Most Shared


Casual observances from a tire shop

By J.A. HaglMay 30, 2017


Thump. Thump. Thump. The bounce of tires hitting the concrete floor of the shop provides a bass line for whirling of tools and the metal grinding against metal. The rev of a convertible's engine punctuates the constant stream of noise. Vocals are provided by the loud flurry of rapid Spanish exchanged between mechanics across the portals.

It’s only 9 AM and a steady stream of customers has already queued up for oil changes, state inspections, and tires. An elderly woman with big, pillowy white hair and pink blush needed to have her 2000 Mercedes-Benz ML320. She had been coming to this shop for over 10 years. She knows the previous owner, his wife, and kids. She told me to learn what I could about cars.

 A father who was experiencing some type of middle-life crisis was in for the third time this week. He had already purchased $1,200 worth of tires. He needs another set for his fun car— a cherry red six-cylinder BMW coupe. He spent most of his time alternating pacing back and forth in the small lobby and the outside of the shop, impatiently waiting.

I rarely go to an auto shop, except for very necessary car maintenance. I was sitting behind the counter in the back office. A friend who had just expanded from selling cars to operating a shop need an extra hand to set up his office. It was supposed to be a few easy days of paperwork I missed doing.

Almost everyone who comes to a tire shop is always in a hurry. Customers know there’s a waiting period and are already displeased with the idea of wasting time waiting. Since my lack of knowledge regarding most auto related things, I expected to sit quietly out of the way. But suddenly I was talking to customers and ringing up services like I knew what the numbers called in my direction meant.

I wasn’t used to talking to people that early in the morning and especially people in a hurry to go.


I wasn’t used to the endearing politeness. Ma’am ended each and every sentence uttered by customers and workers alike

A 17-year-old and her dad stopped by briefly. She needed a state inspection. Her father met her at the shop and sat with her as she waited.  It was her first car, her first visit and her first time paying for a car-related expense. Another customer right after her only spoke Spanish and I had to go find a bilingual speaker to translate.

Once the initial rush ended, I retired to my quiet spot working. Old Customers would pop in, surprised to see a girl behind in the.

“Are you staying?”

“No, it’s only for a week.”

“Really?” I would explain I wasn’t a shop girl.

“Well, thank you, ma’am.”

I wasn’t used to the endearing politeness. Ma’am ended each and every sentence uttered by customers and workers alike.  Nor was I used to the film of grease that coated my skin and laptop. I killed 99.99% percent of germs every thirty minutes. It was nothing like my year and a half as a “shop girl” at a popular mall store. I would actually go back.