Crazy as Shithouse Rats, White Powder Madness, Nightmares from the Service Lane (Part II)

I have to say the 1990’s were the White Powder era, and I’m not talking about OxyClean.  Automotive people have always been somewhat notorious for substance abuse.  I remember a time when almost all technicians and salesmen were heavy smokers and heavy drinkers.  I knew a few techs who partook of  herbal enjoyment on a regular basis too, although this is not nearly as common today because most repair facilities and dealerships do routine- or at least random- drug testing these days.  The possibility of being singled out for the Piss Test has contributed to many people getting and staying clean these days, but drug testing was rare until the late 1990’s.  I’m not a technician, but I had to have similar training, and I worked closely with them.  I was a chain smoker and binge drinker too, but that’s about as bad as the substance abuse thing went with me. 

Unfortunately the upper-level managers (especially the ones acquired through nepotism- i.e. owners’ sons, brothers-in-law, etc.) could afford better drugs than us peons who would go out and have a few shots or maybe a toke or two on a joint.  White powder was a common scourge among salesmen, finance managers, sales managers, and general managers.  Occasionally one would see a parts or service manager who was into white powder too (I worked for two parts managers who were hard core coke heads) but it was less common.    I had the bad fortune to work in one dealership where both the parts manager (who was my direct boss) and the general manager were high as hell on coke just about every day. 

I’m plenty aware of drugs.  I’ve gotten to experience the rantings of the drunk, stoned and high for years.

The general manager I speak of (I am omitting names to protect the guilty) was about 5’3″ high and about 5’3″ wide.  He taught me one good lesson: Crown Royal is not an acceptable breakfast choice, unless you’re planning on staying in bed all day.  Mr. Roly Poly (who just about wore the Avalon he drove) came in the service drive one morning with some pretty bad scrapes on the front cover of the new Avalon he was driving.  God only knows what he hit- or how many things he hit- on the way to work, but there were some nice bright white scrapes on that all black car. He opened the door, unbuckled his seat belt, and pretty much rolled out of said Avalon onto the concrete.  If I had to guess, I’d say he was at least 40 proof.  At 7 AM.  Since the whole shop was afraid of this guy nobody had the guts to mention the obvious even as he staggered across the shop and somehow dragged himself into his office, where he probably locked the door and finished the bottle of Crown Royal he had stashed in his desk.

This dude was a certifiable psycho even when he wasn’t drunk and/or high, but when he was plastered (and chumming it up with the parts manager- an obnoxious buddy of his, not the guy who hired me, and who I also couldn’t stand) he was a class A douche.  He hated women working in automotive and was rather vocal about it.  Whenever he saw me behind the counter- which was often because I worked the retail counter back then- he would make comments about how he’d rather have one of the guys help him since I couldn’t possibly know anything, etc. and so on.  One day he read me the riot act about not wearing my name tag (neither did anyone else, but I was the only one harassed about it) even though if I did wear it, he would still call me “Tina,” even though that’s not my name.  He called all the women who worked in that dealership “Tina” for some bizarre reason.

Tina?  The only time I’ve ever had remotely red hair in my life was one time in high school when I (most erroneously) thought henna would make it darker…but I had my typical Nice-n-Easy 124 (Natural Blue Black) going on when this joker called me Tina.

I did get the satisfaction of witnessing the big blowup the owner had with both of these bozos- in the middle of the service department in front of the techs- when the owner happened to drop in right as these jerkoffs came back from the titty bar- drunk and high and out of their minds.  Needless to say, it was their last day.  I generally don’t like to see people get fired, but I couldn’t have been more overjoyed to see these two festering assholes go.  I was even more delighted when I learned, shortly after their unplanned departure, that both of them had gotten social diseases.  So they had to explain to their wives- a.) I got fired for coming back from lunch drunk and high, and b.) you’re going to need to go to the Dr. because, guess what, I gave you the clap!

I worked as a parts manager in another dealership where white powder was rampant among the salesmen.  I’ve only met two car salesmen in my life that I didn’t want to instinctively strangle on sight- one is a dear friend, the other I’ve lost touch with, but both were ex-military and very down to earth people. 

Most car salesmen are egotistical pricks who think the world revolves around them, and while they generally don’t know jack squat about what they’re selling, they are condescending to those who do actually know the product- the techs, advisors, and parts personnel.  That’s just plain grating.  My good friend was working at this dealership selling cars among the coke heads (he was not a coke user, thankfully.)  This guy was about 6’4″ and a good 250#, and he had been in the Army for 20+ years as a drill sergeant.  My friend had walked into the men’s while this other guy (who was an obnoxious little prick if I say so myself) was snorting up a line- right there in the men’s room.   Big mistake.  The next time I saw Mr. Obnoxious Prick he had a black eye, a broken arm, and pretty much looked like he’d been run over by a truck.  He was also amazingly quiet, and ever so polite when he was asking me about an order for one of his customer’s cars, so much so, that I had to ask him what the hell happened.  Maybe there was something I needed to know about keeping these guys in line.

His answer was, “I fell down.”

I thought that a bit fishy, because Mr. Obnoxious Prick was beat up pretty bad to have just fallen down.  Later that afternoon, I asked my friend, who had to work with this guy, what exactly happened.  He told me Mr. Obnoxious Prick did fall down, but he had a little help, as in, “What happened to Dinkus*,?” to which my friend replied,

“I happened to him.  He had a little help falling down. I caught him snorting a line in the men’s room.” 

*not his real name, but should have been…

I understand R. Lee Ermey is a Marine (and the movie Full Metal Jacket totally kicks ass,) but apparently, messing with a retired Army drill sergeant isn’t a very good idea either.

Walk Briskly, and Wear Rubber-Soled Shoes (Life Lesson #1)

In most things I’m all about practical application.  Having the dubious distinction of having lived and worked with hot-tempered people (and even having worked for a few people with white powder* problems) I have had to learn the art survival skill of subtlety.  This is not a skill that comes naturally.  By nature I am a very literal person, and unless I have a compelling reason to do otherwise, I say what I think.  Even so, I also have a very strong self-preservation instinct.  I learned this from my Dad, who didn’t have mental or chemical problems- but he did have a hot temper and a damned fine aim.  There are some people you just don’t piss off.  He falls into that category.  I got a refresher course on treading lightly when the psycho coke head from hell tried to throttle me in the service drive because our technician took it upon himself to complete some (free) warranty work on his car.

Of course self-preservation trumps most other instincts most of the time.  When I’m at work I do best if I am told what is expected of me and then I’m left alone to get it done.  I do not require micromanagement, and the more autonomy I have, the more I get done.  

I really don’t need any bullshit from the chemically impaired.  I learned very quickly how to spot when one of my former bosses had spent the night with a hooker, some cheap liquor and a LOT of toot-toot.  I learned to make myself very scarce and only respond when spoken to.  This was a guy who could go from being the greatest guy in the world one minute to the world’s biggest prick in 1.2 seconds.  This was the same guy who spent most days in the titty bar while I did his work and he conveniently took the credit (and the hefty bonus checks) for it.  I avoided him like the plague- but especially when he came in while riding the toot-toot train. 

If this dude confronted me when he was like that I would usually get stuck climbing around scrubbing down the tops of parts bins when I had more productive and profitable things that I should be doing, but this dude was anal like that.  I understand that you want your work area to be reasonably clean and organized, but the reality of any sort of automotive parts warehouse – especially a parts department in a dealership that’s right next to the mechanical shop- is that it is neither a surgical unit nor a kitchen and it isn’t going to be that clean.   I had a severe distaste for this kind of time-wasting for two reasons: one, you can scrub and Clorox it down one day and between the exhaust fumes and the techies (who aren’t exactly Mr. Clean) it’s going to be dirty again the next.  It’s an exercise in futility. 

The other reason I hated his little cleaning rants is his behavior reminded me of Mom when she used to go on the manic cleaning rampages.  Mom is bi-polar and when we were kids, unmedicated.  Although she exhibited a lot of the same bizarre behaviors as a coke head on a bender, Mom did not do coke, thank God.  Dad didn’t have that kind of cash, and Mom was far too näive to go trolling for drugs.  Hindsight being 20/20 I wish someone would have had some Valiums or Xanaxs handy when she got on a roll.   I shudder to imagine a bi-polar person in manic phase AND on coke.  Believe it or not the behavior of a bi-polar person in manic phase and of a coke head in full coke rage is remarkably similar.  I’ve had the bad fortune to be the target of both, and it’s taught me how to make myself scarce.

Blending into the wall can be a handy survival skill.  So can walking briskly and wearing rubber-soled shoes.  I find myself doing that a lot lately.  Do my job, flit about from here to there, as quickly and quietly as someone with dismal gross motor skills can, and go along my merry way.  I have to do a lot less explaining, a lot less chatting, and I get sidetracked a lot less if I can just plow right on through.

Thankfully I’ve not had to work for the cocaine addicted for many years.  It’s a bit stressful going to work not knowing if your boss is going to be:

1. At the titty bar/brothel.  This was the best place for him to be, because I didn’t have to deal with him, and since I had to do his job anyway, it was nice to be left alone to do it.  The only bad part was I felt guilty lying to his wife when she called.  I knew damned good and well he wasn’t “in a meeting,” but it was a lot less messy than telling her the truth.  She found out anyway where he’d been going- when she ended up with a rather nasty social disease. 

2. At work.  This was a crap shoot. When he wasn’t jacked up on coke, he was usually OK.  That was the time to corner him for the few things that he had to authorize, etc. although I pretty much could do everything he did- even though I didn’t get the recognition or the compensation for it.  Even if he was coked up he could be decent -unless he started getting paranoid or something (and that could be anything) pissed him off.  Then he could go from your best buddy to the guy who’s having a screaming tirade about dust bunnies behind the oil filters.

3. Sick.  It was really bad if this dude came to work “sick,” because here was a dude who could turn a hangnail into a Shakespearian tragedy.  And on top of being the world’s biggest coke head, this dude was the world’s biggest hypochondriac.  I swear he asked me to inspect bumps on his scalp and arms (ewwwwwwwww!!!) and creepiness like that.  Yeah, you hired me to inspect your zits and dandruff.  Acck.  I am NOT a doctor.  I am NOT any kind of health professional.  If you are in doubt, stay home, quarantine yourself, or just skip the middle man.  Call 911 and have them take your ass to the ER.  Ironically, he didn’t say anything to me about the symptoms of the social disease that he (and his now ex-wife) had to go get shots and such for.  Go figure.  I hope it fell off.

I have to say I was delighted when I was offered alternative employment far, far away from this dude.  However, the life lesson that the hot-heads, bi-polar, and chemically enhanced people in my life have taught me still stands.  It is better to lurk quietly in the shadows and avoid attention than to be singled out and browbeaten. 

*white powder=cocaine

Exploits of the Inane, A Case for Devolution, and Early Bird Birthday Requests

I don’t deal with the general public very well.  Perhaps my cynicism and wafer-thin tolerance threshold comes from years of dealing with retail parts customers and (worse) service customers.  I have no problem dealing with the technical aspects of automotive repair, etc. but dealing with people when they’re being ignorant, stupid, or just plain out of control really gets on my nerves.  I think I lose my patience the most when I explain things to people multiple times and they still fail to get it.  As Ron White put it, “You can’t fix stupid.”  Even so, some people have problems with spoken and written language (not necessarily foreigners…) and perhaps it may help to have things explained to them in pictures.  This must be the logic behind today’s traffic signs.

I remember when I was growing up you would see signs like this when there was roadwork ahead:

This sign seemed self explanatory to me.  Somewhere up ahead some dude with a flag will be waving traffic past.  Apparently as time went on, political correctness crept into the world of road signs.  “Flagman” apparently implied that women weren’t allowed to wave traffic past, so someone came up with a new term and a new sign:

I always thought “Flagger” sounded kind of dirty.  It isn’t, but it should be. 

Then of course, because no one in state governments or Congress has the stones to insist that if people want to live, work and be in this country that they need to speak, write and understand the English language, the sign was changed yet again:

See how humanity has devolved in the past 30-40 years.  Devolution has been going on since the Fall, but I truly believe it’s picking up momentum.

Some people (rapists, murderers, child molesters, animal abusers) should not be permitted to suck up valuable oxygen.  Others are simply crazy as shithouse rats, and should be protected from themselves and the greater society.  Unfortunately, when you work with the general public you WILL encounter them.  The good thing is today I have my GPS equipped cell phone handy, and 911 on speed dial.

The most memorable “crazy as a shithouse rat” individual from my days of being a service advisor actually tried to throttle me, as in pushing me against the wall, grabbing me by the neck, and attempting to asphyxiate me.  White powder (i.e. cocaine) was a real problem back then. As we found out later, the dude not only was one of the biggest drug dealers in Delaware County, he had made the most common mistake of drug dealers- getting high on his own supply.   Had this happened in more recent times (this has been almost 20 years ago) I would have called the cops and had the dude charged with assault.   I was happy enough when my boss heard the fracas, (as well as I would assume he could smell the techies’ sneaker smoke as they were all running out the side door-the pussies!)  ran out, told the guy to leave, and threatened to call the cops if he ever came back.  Hell, I had the license number as well as the guy’s address, phone number and VIN.  Could have, should have, would have called the cops, but hindsight is 20/20.  My boss didn’t want any further trouble.

It would possibly been different if I’d done anything to deserve a throttling, but this guy was torqued for a really illogical reason.  He had bought an extended warranty on the car for which there was a $50 deductible for every visit– no matter how much work the tech did on it.  Most customers who have this program and who are endowed with any sense will tell the advisor, “fix anything the tech says needs attention,” and the tech will gleefully oblige.  This guy (did I mention he had a white powder problem) brought this late model Camry in and requested we repair the torn CV boot ONLY and nothing else, which I noted on the repair order.  Unfortunately the only thing the tech saw was the extended warranty, so (like any normal flat rate tech would do when basically given carte blanche) he went over this car with a fine toothed comb.  He fixed a few minor transmission leaks, replaced a wheel bearing and hub assembly,  replaced the distributor shaft seal, CV boot, water pump, and made some other repairs typically required on a high mileage Camry.  99.9999% of customers would be overjoyed to get all this work- about $1500 worth- done for $50.  This guy was out of his mind in more ways than one.  He was truly shithouse rat crazy as he went into a rage.  I just had the bad luck of being the nearest target.

Thankfully, two weeks later this dude and a few of his friends’ drug ring got brought down.  I wonder if he’s still in prison.  Being an asshole, as well as a white powder sniffer, has a way of biting one in the ass.

I need to watch the Three Stooges more often. There were a few episodes on AMC last Sunday and it was most enjoyable watching them.  The Stooges are still funny, albeit predictable, after all these years.  I happen to believe this is a perfect illustration for how I see golfers:

The major difference is the Three Stooges were less pompous and better dressed than most of the PGA wannabes I encountered at the Infiniti dealership.   From what I’ve seen of golfers and the holier-than-everyone-else attitude they emanate,  they can keep their hoity-toity sport all to themselves. 

Yes my birthday is coming up and since nobody gives a rat’s ass, and my odds of receiving birthday gifts I might actually want are slim to none, I might as well request big. (in order of most to least outrageous)

1. Bahamas/Caribbean Cougar Cruise- as in ten days of delightful sailing on the tropical seas, where I am The Cougar, and the rest of the ship is staffed with buff young men between the ages of 21 and 30 who are ready and willing to cater to my every whim.

2. Total body laser hair removal- all of my unwanted/superfluous body hair, gone forever.  I would never have to shave, pluck out the Unibrow, or Nair my face again!

3. A year’s membership to the “Y” so I can go to the indoor pool whenever I want.

4. A day at the indoor waterpark.

5. 10 3- packs of Hanes Her Way size 7 white hi-cut undies (thought I forgot about yesterday’s request, didn’t ya?)

6. A $25 gas card.

7. A 12 pack of Diet Dr. Pepper.

Knowing my luck my Mom will buy me some more cookie cutters.  The gift that says to the diabetic, “Hurry up and die, already?”  She will remember my birthday, but the older she gets, I am afraid to think with what.