Dad is retiring today.
Dad's always had souped-up cars, always been mechanically inclined and a great driver. For a bit he drove cement trucks delivering cement around the Ozarks for house foundations. We've driven past many a house where he said "I poured the cement on that house" or another. Dad repaired aircraft in Panama in the army in the early 60s. At one point, he was applying for a job with the railroads, but a job as mechanic came along sooner and he took that. For years he worked in the garage for Schilling Motors on Union Avenue in Memphis, where he'd win their "Ace Wrench" award again and again. He's an amazing mechanic. In 1979, Dad moved us down to the Dallas area.
Today is Dad's last day at the shop he started with his brother about 31 years ago. Dad's a busy, industrious person, and he was hard to talk into not working, but his car repair business is open-air, and this summer is so brutal, and it's a relief to me to know he's not going to be working that hard in this heat for one more summer. This does not come without a price. I know that his patrons will be the worse for it, but that can't be helped.
Dad is an incredible mechanic. He is mathematically-minded with great spatial sense, and a keen understanding of How Things Work. He has a way of making things right that no one else can, but more than that, Dad has a big heart and he's one of those people who never would look the other way if he had an opportunity to do a good thing. Once he told me a young man came in, poor-looking, with wife in the passenger seat and three little kids in the back seat. The father made the family sit in the car while Dad worked on it. It was over 100 degrees, the windows were all down. There was something not right with the engine, and the A/C was out of freon. He asked Dad how much for fixing the problem, Dad told him, and he asked how much to top off the freon, and Dad told him that. The man said just to fix the other problem and forget about the freon. This kind of rankled Dad-- he hated seeing those little kids so miserable. Dad didn't say anything, but he fixed the issue with the car and topped off the freon. He turned the car on to show the guy he'd fixed it, then sent the guy into the office so they could settle up. Before he got out of the car, he didn't say a word, but he reached over and flipped on the A/C. The young wife's eyes got huge and she grinned, relieved. Dad didn't charge the guy for it. Never said a word about it. For those kids and that lady that day, Dad was an Angel.
Another time, a young woman came in and needed something done. Dad said she seemed in a terrible state of distress, and he thought there was something going on in her life that was very bad. Again, she didn't seem to have much, materially. She asked how much it would be to fix her car, that she didn't have much money and he said "let's have a look at it." He set to fixing it. She was fraught with worry and asked how much when it was done. He said "oh, $40 oughta cover it." He had more in the job on parts, than that. She was so happy and said "that's exactly what I have in my pocket!" excitedly. He said "well, I don't want to take all your money, $20 should be fine." He said she started crying, and he felt badly, like she had really been kicked around in life, sort of had a hounded look. There's no telling how much that meant to her.
In case you're wondering, my folks are great with money and Dad bought us an incredible house and always kept us very well by being basically nice and decent to people and doing great work for reasonable rates. Dad is judicious with money, but he has been successful by placing a premium on doing what is right, rather than what would yield more profit.
One last story and I'll stop here, though there are many, many more and probably countless tales I don't know about. Some years back, one of the local Dallas news teams did an exposé on local rip-off car repair businesses. They regaled set-up tales one after another of going into local businesses to film mechanics charging for unnecessary work, and overcharging for what they actually did. At the end of the article, they said there was a bright story and there was one shop they could heartily recommend. They'd gone into Dad's shop and asked what was wrong with their car. He looked under the hood and said "well, here's your problem right there" and simply reconnected something that was unhooked, and told them it should be fine now. The undercover person was dumbfounded, asked how much they owed him. Dad said no charge a couple times, but the person insisted, Dad said he hated to take their money but $5 would be okay. The article ended by saying here was a decent person who didn't take advantage and people should go to him for car repairs. When have you ever heard of that happening before?
Dad will not be idle, now. He has big renovation plans for the family manse, and no doubt that's going to keep him very busy. He may embark on some new venture, too, but for now, I'm delighted he can prop up his feet a bit.
You can tell a lot about a person about how he treats other people when no one is looking. My Dad is an angel, and has been to a great many people, and will continue to do so at every opportunity, I've no doubt. But he's going to bedevil the fish at the area lakes more often, now. Happy retirement day, Dad.