the lowest common denominator by hiring employees with little skills and automotive knowledge that will work for the least amount of money. Nothing more irritating than walking into your corporately owned and run auto parts store to see three young men staring into their smartphones for a few minutes before one of them greets you to find out "what are we working on today?" A migraine perhaps?

Then it's time for what I call the "Vehicle Inquisition." That question and answer period where those of us better versed in mechanics are scratching our heads as to why some of these questions are being asked in the first place. For example I didn't know that some pickups had different wiper blades depending if they were two-wheel or four-wheel drive. Or that a tail light bulb or gas cap was different depending if the pickup has manual or automatic transmission.

My personal favorite is the 22 year old store manager, who is a self-proclaimed car expert, and argues with you about a part because he's never heard of it. It happened to me a couple of years ago and it's one of my most proud moments.

I walked in one evening and asked the young man to look up wiper refills for my Malibu.
"What is this some kind of joke?" he quipped. "Excuse me" I replied before he went all Cujo on me. "You probably think this is funny like blinker fluid or muffler bearings, that type of thing." Apparently our master of the computer system has been tested by some of our ilk before I'm thinking to myself. "No, man" I replied "there are such things. Just look it up. '79 Chevy Malibu."

Of course he has to ask what motor, tire size, brake lining and whether it had cloth or vinyl seats before he and his associate returned with two packages. "I only need one pair" I said. "I got ya one pair" he replied not realizing that wiper refills come as a pair as opposed to today's overpriced and replaceable blades. Needless to say that a pair of parts experts got to watch a middle-aged man change his wiper refills and got a lesson that day.

Again there are folks at these places that are the bomb and some that are not as well versed but at least try. That speaks volumes to me as a customer versus the quick witted know-it-all brain scabs that will put you on hold for ten to fifteen minutes while someone has them look up parts for an '83 Corvette or a water pump for a vintage VW Beetle.

Until next time….

Safe rodding all and keep the rubber side down.


© All text and photos © 2017 Jay Horrocks Jr.

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