Friday, November 11, 2011

The View from Mayberry

This isn't the first time I've touted the benefits of small town life. There's such a simple charm to it at times that I can't help mentioning it once in awhile. We've had a couple of experiences over the past month that have reminded me once again of why I like it so much.

Just last week, Nate and I stopped by the local Harrisburg gas station/garage/furniture building shop. As the owner, Ken, was pumping our gas he said, "You all are an intelligent couple - what do you know about Romulus and Remus?" many city convenience stores can you pull into and not only have the owner pump your gas for you, but also compliment your IQ level and quiz you about Roman mythology?

Before that incident, I was reminded again when we went to visit my 22 year old at college.  Bethany attends school 9 hours away from a little Arkansas town that perhaps could be "Hicksville, USA," especially if you judge it by the local people's dialect. However, we recently found one of its small-town advantages.

We can't afford late model vehicles.  Thus, during Bethany's years of attending college in Arkadelphia (yes, that is really the name of the town) she's had her fair share of needing to deal with local mechanics. It's such a helpless feeling as a parent to have a daughter that far from home with a broken down vehicle. Of course we want to go help her out and solve the problem for her, and yet reality (and her father) says, "Bethany, you need to do the best you can with this and we'll advise you along the way." Thus, in 3 1/2 years time, she's probably tried that many automotive places in Arkadelphia...only to eventually be frustrated and disgusted with the level of care and service her and her car receives. This year has been no different. Thus, when we went down there last month with the knowledge that her car, once again, needed attention, we were determined that if a good mechanic existed in Arkadelphia, we were going to find him. (My apologies if that is sexist to assume a mechanic will be male. ;-)

Bethany had already asked around amongst her college friends. A couple of them recommended one certain shop that they liked. We weren't completely convinced that college kids from out of state might know the very best, local mechanic. Thus, that evening after we arrived, we walked into the local "U Save More" mart...or was it "Save U More?" Either way - it was very local.

Two guys with chewing tobacco stained teeth were "shootin' the breeze" near the front of the store, so Nate asked them point blank, "Where's the best place to find a good mechanic in this town?" They looked at each other...thought a minute, then said, "Well - you gotta go across the tracks..."

Ah ha - that was the key.  We hadn't yet tried the wrong side of the tracks.

The next morning, Nate went looking for that mechanic. Nate liked him right away when he mentioned, "Well, my daughter's car had over 300,000 miles on it when we finally sold it - these old cars will go forever if you take care of them."  The other mechanic - the one on the right side of the tracks - didn't even have time to look at the car and make a guess at what might be wrong with it when he heard it was a 1994 model.

We also liked "wrong-side-of-the-tracks" mechanic later that day, when we drove up in our family vehicle, ready to make the long trek back home.  It had been making a continually louder and louder noise the day before as we drove farther and farther south.  Nate wondered if perhaps this small-town guy could tell him if it was serious or not. The mechanic said sure, he could listen to it and give us an idea of what might be causing it.

He crawled under it with a stick (I kid you not - it resembled a long, skinny baseball bat.)  Moments later, after holding his stick up in the motor while it was running, he clambered back out from underneath the vehicle and said, "You'll be okay - but you probably don't want to use your A/C, because the compressor is going bad and will probably lock up on it pretty soon."

Wow - that fast? No "come back later," or no computer hook-up analysis?  And the best part? (Well - not from a pocketbook standpoint.) The guy was RIGHT.  Just last week, on a warm day - Nate forgot the Arkadelphian's advice and turned on the A/C for the kids in the backseat who were complaining of being hot.  And the A/C locked up - smoke, sparks and all.  I tell you what - it made me a believer.

Call me nostalgic, but I'll choose Gomer Pyle with a stick any day over a city mechanic with a computer.