Joe ran a two-man auto repair shop.

It was retro-Americana all the way,

with 1950’s style pin-up girls sporting

dimples and curves on the calendars

and a wall sign that proclaimed: “Helen

Waite is our Credit Manager. If you

want credit, go to Hel en Waite.”

But if you were a decent sort, and

you needed it badly enough, Joe

would let you pay next payday, if

you at least had the collateral of a

hearty handshake. And if he figured

you were a really good guy or gal,

he or his fellow mechanic Nick

would pour you shot when your

car was done, and it was always done

right. At 56, Joe worker harder and

better than any two corporate mechanics

half his age. One night, over shots

strong enough to dissolve alien rust, Joe

told me about how he lowered his

cholesterol, but the next day I brought

him a bottle of low dose aspirin, the

kind with the heart on the bottle, just

in case. He laughed and said thanks.

Then several days later, I heard that

he’d died in his sleep after putting in

a full day, right alongside his mechanic,

like he always did. And I have to see it

as one more sign, that the America

I knew is just about dead. And if you

think a big corporate auto dealer’s

service station is an improvement

over places like Joe’s, or if you

believe a country can be great

without guys like him, then I don’t

have much to say to you–except

maybe “Go to Hel en Waite.”

 

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