International Trade In The Parking Lot

April 9, 2010 at 10:14 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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  My day at The Three Jakes started off rough as soon as I walked in the door.  Things weren’t going well here and I had other problems on my mind.  Like most people nowadays, I guess, I had the dark ominous cloud of job insecurity looming over me.  Were they still trying to get rid of me here at the sammich shop?  Was my job in danger at the bank?  When I was coming to work and got off the highway, at the light there were some homeless people that had staked out that area for begging.
  And behind them was the highway overpass under which they lived, I’m sure.  I looked at the squalid conditions and crumbling location with envy; I hope I can find a prime location like that when *I’m* homeless.
  However, after I took a couple of deliveries, things were looking better.  I had willed myself to look past the problems and get a better attitude.  Go me!  About that time I had pulled back into the store’s parking lot.  Another car pulled up next to me with a young couple in it.  It looked like the guy was talking to me, but we all know I can’t hear shit.  I got out and walked over.
  A cute but bored and jaded white trash chick was in the passenger seat, so I leaned in to get a better look at her cleavage.  The driver was a young Hispanic-looking dude of indeterminate origin.  The first couple of times he said whatever he said I did not underfuckingstand him.  I thought he was trying to sell me something.  Cologne, maybe?  How could he tell from *his* car that I smelled bad in *mine*?
  I listened, hoping for comprehension.  No habla…
  Finally I started to piece together what he was trying to communicate.  He spoke with an accent and he was a young thug, but nonetheless he had some salesman in him.  "Listen to me, Gentleman, I tell you what I can do for you.  That is a nice car you have.  I see you have some body damage.  That is a shame, you want take good care of luxury car, yes?  Gentleman, for 200 dollars I can fix that right here, ten or fifteen minutes.  No problem.  What do you say, Gentleman?"
  Si.  Now I get it.  He was trying to sell me something.  It sounded like a reasonable deal.  And the body damage was bothering me.  I never turned it into the insurance.  If you recall, der Kaiser was the victim of a hit and run over a year ago on the driver’s side, both doors.  Not major, but enough to be noticed.  Two hundred bucks?
  "Okay, I see.  Look, my brother-man, I don’t have any cash right now.  You got maybe a bidness card or something?  We could do this next week."
  He was willing to negotiate, but he did want money now and do the job now.  "Listen, Gentleman, I see we can make a deal.  I can fix your car no problem.  I can do it right here in the lot.  How much money can you get?"
  I needed to go low.  "I know I have a hundred bucks.  That’s all I have right now."
  He nodded.  "Gentleman, I tell you what I can do.  I fix your car right here.  You go get a hundred dollars, I fix it, Gentleman, professional.  You know a body shop charge maybe 5, 6 hundred dollar for this."
  Okay.  I can do this.  I’m at work and delivering, however.  I go in the store and there’s a run to Walgreens.  They have an ATM, and I come back with 100 bucks.  I had to pay 3 extra to get my money because it was a foreign ATM.  It didn’t seem like it to me–I mean, it spoke English.  I didn’t realize it was fucking currency exchange.  Those things just piss me off, how they openly rip me off.  I like it to be more discreet.
  I came back and told him I had the money, and he was already pulling the equipment out of the trunk of his car.  His bored white trash girl friend stayed in the car.  He was obviously doing this because he needed money right away–drug habit, or to pay off her pimp?  Who knows?  I’m a little more cynical now, but at the time it was going on I was thinking happy, optimistic thoughts, like he wanted to take her out to a nice dinner and propose, because she just found out she was pregnant.  He was a real go-getter, willing to work hard to make it.  Just two young kids, trying to make it in this crazy world…
  I went back in the store and started to finish some jobs.  In about ten minutes I would go check on him.  Sooner than that, he came to the drive up window.  "You all set, Gentleman.  Car is done.  See?"  Or maybe he said, "Si?"
  We walk out and have a look.  The car was dented on the driver door, below the trim line.  On the back door, it may have been dented, but it was scratched up.  He had it covered with some kind of compound.  A rubbing compound?  Whiskey Tango–
  "Let me show you something, Gentleman."  He took a rag while he talked and rubbed at the bottom edge of the back door at some marks.  "See?  this part, it will come right out when you rub.  Make sure you do that."
  Now came the hard sell.  "Let me tell you Gentleman, the work involved.  I took the dent out, you see.  The braces behind it were broken.  I had to fix those braces.  I couldn’t let that go and have you call me later and tell my I did not do my job.  I had to fix those, sir.  I tell you what, a body shop, they charge so much for that work.  But I have a deal here.  You go ahead and make it 210 for doing this, and we’re all set."
  "Brother-man, I don’t have that.  All I took out was the hundred."
  "Well, we need to make a deal, Gentleman.  This is quality work here.  It’s going to look good.  This is a luxury car, Gentleman.  I tell you it can work out.  How much can you get?  One-sixty?"
  Now I’m starting to wonder if I’m being taken for a ride or not.  All I wanted was cheap body work from an unknown guy driving by in a car.  How can that possibly go bad?  I said, "Listen, Brother-man.  I work two jobs to pay my bills, brother.  I don’t have so much.  I’m working now, but it’s slow so I don’t have too much.  You know?  I can do…120."
  He pressed a bit more.  I want to get my money’s worth, but I also don’t want to give up too much money.  And I don’t want to get ripped off, either?  What if this is still a big scam?  The body work is covered in the compound still, and I have seen no true "finished product" as of yet.
  I said, "I have no more than 130, brother.  This is money I haven’t made yet tonight.  This is all I have.  130."
  "Okay, Gentleman.  This is what we do.  We gonna do this for 130 then.  This is quality work we have here, and I want you to be happy sir.  We take the 130."
  I pulled the 100 bucks from the ATM from one pocket and counted it out.  Then I pulled the other pocket, my Three Jakes money.  I said, "This is not all my money, brother.  This is other people’s money."  I gave him thirty, and my happiness about the whole affair decreased about 30%.
  "Okay, Gentleman, we’re good.  This is what you do, sir, this is important, okay?  You don’t let no little kids touch this, it’s not good for skin.  Leave it on for 48 hours, then wash it off.  Okay, Gentleman?"  We shook hands, and he was gone.
  I stood there, looking at my car.  "Uhm…"
  I thought he was going to take that off.  So I have no idea what it looks like, underneath.  I did look up close at it, and the dent is gone.  But I know he screwed some holes in it to pop it out.  Those are filled?  That could be a problem.
  Also…the paint job is a delicate thing.  Is it going to damage my paint to leave it on there that long?  And what is the purpose of leaving it on there that long?  So he can have a two-day head start to get away?  In a way, it’s exciting–the anticipation.  I think I got ripped off, but I won’t know for sure until Saturday.

  On my way to work that day, I had called Jim, the laptop guy.  He’s had my laptop for nigh on about six weeks now, I think.  There was a delay ordering parts originally, and then another delay that he said was his fault–one of the things he said he could fix was causing it to overheat, and he needed to figure that out.  He had it for about three weeks when I called him again, and he said it’s done, and he has it…but he’s out of town.  He got a promotion that called for some training, and he was in Boston.  Okay.  But why would you take it with you?  Why couldn’t I just go get it from your fat girlfriend?
  The next week, he was still in Boston, but sick.  He had traveled with a cold, and it turned to pneumonia.  Bummer.  Plus, he’s going to be stuck because he can’t travel when sick.  The doctor and the airline but the ixnay on that.  He sounded horrible, and I said, "Well, don’t die on me, because I want to get my laptop back."
  He laughed.  "Ha.  No promises.  Not for a P3.  Maybe if it was a better computer."
  Finally, last Friday, I talked to him and he sounded better.  He said he should be good to travel and he would be home Tuesday or Wednesday.  I didn’t hear from him Tuesday or Wednesday, so this is where we are. I called him Thursday–last night.  No answer.  I left a message full of hope and not at all cynical.
  He has my laptop and the money I paid him up front.  Is he trying to rip me off?  The only reason I think that he’s on the up and up and this is just a series of unfortunate events is that…the alternative is that this is an overly elaborate ruse to go through to steal 120 bucks and an eight year old crappy P3 laptop. 
  Jim the laptop guy is obviously smart and definitely a computer guy–I could tell by the way he talked.  He knew his shit and he talked about shit that was just a touch over my head on occasion, and he talked really, really fast, and he spit a little…all signs of a true techno geek.
  So he’s not a criminal mastermind.  A criminal mastermind would have squeezed me for 120 bucks in the parking lot in a matter of minutes and made me feel good about it, and not leave me any way to find him.

  Oh, shit…

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