We live at the top of a mountain. The last quarter mile to our house is unpaved and kind of like the surface of the moon, except the craters are smaller and more plentiful.
We had a slow leak in one of the tires on our car. A trip to the auto repair shop revealed the dreaded bent rim.
I wasn’t surprised at the cause, but when the mechanic quoted the price to replace it, I stood silent for about a minute.
I could only think of responses that required a drum and cymbal crash.
Is that the gold or platinum model!? (ba dum pum)
Do I get a massage and pedicure with that!?
Does that come with a 3 night stay somewhere!?
So I spared him and just said, “I’ll let you know…”
Searching the internet that night, I found a guy an hour away who repairs rims using a blow torch.
He didn’t have a fancy website. Just one picture. Him with his blow torch.
I called the number. He seemed nice enough, but a man of few words.
Me: “Do you have time today?”
Me: “How’s 1:30?“
Me: “What is your…”
Him: “I’ll text you the address.”
He did. After an hour through backwoods country roads (but that’s kind of everywhere up here) I found the address.
Leading back into the woods was a long driveway filled (ironically) with potholes.
I thought to myself, “I really hope this is legit, because if I have to leave in a hurry I’m going to dent all the other rims.”
Then a rather nice house came into view with a large double garage, half of which was used for his business.
Everything was neat and orderly.
He stepped out of the garage in a black hooded sweatshirt.
But he was smiling so I got out of the car.
There was no usual 15 minute Q & A about the vehicle that one often experiences at auto repair places. No recitation of endless up-sale add ons.
Just a very simple “Hi. How are you? Which wheel? This one?”
“Yes,” I said.
And before I could say anything else he rolled a jack under the car and had the tire off so quickly that I wished I had timed it.
The last time I changed a tire it took about two hours, but that included unloading a full trunk and scouring the car for the missing lug wrench.
He rolled the tire toward his garage. “You can come watch if you like.”
Inside he removed the tire and mounted the rim on a large homemade contraption made from small hydraulic jacks welded to large metal plates. A precise measuring caliper rigged on the side showed him exactly where the rim was bent.
Blow torch in hand (like in his photo) he heated the rim. “You might want to stick fingers in your ears,” he said, putting on protective earphones.
He hammered, blow torched, hammered, blow torched.
I was fascinated by the process and he seemed to enjoy having an audience. Glancing up from his work every so often, he smiled and explained what he was doing.
I found out why he was a man of few words. His phone rang about every ten minutes. He was cordial, but brief. Made the appointment quickly, texted the address and got back to work.
Soon the wheel was back on the car and I was carefully navigating my way out. The price was far below what I had been quoted for a new rim.
I began the day thinking about what a pain car repair can be and ended up feeling inspired by this guy who had created his own thriving business doing something I didn’t even know existed a few days ago.
I thought of a more appropriate question to ask next time I’m quoted an exorbitant repair price:
“Does that include inspiration?”