Monday, October 02, 2006

Torque Wrenches & TV Dinners

Have I ever told you how much I hate Maul-Mart?

I have? Well, sit down & listen to me anyway.

Yesterday, reluctantly, T & I went to the local Maul-Mart to get tires & an oil change for the clown car (despite my pleas - OK, whines - to pleasepleasePLEEEEEASE go toTarget or Goodyear or even to the dentist for a root canal, using unsterilized, dull drills - sans novacaine!). Making the trip there even more fun was the fact that no one had sent me the memo saying that October 1st was International Idiot Drivers in the Parking Lot Day. It just so happens that the parade for the Inland Empire Idiots Union Local 42 was going on right in front of me. The highlight of the parade was a demonstration by two carfuls of morons who couldn't navigate a two-way stop sign. And, to my sheer, immesureable delight, the Grand Marshall of the whole thing decided to stop his SUV in the intersection & talk to a friend walking across the lot, effectively throwing the rest of the idiot parade into a state of utter higgledy-piggledy because no one could figure out how to go around their leader. It was truly a spectacle to behold.

Have I ever told you how much I hate parades?

Anyway, having finally navigated through all that (& getting my blood pressure down to a more manageable level), we made our way to the Maul-Mart Auto Service Center, where we were greeted by not only a full parking lot, but also the sight of every bay in the service area being full. You can just imagine my joy when we were told that an oil change & new tires would take an hour & a half - each. Since the mere thought being in that store for more than five minutes turns me into a whiney baby, the idea of being stuck there for three hours was less than desireable. So, we opted just to get the tires. Having been assured that they'd be done in the stated ninety minutes, we headed into Hell's shopping center.

To be honest, our time spent in the store itself was more or less uneventful. I was followed around by the usual gang of idiots whose jobs are to park shopping carts two abreast in the aisle, to walk reeeeal sloooow down the center of the aisle or the ever popular people that stand in the middle of the row & when you say "Excuse me," they move exactly one inch from where they were. (This usually results in me nudging them & their cart over with mine; they don't say anthing to me, though, because as I'm squeezing my way through, I'm usually growling at them. I guess they at least have their sense of self-preservation intact) Surprisingly, even the lawaway department wasn't even that bad. No, the highlight of the in-store experience was at the check-out. What follows is a somewhat embellished account of what happened:

Cashier grabs one item, scans it & sets it aside.

Cashier grabs another item, scans it & sets it aside, also.

Cashier grabs a third item & repeats the process, including setting the item aside.

Cashier then opens grocery bag & proceeds to place items in said bag.

Cashier repeats steps one through four. With all twenty plus items we have to purchase.

I start looking at my ATM card, wondering how long it would take me to slit my wrists with it.

Cashier rings up all seven TV dinners, all but two of which are the same price, individually.

Cashier has to scan several dinners twice, as she couldn't get the scanner to read the barcode.

Cashier changes things up a bit when she realizes that hair gel & frozen dinners probably shouldn't go in the same bag.

I start calculating how long it would take to suffocate myself with one of the grocery bags; determine that banging my head against the floor would be quicker.

Cashier opens a second bag for the hair care product &, as the next few items are food items, puts nothing else in the bag.

Cashier gets confused as she apparently forgets what bag she put the friggin' gel in!!!

At this point my head starts pounding & I'm sure that my brain will shoot itself out the top of my skull in a vain attempt to escape with what little sanity it has left.

Cashier inspects package of lunchmeat. In great detail.

I start grabbing other non-edible items from back of conveyor belt (the existence of the button which would advance the belt was evidently a mystery to the cashier) & hand them to the cashier so she can finish filling the frickin' bag with the gel in it!!!

Cashier comments on how good the air freshener we picked out smells.

I start twitching.

Cashier finally totals everything up.

T helps me up from fetal position on floor.

You think it was painful reading that - try living it.

Twenty minutes later, with receipt in hand & a cart full of expertly packed groceries, we make our way back to the automotive department, a full two hours after we dropped off the car. Imagine my complete & utter rapture upon seeing the clown car up on the hoist with all four wheels still off!!! I nearly squirted fire at this point. When we brought up the point that our car was still in a state of undoneness, we were informed that a meeting was called at some point within the past two hours, requiring everyones attendance.

So, with the same mix of fascination & disgust that one has while watching chimps at the zoo pick their butts & then sniff their finger, we watched as not one, not two, nay, not even three, but four techs put the wheels back on the car. One walked around the car (apparently confirming that, yes, indeed, the tires needed to be put back on), another put the tires on, another tightened the lugnuts &, finally, one of them took a torque wrench, attached it to one of the lugnuts - & then walked away, joining his co-horts as they watched yet another tech sniff his finger load a hose into a takeup reel attached to the ceiling. This must've been terribly intriguing for them, as they all stood at the base of the ladder, completely engrossed by what was going on overhead.

Finally, one of the techs took time out of his busy schedule of flinging poo around his cage came into the waiting room, where he encountered a very irate, tired, Maul-Mart hatin' Jay & his equally irate & tired wife, who was threatening to "go all Southern" on them (& believe me, you do not want T to "go all Southern" on you). When I asked him when they planned on actually, y'know, using the torque wrench that was currently hanging off my tire (I think I even asked him if it was a self torquing wrench), we were told that the manager had to do that.

My brain actually made an audible 'Pop!' sound at this revelation. I'm getting dizzy just recalling it.

Soooo, we proceeded to find out just who this manager, this Keeper of the Secret & Arcane Knowledge of All Things Torque Wrench, was. I honestly expected to see someone looking a bit like Gandalf the Grey, only covered in grease. Instead, we were chagrined to find out that the manager had been in the waiting room - twice - to tell another customer - a cute, young & quite unmarried woman in short shorts - the bad news about her ailing rear axle. Waitaminute...I take that back. He attempted, in some feeble manner, using hand gestures & small words, to describe the inner workings of the wheel bearings to a person who probably had never seen under the hood of her car, much less the rear wheel assembly. It was T who actually told the woman that her rear axle was probably about to go to Rear Axle Heaven, how it worked & about how much longer it had. Again, he came in twice to tell someone who A) had a car problem that the grease monkeys at Maul-Mart weren't equipped to handle & B) had no intention of getting it fixed in the first place. He never once came in to say "Hey, we're a bit behind on your car, but will have it ready shortly" or "Sorry, we had a meeting that set us back" or even "Ook ook, eek ekk!"

We cornered Mr. Bubbles & asked him why he, & only he, was allowed to use the Holy Torque Wrench of Antioch. His reply didn't exactly fill me with a great deal of confidence. It seems that a couple months ago, someone drove out of that very Maul-Mart, entered the freeway - & had one of their WHEELS FALL OFF!!! In light of this, a mandate came down from on high (ie the lawyers who worked out a settlement with the person who sued the living snot out of Maul-Mart) that only a highly trained & certified manager would be allowed to torque down the lugnuts.

(Now, I don't claim to know a lot about fixing cars. I mean, I frequently have trouble remembering what side of the car the gas tank's on. But even I know how to use a torque wrench! It's all very simple - on a breakaway type wrench, you set the foot pounds that you want the nut torqued to with a little adjuster on the handle. When you reach the proper torque, voila! the wrench breaks away, making it so you can't tighten the nut anymore. I know this & I'm the type who believes that there's nothing I can't fix with a vise-grip & a reeeally big hammer. Shouldn't these supposed 'certified experts' know how to do this? Did the guy who worked on the other car miss Lugnut Tightening Day at Tire Changing School?)

I pointed to the big banner that had some schpeil about "100% Satisfaction!" & whatnot & told him that I was far, far less than 100% satisfied. We gave him a lesson on good customer service, telling him that, when a meeting is called in the middle of the workday, it might be nice to clue in the customer who's expecting that their car will be ready within a certain amount of time, so that the customer doesn't have frozen TV dinners & milk going bad in their shopping cart while Bonzo & Cheetah are picking nits & ticks out of each others fur. In an effort to appease us, he gave us free something or another on the tires, but, since I don't plan on ever buying tires there again, it's pretty moot.

Deciding that we'd had enough fun for one day, T & I headed home & took a much deserved nap.

I still never got the oil changed.