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The Spark Plug Wire That Connects Us


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“Hey Brian, long time no see!” I joked as I walked into the auto repair shop. It was only Tuesday, and I had just been in on Saturday to have The Corvette smogged – only to find out that it needed to have some significant work done to pass the inspection. I could have had it done on Saturday, but Brian had recommended I come back during the week when The Experts were on duty.

So there I was, making another 40-mile trip each way, so The Experts could work on the car.

I had asked Brian if someone could give me a ride to a local cafe so I could hang out and use their WiFi to work, which I had pre-arranged with my boss. To my surprise, the chief Expert himself came out to drive me over (and inspect the car at the same time).

In the mile or so drive to the cafe we talked about some other repairs I had deferred (and had planned to do this month, until this new work came up) and he suggested I purchase a particular part myself to save money and told me to bring it in and they’d install it for me. He also noticed, and diagnosed, a sound I’d been hearing, and suggested they look at it next time.

“You know,” I told him, “I lived here for 13 years until I moved to San Carlos a few months ago. I come back to you guys, not just because you know this car, but because you always treat me well. You’ve got good guys working for you.” He didn’t say anything, he just nodded.

As I got out of the car, I said, “I’d really appreciate it if you can keep the work within the estimate, this is all I can do until next payday.” He promised they would.

I had spent the last three days getting used to the idea of deferring the other work on the car yet again, and to the possibility that the cost would be higher than the estimate. If it was, I might be living very frugally for a couple of weeks. I knew it would only be for a short time – just the week before my accountant had predicted I would get a tax refund that was, ironically, almost exactly the amount of this repair, and I had an unencumbered paycheck coming up. But still. It was a surprise, and one that was fraught.

When Harry, the chief Expert, came to pick me up five hours later, he assured me The Corvette was all set and running fine. “Oh,” he said, “and one of the spark plug wires needed to be replaced. You have to buy them by the set, but I had one lying around, so I just used that one and didn’t have to charge you for a whole new set.” See, that’s just one reason I drive 80 miles round trip to these guys.

We got back to the shop and, as we got out and Harry handed me the keys, he paused to admire the car. “It sure is a pretty color,” he said, “look at that gold fleck in the sun.”

“You know, it was broken into last year and got all scratched up, and Brian over at B&D Autobody repainted the rear end for me. He did a great job.”

“Oh yeah,” Harry said, admiringly. “He does great work, you couldn’t have picked a better guy.”

“Well, it was Brian who originally referred me to you guys,” I told him. We shook hands, and he headed around to the back of the shop.

I walked into the office, and this Brian greeted me. “So, are you coming back on Thursday?”

“No, I’ll be back to finish the smog certificate either this Saturday or the following Saturday.”

“I was joking,” he told me. “Since you were just here a couple of days ago I thought maybe it was becoming a regular thing.”

I laughed. He handed me the bill, and it was less than the original estimate. “Awesome!” I said. “Thank you!”

We finished the paperwork, and I asked, “Do I need to call before I come for the smog test?”

“Nah,” he said, “You can just come over. In fact, you can just come have coffee with us if you want. Any time.”

He wasn’t joking.

I was so happy that I had to go for a drive. Of course. So I went to my favorite park, and just sat on the bench and was grateful for a while. Then I took out the bill, for some reason, and compared it to the estimate to see where it was different.

They gave me a discount on the labor. Not because it took less time than they expected. But because they appreciated how much I appreciate them. That’s basically a tank of gas for me, out of their pockets.

There are opportunities all around us to connect. If we see them.


Who do you appreciate? When have you felt appreciated?

Please tell me in the comments.

Image courtesy of…Me! Yes, that’s The Corvette.

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