|Joe's Garage on Main Street in Chatham, VA|
Going to Joe's is like going back in time 30 years. Sitting on the corner of Main Street in the sleepy town of Chatham, Virginia, the garage is old and musty, with peeling paint. The weedy lot is small and crammed with cars, mostly older models. It has 4 full service gas pumps served by a young attendant. Over the years Frank and I have cultivated a trust with the owner and head mechanic, Joe. When you own older cars with high miles like we do, the relationship with your mechanic takes on a depth akin to what you might forge with a son-in-law. Joe's wife works at the shop off and on, and their boy comes in after school to do his homework at the front counter. They love dogs and at times have kept their St Bernard or Great Dane in the shop. Joe is always busy, yet always has time, and is always polite.
|"So much junk there is!"|
As Kevin the mechanic drives my car inside the shop, Piper and I walk around outside. Lots of mechanical stuff, lined up and stacked along the outside wall. Old motor oil scent hangs heavy in the air. Piper sniffs and inspects engine blocks, some metal tubing and other junk.
The arrangement of tires is interesting too. I try lifting Piper inside a stack of tires for a photo but he will have none of that and hops out quickly. Meanwhile the loud clattering of an impact wrench taking the wheel off a car makes us both turn around. Piper is intrigued and moves in for a closer look but I make him watch from a polite distance.
|Checking out the changing of a tire.|
When Kevin comes back he stops for a minute to ask about Piper, then they have a petting session. Caressed by rough, greasy hands, Piper is enjoying himself. Then the mechanic goes back to work while Piper and I cross Main Street over to Jesse Sours Garage to see the pigeons flapping and roosting in the rafters of the old, abandoned building.
Back at Joe's, it is time to sit on the bench outside and watch cars getting filled up. "Beep-beep-beep," the Pittsylvania County bookmobile bus is backing up to the diesel pump right next to us. The driver lets the air brakes out - "Whoosh!" Piper startles slightly at that, as do I, but we quickly recover. Across the street and down the sidewalk comes a man on an adult tricycle with a high red flag swaying back and forth. He smiles and waves. I wave back and Piper, from a prone position, eyes the flag-contraption thing. After that activity quiets down so Piper takes 40 winks under the bench.
|Under a bench outside the shop.|
Soon the work is done, the charge $10. "Are you sure?" I ask. "Oh yeah," Kevin shrugs. He hands me the little light from off the dash that has been a problem since our daughter sideswiped a tree several years ago and the door quit closing properly. This kept the dash light on, which drained the battery continuously, which meant having to jump-start the car at the most inopportune times. For instance in the drive-thru line at the bank. It was as if Kevin had extracted a bad tooth and put it in my hand. He is a genius. I load Piper in his crate where he settles in for a good long nap as I drive away from Joe's Garage. A fine outing, I say to myself.