We had been on the road for 16 hours despite the 11.5 hours predicted for our journey. And we were still two hours away from our destination — now without a working vehicle. The Wedding Saga Part 2:
My husband marched me right back into Craig’s Automotive after he’d paid the bill.
“My wife’s infatuated with you,” he flat out told Craig. “Could she take a photo of you?”
I was as surprised by my husband’s statement as I was by the fact that I did sincerely love this mechanic — not enough to move to Richmond to have my car serviced, mind you, but enough to encourage everyone in Richmond to take their cars to him.
I hastily explained to Craig — and his wife, I presume, who was standing near him — that I wrote a blog and wanted to write about him amid our experiences with mechanics in Virginia. That was why I wanted the photo. He smiled, did not take my husband literally, and let me shoot him.
We had met Craig about 8 p.m. on a Wednesday, after a bad tire and a worse mechanic left us with a van we couldn’t drive. We had left I-95 in Virginia that afternoon because a serious shimmy alerted us a radial tire was separated and needed replacing. The tire shop employee whose tattoo boasted “Don’t Give a F***” informed us we didn’t have a bad tire but a bad bearing he could fix in less than an hour. Three and a half hours later, our van not only had a worse shimmy but also had a gear shift that hung useless. (It made for engaging story telling later — the tamest, kindest version contained in the previous blog post titled, “Will the real mechanic please stand up?”) But at that time, we were living the story — exhausted, frustrated, and quite stuck.
My husband had called for towing service and found on the other end a mechanic who listened to our troubles and then talked my husband through a potential repair that could get our vehicle to his shop sans towing.
We had envisioned towing the vehicle to an auto repair shop that might work on the car in the morning. We didn’t have the energy to consider what we would do with the stuff loaded in said vehicle or where we would spend our time as we waited.
Following Craig’s advice, my husband and the two sons who’d driven from Florida with us were able to get the hobbled vehicle into gear. We haltingly drove the few miles from the first “mechanic’s” tire shop to Craig’s Automotive, and then breathed a sigh of relief when we actually made it. The boys and I jumped out of the car as if it were on fire; a man who appeared to be a member of a motorcycle gang approached us and reached out to shake my husband’s hand.
The mechanic knew the tire shop we’d had the misfortune to visit. Just recently, he said, he had sent a client to it for a good deal on tires. The man arrived at the shop as it neared closing time, and the owner refused him service. The next day, Craig confronted the owner in no uncertain terms and set him straight as to the way he expected his customers treated. Later, when Craig’s client returned to the tire shop, he got the service and the deal he expected. I suspect Craig could have appeared quite threatening if you were on Craig’s naughty list, but I liked him immediately.
Then, as he’d done on the phone, Craig listened as my husband explained the day’s events.
“You were probably right,” the seasoned mechanic said. “It sounds like a separated tire. Not many people would have known that. I’m impressed.”
And so was I. Craig and my husband got back into the van for a test ride, and when they returned, they drove the van into one of the bays of the busy garage. Busy even at 8 p.m. The detective work had begun. What was wrong with our van? More importantly, what had been wrong with our van before we’d entered the tire shop that afternoon, and what damage had the previous “mechanic” inflicted on us? (We knew this would not matter one iota to our wallet or our emotions, but we still wanted to know.)
The air-conditioned waiting room and the distraction of Craig’s hyper dog were a welcome experience after spending hours taking turns sitting on our little Igloo coolers in the abandoned car wash next to the previous “mechanic.” Craig vowed he would get the vehicle fixed that night, but my two oldest sons took matters into their own hands and headed down the mountain to retrieve us. But as we waited, we met other customers who testified heartily as to the quality service at Craig’s Automotive.
My older sons arrived at 10, when our van was still incapacitated and elevated in Craig’s Automotive garage. This was also when my husband declared he was still determined to stay until the vehicle was fixed and then attempt the drive in unfamiliar, rain-infested mountains to find our remote cabin.
My oldest boys simply said “no.” (The subject for Wedding Saga Part 3: “Humbled by Love.”)
Though Craig was willing to work into the night to fix our vehicle, we did not have to wait into the night for those fixes to occur. Instead, we climbed the lift that kept our vehicle high in the sky and under the mechanic’s watchful eye and unloaded it bag by bag, cooler by cooler, until our son’s rental van was packed and we were packed in it.
Before we left our beloved van that I had been so willing to leave forever (again, Wedding Saga Part 1), Craig let us know that he would take care of it. He also asked me if I wanted him to go get our money back from Mr. “Don’t Give a F***” pseudo-mechanic.
“Yes!” I declared, smiling. “And make sure you get money for my pain and suffering.”
He smiled too.
We returned for our van on Friday morning — after Craig had determined that the other “mechanic’s” original diagnosis was completely wrong and my husband was correct. All we needed was a tire, which we purchased from Craig for $45. I should say all we originally needed was that tire. Our original hub, which the first “mechanic” insisted needed replacing, was perfectly operable, whereas the brand new replacement hub had been damaged during the installation, and essential parts of it — plus the tie rod — were missing, hence the wobble and shimmy that could have resulted in our deaths.
In all, replacing that “bad tire” cost us about $600 (including the $200 cash we initially paid, not including pain and suffering), but made both a successful detective and a saint out of Craig — of Craig’s Automotive in Richmond, Virginia. My husband says Craig threw in some “extras” and only charged us his cost for the parts we needed. So maybe I do have a bit of a mechanic’s crush on this man. My husband — every bit a manly man and a shade-tree mechanic who knows his stuff — does too. If you live anywhere near Craig, you also should cultivate that relationship.
You can trust him.
And if he hadn’t already done enough, Craig did return to the original tire place on our behalf. He drove the fixed van over to that garage and simply backed this white vehicle up to the garage door. The two guys on Craig’s naughty list — both Mr. “Don’t Give a F***” and the owner — emerged, looking stunned, clearly recognizing this vehicle and dreading the confrontation.
Out emerged Craig. I don’t think he had to say a thing.